US real estate investment group Kennedy Wilson has begun a multimillion euro upgrade of the Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, which it acquired out of receivership in mid 2014.
More than €5 million will be spent to refurbish the four-star hotel, the group having already invested about €1 million on improvements to its Bernard Langer-designed championship golf course, developed in 1995.
This will include the refurbishment of 90 bedrooms, the creation of new meeting and conference facilities, a new spa and gym, an upgrade of its Seaview Lounge, an extension of its main restaurant and a new entrance and car park.
Barry O’Connor, who is overseeing the investment programme and who was previously involved with the golf resorts at Doonbeg in Co Clare and Killeen Castle in Co Meath, said the work would be completed in stages this year to minimise disruption to the business.
“It will be pretty much a brand new hotel by the time we’re finished,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the hotel has been trading well and reported a profit in 2015. Golfers from North America accounted for 12 per cent of its business last year, which was double the level of 2014.
“The strength of the dollar probably helped but Ireland has also definitely become value for money for visitors,” he said.
The links has about 130 members with Mr O’Connor hoping to add a net 30 to 40 new ones this year. It charges a seven-day annual fee of €2,500. “Membership has been kept tight . . . but we want to grow it now to between 200 and 250,” he said.
On prospects for 2016, Mr O’Connor said: “I’m expecting a very good year. We’re hoping for an 8 to 15 per cent growth in revenues and visitors. Based on our forward bookings, we’re 12 per cent ahead in terms of US and UK visitors.”
The hotel and links course, which employs up to 140 staff at peak times of the year, was bought by Kennedy Wilson for about €27 million from a receiver acting for the National Asset Management Agency. It had previously been acquired by Capel Developments in 2005 for €70 million.
Located close to Dublin Airport, the resort was built on the site of the one-time home of the Jameson family, the creators of the popular Irish whiskey. Its Jameson Bar is a part of the old family home.