Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport shuts after seven months to become asylum centre

One of largest hotels in the city, the 421-bed JMK-owned property cost €50m to build

One of the newest and biggest hotels in Dublin, the 421-bedroom Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport, has shut its doors to the general public after less than seven months in operation. It is understood the €50 million hotel is being lined up by the State to operate as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers.

The four-star property was opened only last July by one of the most active investors recently in the Irish market, the UK-based JMK Group which was founded by Pakistani-Irish businessman Jalaluddin Kajani, also known as John Kajani. JMK owns four Irish hotels and is building several others.

JMK's Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport (not to be confused with the Tifco group's Holiday Inn Express at Dublin Airport) was originally due to start trading in the first quarter of 2020 but its opening was delayed by the pandemic, which upended the travel and hospitality sectors.

Carra Shore, the JMK-linked company that developed it, suggested in a note to its accounts in 2020 that the new hotel’s “future viability” could be affected by the outcome of the pandemic and public health restrictions.

JMK reportedly secured more than €42 million in funds towards the building of the Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport by refinancing one of its other Irish properties, the Holiday Inn Express on O’Connell Street, which Mr Kajani built after buying an old Eircom building in 2013.

Upon the airport hotel’s opening seven months ago, Mr Kajani said it was a “wonderful achievement in light of the ongoing pandemic”. But now IHG Hotels, the global company that licenses the Holiday Inn brand, carries a note on its website to say the property “remains closed for guest stays”.

Users of IHG’s global booking engine, which would have been expected to drive most of the new property’s business, are unable to book accommodation at the hotel at any stage over the next year. It is the fourth biggest hotel in Dublin, after Citywest and the Clayton hotels on Burlington Road and at the airport.

JMK did not respond to several requests to nominate a spokesperson to discuss the future of its Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport hotel as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers. Potential customers who have directly called the hotel recently to book rooms have been told that it is “no longer operating as a hotel due to an exclusive contract”.

In response to detailed queries about the new asylum centre near Dublin Airport, the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), the office of the Department of Children that houses asylum seekers, said it was "not in a position to comment on the ongoing contractual discussions that are in play".

It confirmed, however, that it is doing deals to house asylum seekers due to an increase in applications since the easing of the pandemic. It said 3,300 new arrivals have come to Ireland since October, putting pressure on the National Reception Centre (NRC) in Balseskin, near Finglas in north Dublin. IPAS already has six accommodation deals with hotels in Dublin. It recently ran a tender, which it estimated was worth €50 million, for a further panel of accommodation providers.

Mr Kajani’s other Irish hotels include the Waterford Marina hotel, a new Hampton by Hilton opening near the Four Courts in Dublin next month, and planned properties in Cork and Belfast. It also operates three London hotels. Neither JMK nor IHG was available for comment.