Choice to open Gibson Hotel in Docklands next month


CHOICE HOTELS Ireland, the group led by Irish businessman Frankie Whelehan, will next month open the four-star Gibson Hotel beside the O2 in Dublin’s docklands in spite of the downturn in the sector. The 252-bed hotel will open on June 23rd and employ up to 120 full-time people.

“We’re recruiting for staff at the moment,” Mr Whelehan said. “This hotel will generate €5 million a year in wages.”

The hotel cost €80 million to develop and is owned by Harry Crosbie, who controls the Point Village complex in the docks area.

Mr Whelehan indicated that that Choice is seeking to renegotiate its contract with Mr Crosbie in light of the recession. “They’re being very practical with their approach,” he said.

The Gibson will include nine suites, with access to terrace gardens and private access to the O2. It will also include a spa, gymnasium, two outdoor hot-tubs and large conferencing facilities.

It was named after the guitar and the famous martini cocktail. “We wanted to create a lifestyle brand,” Mr Whelehan said.

The opening coincides with the recession and a sharp fall-off in tourism to Ireland. However, Mr Whelehan said its location close to the O2, the new National Convention Centre, the Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium and the Luas should keep it busy.

“What mustn’t be forgotten is that we’ve built this hotel for the next 50 years,” he added.

Choice runs nine hotels, eight in Ireland and the other in Croydon, near London. Six of these operate under the Clarion brand.

Mr Whelehan said the company expected to record sales of about €70 million this year. This compares with turnover of €84 million in 2007, the peak of the market.

“We hope to achieve break even in the current year,” he added.

The company made a loss of €2.5 million in 2009.

Mr Whelehan said the business went through a painful restructuring in the past 18 months, which involved some staff being let go and pay cuts of up to 10 per cent for employees.

Between €8 million and €10 million was reduced from its central overheads. This included renegotiating leases with landlords. “We’ve become resilient,” Mr Whelehan said.

The company owns the rights to the Clarion brand in Britain, Germany and Russia and intends to have another look at opening five properties in Britain and four in Germany. “Our plans, while knocked off course, are now back on track.”