FERMANAGH is known throughout Ireland as a tourism county, yet one of the most basic tourist provisions is not available, as we are bereft of any ‘drop in’ hostel.
There are over 100 ‘drop in’ hostels in Ireland, including neighbouring Sligo, Cavan, Bundoran and Donegal, yet in Fermanagh there are none. Comparing with our tourist rivals in the North there are two in Derry, nine in Belfast and three in the Portrush/Portstewart area.
One man, who was born and bred in Enniskillen, but moved away to Belfast encountered this problem first hand when he came down to visit back in March.
He made his way to the Clinton Centre hostel, where he had previously stayed in the past and was deeply angered when told they only catered for groups.
The man, who did not wish to be named said he was ‘livid’ as there were rooms available.
“I thought it was open for everybody and to make it worse there was nobody in the place that night.
“You go to the back of beyond and you can get a hostel bed and yet I couldn’t get one in my home town. There are people coming from the other side of the world and it is the same thing. Refusing someone a hostel where no one is sleeping is ridiculous.”
The affected gentleman said he felt discriminated against for being single and that the new system ,in operation since the start of the year, was putting off tourists.
“This is discouraging people from coming here. There is something wrong that Enniskillen doesn’t have a hostel for a single person travelling around. It’s a recession and yet they’re turning people away from the town.”
Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan said that improvements to tourist accommodation in the county are essential.
“The council are doing all this work to assess feasibility of a water park in Enniskillen, but that’s not something that can be done without serious improvement of provision of accommodation especially for families and backpackers.
“We need to cater for those that would be on a low budget that cannot afford to rent a house for a week or stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast. Not everyone can afford to stay in a five star hotel and we need to cater for people from all social backgrounds . The places around Ireland that are doing the best in tourism are the ones that have a wide offering for visitors. You have to make your offerings as broad and attractive as possible.”
He believes that Fermanagh could be missing out on the tourism front.
“It’s bound to have an impact as it is something that we’re not doing that others are doing and it may well be having a negative impact on our attractiveness to potential business. If that is the case it needs to be addressed.
“There are an awful lot of people who only want a place to rest their head for the night and a place like a hostel would be perfect. Why would someone spend £50 or £60 on a bed they are only going to sleep five or six hours in when there is a cheaper option?”
Sean Henry, Manager of the Clinton Centre confirmed it no longer caters for ‘drop in’ travellers.
“There is no drop in hostel operational in The Clinton Centre since 31/12/2012. We facilitate advance bookings for educational tourism groups.”
A spokesperson for the Clinton Centre added: “Hostelling International had been operating out of the building up until the end of 2012.
“The decision was then taken to focus upon students because essentially that is the focus of the centre, to develop International young leaders. That will be the situation until we get somebody else in.”
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