Hotelier responds to criticism for closing hotel to accommodate refugees
THE owner of a hotel being prepared for Ukrainian refugees says it should have closed anyway due to rising costs.
Colm Bonner, owner of the Viking House Hotel in Kincasslagh, has faced a barrage of criticism online since announcing its closure on Sunday.
The 12-room Viking House, once owned by Daniel O’Donnell, is the latest hotel in the county to close its doors to the public in order to accommodate those fleeing war in Ukraine.
Speaking to the Donegal News yesterday, the Kincasslagh man said he did not yet know how many refugees would remain.
But he said he would do his best to ensure that each individual is vetted and has their backgrounds checked.
They will reside in The Viking House for six months, after which the intention is to reopen as a public hotel.
By welcoming families, it can at least retain some staff, Bonner said. Otherwise, he would have had to lay off his entire workforce.
“I should have closed anyway,” the hotelier said.
“Oil, gas, electricity, they all went up massively, so there was no possibility of going through the winter with bills like that. That way I can keep my core staff in the use.
Mr Bonner only took over The Viking House in November last year.
Summer trade was good but before that it was forced to briefly close several times due to Covid.
He said running a hotel was a constant battle with a huge amount of work being done behind the scenes – work the majority of people never witness.
“It’s probably the hardest field you can get into, anyone in this industry will tell you that.
“You solve problems all the time. I’ve had bosses leave me in the middle of busy duties, you might get a call at 6am saying there was no hot water. It’s a 24-hour job and you’re a constant firefighter.
“At least now I will have a more structured life for a while.”
The Viking House’s contract with the government is for six months, after which it will reopen “bigger and better” according to its owner.
Announcing the closure plans, the hotel appealed for donations to help those moving in. This call paid off with several bags of items including clothing and toiletries being dropped off.
“There are some good people, it’s just that some think it’s their hotel and get taken away from them,” Mr Bonner said. And I can understand this frustration because I would have the same fears.
“But I will control every person who comes through my door. I will do my best to find out their background because I want people to be happy and I want my staff to be safe.
Having worked all over the world, the hotel owner said he has some command of the Russian language. Communication shouldn’t be a problem.
He added that he will use the six months to make improvements to the hotel before it reopens in 2023.
“I have three children and a wife. I paid bills when I didn’t know where the money came from. In this company, you work 120 hours a week, if someone doesn’t show up, you end up working three shifts by yourself. But it was my decision to take on this challenge and I must bear the consequences.
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Posted: 2:30 p.m. September 22, 2022