Attempts by locals to find permanent accommodation in the seaside parts of Co Clare have become “virtually impossible”.
Hospitality businesses in the county find it “almost impossible” to hire qualified staff, admitted Lahinch hotelier Michael Vaughan. Despite the publication of job advertisements in recent months, he stressed that the only people making themselves available live in countries outside the European Union.
A ripple effect will be felt in the operation of hospitality businesses, he predicted. “It is going to be a difficult summer for traders to get the kind of help they need, this will be particularly evident in a reduction in services so that cafes and restaurants can open fewer hours or fewer days in the week”.
Thousands of skilled workers have left the Irish hospitality industry during COVID-19, Michael said, with many returning to their home countries in Europe. “They saw that the standard of living has improved, Poland is an example where the standard of living has improved, the Lahinch families in Poland have returned home, they had been integrated into the community.” He does not expect students to return to this type of work in the summer of 2022. “The students had built a tiger chest from the PUP and they will not return to hospitality for a year or two” .
Hindering businesses such as Vaughan Lodge Hotel is the price of accommodation in coastal areas such as Lahinch, he acknowledged. “At the seaside, it is practically impossible to obtain reasonable accommodation for staff with the prices charged by houses. This is proving to be a real challenge for hospitality whether in Lisdoonvarna, Ballyvaughan, Spanish Point or Ennis”.
Highlighting this is the fact that a house on School Rd in Lahinch sold for €500,000 last week when the same program of houses would have already been on the market for €250,000 to €300,000. Michael called it “astonishing prizes”. “It wouldn’t be a local who could afford it, Lahinch has become almost a place to live for holidaymakers and the elite, locals who might aspire to work and live here have been left out.”
Vaughan believed there was a “great opportunity” to develop social housing in Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna and Inagh, “they could become bedroom communities and advance plans to make them sustainable places to live”.
Currently with the cast of Smother filming the third series of the RTÉ drama, he said Lahinch was “reasonably busy”. Between the cast and crew, he pointed out that 40-60 people stay in the village as a result, “they go to the pubs at night and for lunch and dinner, it’s a bit of an early boom for the season We have seen people coming to holiday homes in recent weeks, the season is unusual, people are making up for lost time and it is very busy at the weekends”.