By Peter Moor.
A planning application has been filed for a 70 metre floating hotel on the River Bann on the Cranagh Marina Complex near Colearine.
If approved, the vessel, which will have 36 cabins, will be the first ever floating hotel in Ireland.
Seamus Carey, owner of Cranagh Marina Complex, filed the application prior to the Covid-19 crisis.
He said a surge in visitor numbers and tourists to the complex, which has a range of activities for all ages, presented an opportunity to add further accommodation facilities.
“The Cranagh has seen a steady increase in visitors over the last number of years and has become a destination on the North Coast offering excellent facilities for the entire family. Since 2016 we have won several tourism and visitor attraction awards and have been awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence every year since 2017. We believe the floating hotel will enhance our offering and enable visitors to stay and enjoy not only the facilities at The Cranagh but all the wonderful offerings of the North Coast,” he said.
“This is a really exciting time for us. Prior to the lockdown we were recording record numbers of visitors and were thrilled with the success of the Activity Centre, restaurant and cabins. We will also be announcing a number of exciting new developments at The Cranagh in the near future and this will undoubtedly further increase the profile of this wonderful destination,” he added.
Mr Carey has identified a barge, which is currently moored in Norway, for the project. He plans to transport it to Northern Ireland where an eight-week refurbishment programme will give way to an accommodation facility with a restaurant and function room as well as 36 cabins.
There is also scope, he said, to introduce a spa facility should the application get the green light.
He added that there will be no disruption to the current site when the project is underway.
When completed, the barge will be a three-star facility and will employ around 50 full and part time staff members.
Cranagh Marina Complex, like many visitor attractions here has had to close down during the Covid-19 crisis. The complex has furloughed all 15 staff members there.
“We took the step to close the restaurant and accommodation at the start of March. The Activity Centre was due to open at the beginning of April, but we have postponed opening until the guidelines from Stormont permit, which we hope will be around the end of June.” he said.
Looking to the future of the site as Stormont eases social restrictions Mr Carey said: “The restaurant, will be among the last business sectors to open in line with government guidelines. We have plans in place to comply with social distancing and customer/staff safety once we re-open the restaurant. We plan to open the accommodation and Activity Centre towards the end of June, in accordance with procedures issued by Stormont and National Governing Bodies.
The Activity Centre offers a wide range of other activities which can be carried out safely, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Mr Carey adds: “We currently have five separate changing rooms which will be set aside exclusively for individual families. Hopefully, activities for families and small groups will be available from the end of June and will include waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, banana boating and tube rides.
“Given the current five step plan from Stormont, waterparks in Northern Ireland will not be able to open until Step 4, but on current advice all other activities will be permissible from Step 1 and 2. All changing rooms and equipment will be sanitised after each use.”