We are building a hotel with a solid future

After traveling the world, Aoife O’Sullivan and Julien Bailly have seen the dark side of tourism and are developing an eco-hotel in Sri Lanka made from bamboo

A COUPLE with strong ties to West Cork is developing a bamboo eco-hotel in Sri Lanka.

And they are keen to point out the benefits of using this durable material which is as abundant in Glengarriff as it is in the tropics.

Aoife O’Sullivan and Julien Bailly have traveled for many years and on almost all continents.

“But over time we started to discover what we saw as a darker side to the tourism industry and travel in general; businesses that do not sustainably benefit local communities, pollution and environmental damage, coastlines destroyed by concrete skyscrapers, and massive pressure on precious local resources,” Aoife said.

They looked for alternatives and were really inspired by the sustainable businesses they encountered, those that have a more holistic approach to tourism.

“We, too, were motivated to explore such an endeavor, fueled by our passion for travel and our own personal desire to live more consciously,” Aoife said.

They launched ‘Una Bambu’ in 2019. It comprises six to ten bamboo huts in an eco-hotel set in 1.5 acres of lush tropical gardens in the up-and-coming south coast village of Ahangama.

Designed in collaboration with award-winning design firm Nomadic Resorts, the lodges will have access to a central pavilion housing a restaurant, bar and lounge, a studio pavilion that will function as an event space, and a small yoga/mediation shala nestled in rice. paddy.

It’s more than a hotel, it’s an experiential destination.

An artist’s aerial view of Una Bambu.
The eco-hotel was designed in collaboration with award-winning design firm Nomadic Resorts.

“Our bamboo buildings will sequester carbon and our hotel facilities will be powered by renewable energy. Una guests will have full transparency on the carbon impact of their stay,” said Aoife.

By developing the eco-hotel concept, the couple are testing the limits of what comfort and well-being can mean without causing unnecessary damage.

“From the start, we felt compelled to explore a new way of living – for the planet, as well as for the community around us. We love this idea of ​​Una existing as a wellness laboratory – a tourist destination where you can feel good. Our goal is to provide an eco-friendly and social experience for the discerning traveler,” says Aoife.

Over the past two years, they have secured a site for construction, obtained the green light from the relevant planning and tourism authorities, and worked to establish the local bamboo supply chain.

“We are currently seeking funding to move the entire project forward, which as you can imagine is a challenge in the current economic climate,” Aoife said.

Originally from Ballintemple in Cork City, Aoife went on a family holiday to what was then the sleepy seaside village of Schull in the late 80s.

“My parents fell in love with the area and bought a house there a few years later, and the rest is history, as they say. We spent six weeks there every summer, as well as Easter and New Years, and it still lives today as our family home away from home.

“Driving up Mount Gabriel and seeing the sea from the top was the signal for the official start of summer. I have many, many happy memories of swimming on the rocky beaches and rock pools around Schull, or pike – have lunch at Barleycove, Irish College Cape Clear, kayak on Lough Hyne, sail around the Fastnet, explore the small islands and coves around the coast – Horse Island, Heir Island, Sherkin – go to Goleen teen nightclub!I could go on and on!West Cork was a big part of my childhood and family life to this day.

‘Then I met my partner Julien in 2012, and he was another surprising connection to West Cork – not to mention his West Cork accent! Originally from the south of France, he had moved to Ireland and then to Clonakilty around 2008. Having already spent a few years exploring the region, I discovered even more of West Cork through Julien’s eyes.

In addition to developing the Aoife hotel, which studied design for the stage and screen, has spent the past three years in Sri Lanka developing a sustainable bamboo supply chain with the aim of sparking the bamboo real estate movement on the island for the first time.

Julien works with bamboo, which they believe is underutilized as a sustainable building material.

“While Sri Lanka has the perfect climate for growing bamboo, the material has been vastly under-cultivated and under-utilized as a sustainable building material in the country. The project aims to showcase the potential of the material in Sri Lanka to grow the industry and scale the concept in an emerging tourist destination,” she said.

With this in mind, the couple are working on organizing a bamboo building workshop at the end of September.

Participants will learn to work with bamboo as a building material – the result of which will be a prototype bamboo structure, the first of its kind on the island.

“The workshop will also help 10 local carpenters/craftsmen to participate in the training, laying the foundation for a new innovative green building industry on the island of Sri Lanka with a locally available renewable resource.

“We welcome participants from all over the world interested in bamboo work to join us for the 11-day workshop. There are more than 1,200 species of bamboo in the world, adapted to different climates. So bamboo isn’t just for the tropics. Just visit the Bamboo Park in Glengarriff to see how bamboo grows in Ireland. The workshop will cover all ways to build with bamboo, from interiors to temporary and permanent structures,” Aoife explained.

• For more information, see unabambu.com/bamboo-workshop/