Action for Blind People to stop running three hotels

The charity says it has decided to pull out of the hotels for blind and partially sighted people in Devon, Somerset and the Lake District because they are unviable

Windermere Manor
Windermere Manor

- This story was amended on 5 October; please see final paragraph

The sight-loss charity Action for Blind People has defended its decision to stop running three hotels that cater for blind and partially sighted people because they are no longer commercially viable.

The charity said in a statement that its decision to stop running the Cliffden in Teignmouth, Devon, the Lauriston in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and Windermere Manor in the Lake District was taken because all three hotels would require "a significant subsidy" to continue operating over the next three years.

The statement said extensive repair and improvement work at the hotels was also needed and they have been put up for sale by the charity and Guide Dogs, which owns two of them. 

The hotels, which have all been operated by Action for Blind People, employ a total of 71 permanent staff, who could be affected by the change in ownership. But a spokeswoman for the charity said it was actively seeking new management that would continue to keep the three hotels running.

The organisation, which is a partner charity for the RNIB, said that the decision to sell was partly due to the low number of blind and partially sighted guests who stayed at the hotels.

In 2015, the hotels had 2,000 blind and partially sighted guests. The charity said that "despite our best efforts to attract more guests with sight loss, the hotels are increasingly more popular among sighted guests".

The statement said that, to keep the hotels open, the charity would have had to divert funds away from other services, which it had decided "would not be in the best interest of blind and partially sighted people or the most effective use of the limited resources available to us".

In a further statement, Action for Blind People said it was aware that there was concern about the sales, but it was not financially viable to keep them running.

"We’re working closely with Guide Dogs and are doing everything we can to find suitable buyers for the three Vision Hotels to make sure they stay open," the statement said.

"However, we understand that there are lots of people who are upset by the news that Action for Blind People will no longer be running the hotels.

"This has been a very difficult decision to make as we know how much Vision Hotels mean to customers, staff and volunteers. To have kept the hotels open, we would have had to divert funds from other services and, after careful consideration, we decided that this was not the right thing to do.

"It’s too early to say when the hotels might pass to new management, but we will provide our customers with an update as soon as we know more. For now it’s business as usual and we are continuing to take bookings."

 - The story originally said Action for Blind People was selling the three hotels, based on information from the charity itself. It subsequently clarified that Guide Dogs owned two of the hotels and issued a revised statement. 

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