We left Cork in the south-east to continue our trip in Ireland to discover new landscapes. We are on route north-west to a scenic part of The Wild Atlantic Way, considered as one of the best coastal road trips on earth. It’s late September and a spectacular landscape combining a rocky seaboard with glittering waves, with Ireland green landscape, cows and sheep is seen. Ocean spray constantly fills the air and creates a feeling of freshness. Here, at this outstanding scenic beauty, one can savor how wonderful our world is. The crown jewel of the route and headlands in Ireland are the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. This extraordinary natural magical phenomenon is a must visit, either by a ferry ride or a long enjoyable walk on the edge trails. Hearing the booming far below as the waves crash and gnaw at the soft shale and sandstone was just magical.
We are in a hurry to arrive in Galway city, famous for its Cathedral of Our Lady and the 440 years old Spanish Arch by the river. So are Eyre Square in its heart and the Latin Quarter – often referred to as the cultural heart of Galway – home to many historic landmarks, events and attractions. This is the place to socialize and enjoy a unique festive-like Irish atmosphere regularly lined with street entertainers.
However my main interest was different from other travelers. I wanted to experience a rebranding of a hotel. The Jurys Inns name – synonymous with the Irish hotel sector for more than 150 years – disappeared last summer. A major rebrand by the Fattal Hotel Group with their Leonardo brand is taking place instead. The Leonardo hotel Galway was our home away from home and I was curious to see the changes after 30 years as a Jurys Inn hotel.
The first thing that amazes me is the location. The hotel is actually flanked by the Latin quarter from one side and the Corrib river on the other. I must say this is probably the best location for a hotel in any given city. We parked our car in a covered lot adjacent to the hotel and comfortably entered the lobby via a designated entrance. The welcoming receptionists made us feel at home right away. An Irish impressive gentleman with a famous brogue accent approached us with a big smile. It was Tom O’Dwyer, the hotel manager, illustrious with his kingdom. He was extremely proud of the biggest change Leonardo introduced in the hotel – extensive renovations. The hotel looks bright and new with refreshing public areas, dining room and bar, but especially pleasant guest rooms. I could easily identify the light bright pastel decoration as being contemporary and a sign for the new trend in nowadays hotel design.
“Galway City has a vibrant art and music scene and is the cultural capital in Ireland. It has a stunning beauty surrounding the city and it is a very historical medieval city”, he says enthusiastically. “Our 130 recently refurbished state of the art bedrooms are waiting for guests and our staff is ready to provide them the most hospitable Irish welcome that one can imagine”, he says.
How wonderful it was to enjoy a bright new standing shower treatment after a long day’s journey. We had a nice Irish dinner in the crowded homey bar with a typical local atmosphere, but were too exhausted to discover the Latin quarter that night. After a great night’s sleep our Irish breakfast in the bright lit dining hall was pleasant. I was chatting with almost all the staff I encountered and I was under the impression that the rebranding was taken positively, as most of them reiterated that working for an international brand is a lot more promising.
“Jurys inn hotels was a strong legacy brand, mainly in Ireland but also in the UK, with rich history and heritage dating back from the 1900’s”, says Ronen Nissenbaum, Leonardo CEO UK, Ireland, Benelux,Spain & Portugal for Fattal Hotels. “Approximately half of the guests staying in our hotels in Ireland are Irish and we needed some time for the rebranding process after the acquisition in 2017. The pandemic delayed the rebranding process which ultimately commenced in the UK in early 2022. Once we reviewed the impact of the results in the UK we felt we were ready to rebrand the Irish hotels to the Leonardo brand. This move was followed and supported by an extensive marketing campaign that included both online and radio”.
Nissenbaum continues enthusiastically: “We are aiming to strengthen the diversity of our guests that enjoy our Irish hotels. In addition to the United Kingdom, we target European countries where the brand enjoys exceptional awareness. Our presence is especially strong in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Holland. The former Jurys Inn hotels were unique with city center locations. We are committed to continue improving and renovating our properties with extensive renovations already completed at the Leonardo hotel Galway as well as the Dublin Christchurch and Parnell Street properties in the coming year. During this fall we also opened our NYX Dublin which is our lifestyle brand”.
“We want to reassure our guests that the rebranding from Jury’s to Leonardo will continue to support the exceptional service that they have grown accustomed to. The same applies to the employees that already enjoy opportunities to develop their careers within the Leonardo portfolio in the rest of Europe and the UK. A significant number of Irish hotel executives, as well as team members, are part of our hotels in the UK and I am confident this trend will only strengthen in the future”, he concludes.
We enjoyed Galway tremendously. The city’s Latin quarter finest hours are after sunset. With its large and growing young population of college students, locals, seasonal workers and young, fun loving tourists, the nightlife is buzzing and the proximity to our hotel made everything so easy.
William Jury, who passed away in 1872, was a hotelier that worked at the Imperial Hotel, Belfast, and later in Dublin. Over the years, with partners, he opened his first boarding house in Dublin and later additional hotels joined. A 100 years later the Jurys Inn hotel group was founded with operations across Ireland, the UK and the Czech Republic. It grew to operate 31 hotels in Great Britain, 6 in Ireland and 1 in the Czech Republic, with some 7,500 rooms between them, served by 4,000 employees.
When I mentioned to David Fattal, founder of Fattal Hotels and the Leonardo hotels brand that his career reminds me of William Jury, but in a different era, he responds with a smile: “I was very impressed by William Jury who acquired his hotels with his own two hands in the 19th century. He started with one hotel in Belfast and with vision and optimism collected more and more hotels into a prosperous and successful chain. Definitely a model that reminds me of the Fatal network model and the development of Leonardo hotels. We will invest in renovations of all the hotels we are running in Ireland for the benefit of guests and will continue his Jury’s journey with great love”, he promises.