The government is seeking more families in the hospitality sector to accommodate refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
The state is willing to pay hoteliers €135 per night for single adults to stay in their hotels.
This comes as the Defence Forces have prepared to order more tents to assist 1,400 Ukrainians arriving in Ireland weekly.
Return of tourism
On The Pat Kenny Show Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation, said that some hotels didn’t realise how quickly the tourism industry would recover when they committed to housing refugees earlier this year.
Many are now choosing not to renew their contracts with the government.
Fenn believes there will be an impact on the tourism industry if it continues to grow like it has in recent months.
Now that foreign tourism has returned largely to normality, availability of accommodation for refugees has been impacted.
The Wilton Hotel in Bray, owned by Lorraine Sweeney, has welcomed Ukrainian refugees as well as Irish and foreign tourists since March.
Sweeney first agreed to a three-month contract with the government but has now extended it to six months, at the end of which she will reevaluate.
The hotel provides three meals a day for the refugees.
“The solution is not hotels in the longer term and I think the government has to try and consider the welfare of these people.”
“They come here and they’re traumatised”, said Sweeney. “They’re cooped up and they’re worried about what’s happening in their country.”
Sweeney says neither the Ukrainian or the tourists are negatively impacted by the cohabitation.
“There’s been no confrontation, no issues whatsoever”, she said. “I think our particular property suits it because we have a particular wing in which the Ukrainian guests reside.”
Sweeney says the hotel has provided supports for refugees that the government hasn’t.
“One of the problems of Ukrainian guests coming to a hotel though is that it’s not really a suitable place for them.”
“It’s an all-round package”, she says. “It’s not just giving them rooms and giving them food.”
Sweeney has introduced yoga and art therapy classes in the hotel to help improve the refugees’ mental health.
She also liaises with local counselling and social services to help some refugees who were particularly struggling.
“We’ve had to have three husbands removed from the hotel where there were issues in the family.”
“Five people in one room for months on end does cause issues.”
Sweeney described the Red Cross’s response as “very poor”.
“I know lots of people [wanting to help who] got in touch with the Red Cross and didn’t hear anything back for months.”
Living in tents
Last Tuesday roughly 150 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Gormanston Army Camp in Meath, where they will stay in tents until appropriate accommodation became available.
The Defence Forces is currently evaluating how many more tents need to be ordered to meet demand.
Sweeney said: “I think Ireland as a country has to stand up now and not have people living in tents in this day and age.”
“We really need another route other than just hotels.”
Listen to the full interview here.
The main image shows the Gormanston Army Camp.