Refugees leave Gormanston as hotel body warns of ‘challenges’ sourcing additional rooms

Tourism body says Government must release ‘masterplan’ as hotels cannot be ‘sole solution’

The 65 Ukrainians who were accommodated in tents at Gormanston Army camp in Co Meath for three days this week were moved to the State’s transit hub at Citywest on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Integration said the camp would remain empty until the next group of Ukrainians, who are expected to be moved to Gormanston next week.

Accommodation tents at the Defence Forces training camp were brought into use after the State’s existing accommodation reached capacity following a surge in the number of Ukrainian arrivals.

The department said the 65 people who arrived at Gormanstown on Tuesday, the first to be sent to the camp, were scheduled to stay there for 72 hours and would be “allocated longer term accommodation as soon as it is available”, the department spokeswoman said.

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The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has estimated that about 15 per cent of hotel rooms in Dublin and 8 per cent of hotel rooms outside the capital are being used to house Ukrainian refugees and other asylum seekers.

Government is under pressure to source additional accommodation for those fleeing the war, as the availability of places reaches capacity.

It has issued an urgent appeal for hotels and guesthouses to accommodate Ukrainian refugees and are offering payments of €135 a night for single adults.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, some 43,329 people had arrived into the State from Ukraine as of Thursday, including 1,075 over the previous seven days.

This was down slightly on the previous seven days when there were 1,278 arrivals, according to figures provided by the Department of Justice.

The IHF said hotels and other accommodation providers had been working with Government to assist the Ukrainian refugees since the outbreak of the war in February.

“While hotels and other accommodation providers are continuing to play their part in supporting the Government on this issue, there may be challenges in sourcing additional capacity given that there are substantial commitments to other customers,” the IHF said.

“Hotels were not designed or built to provide long-term accommodation for individuals or families and current emergency arrangements are only suited for the short term.”

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), said it was “very sensible” that hotels and guesthouses play a role in the facilitation of arriving refugees.

“What we’d argue now is that hotels need to be part of the solution as opposed to the sole solution. Ukrainian refugees in hotels, or any asylum seekers in hotels, should be a short-term fix. Government needs to be much more creative in terms of holiday homes, vacant dwelling or unused buildings,” he said.

“The more hotel stock that is taken up by refugees means there are unintended consequences for the broader tourism industry. We’d love a masterplan for Government to outline where they will be housed.”

Mr O’Mara Walsh said while a contract between hotels and Government benefited the hotels, it had a wider impact on the tourism industry.

“For every euro spent by a tourist on accommodation, €2.50 is spent in ancillary tourism services such as attractions, restaurants or bars. None of that €2.50 is finding its way into the economy,” he said.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent