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Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort The Ultimate Spa Destination

Joan O'Shaughnessy Tourism Ireland Chairman Interview

Hospitality Careers Paul Hayden - THCOG Addresses the Issues

Conversion Challenging the Myths

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COVER: Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort


Editorial 4 News


Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort


Tourism Ireland Interview with Joan O'Shaughnessy


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Bookassist 18 Hotels of Choice


Fáilte Industry News


Chef Network Tourism Ireland Tierneys - When IT matters




Fáilte Interview with Paul Hayden


Great National Hotels and Resorts


Waiting for Tourism's Tide to reach the Regions

Drive Insurance Costs Down

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IFSA 38 The 5 Stages of Travel


Is Hospitality a Career?


5 Star Award for Mount Juliet Estate



P. 50 Hotel & Restaurant Times, Ireland’s longest established trade publication, is circulated on subscription to Chief Executives, Directors and Proprietors of Hotels and Restaurants in Ireland along with Architects, Interior Designers and Suppliers to the Hotel and Restaurant Industry. Managing Editor: Cyril McAree (01-6285447, Contributors: Susan Clarke, Chef Network, Tourism Ireland, Conor Power, Fáilte Ireland, Frank Corr, Des O'Mahony, Sarah Gallagher, David Collins, Alan O'Neill, Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, Bookassist - Claire Sawier, Samatha Salazar, IFSA. Graphic Design: Tara Mccormack Printing: Turners of Longford Online: Sarah Gallagher


All paper used in the production of this magazine comes from certifiably sustainable forestry.





If you're wondering how you can have a successful business and career in tourism, look no further than the Galgorm Resort and Spa in Northern Ireland. Situated just outside Belfast, Galgorm Resort & Spa is a true gem, and is very much a go-to destination. It has evolved from a small manor house to a state-of-the art resort, offering an abundance of treatments and options to its clientele. It has had an impressive and meteoric rise to fame over the last number of years thanks to the investment by its owners, the Hill family. Equally impressive is how its staff and management embrace and engage with its customers. Headed up by Managing Director Colin Johnston, it's evident that the secret to success is to utilise and maximise your assets, which from Colin's perspective very much involves and includes all staff engaged at the resort. It's a skill some operators fail to see and recognise. Whilst Colin acknowledges the importance of monetary investment, he is equally aware of how important and critical staff are to the continued success of the resort. He states: “We have great staff retention and we have concentrated on doing that by addressing staff health and well-being concerns. One long-term plan is to build a health and wellbeing centre for the staff that would give access to a range of services, including fitness suite, fitness classes, access to legal and mental health advice. Our aspirations are to have this completed within the next 18-24 months. It's not just about looking at the salary of staff but workplace wellbeing too. We believe in developing and nurturing talent. We invest heavily in training our staff and equipping them with the skills required to make them successful. We have invested approximately £800,000 in IT systems and a lot of that is driven by customer experience but also by staff and trying to make the working environment easier." The perennial problem of staff is not something that will be sorted overnight. So how can the industry make itself more attractive to school leavers and graduates. Simply put, the industry needs to change, and revise how it does business. The sector unfortunately has the highest staff turnover compared to, say the IT, manufacturing or the financial sectors. This is nothing new, but it would seem a head in the sand approach has been evident over the decades. Pay and conditions are very much at the hub of the crisis. Whilst Dublin is enjoying growth in visitor numbers and the economy is in growth phase, that brings with it challenges for staff, high rents, cost of living etc. are making it almost prohibitive for people to take up work in the industry. Unless this addressed in a realistic and proactive way, the industry is very much in danger for the future. Another issue that is affecting the sector, and to a great extent has been dismissed or denied, is the negative effect the increase in vat is having. Already the RAI have indicated numerous closures of members businesses the length and breadth of the country, Evidence of this reduction in spend was seen in the latest CSO, where a 4% reduction was identified, which may be as a result of the vat increase. The CSO states "Total tourism and travel earnings from overseas travellers to Ireland decreased by 4.6% between Quarter 1 2018 and Quarter 1 2019, decreasing from €1,079 million to €1,029 million. When fares are excluded, total expenditure decreased from €795 million to €763 million, a decrease of 4.0% over the period." Smash and grab tax initiatives by the government may be short lived.

Cyril McAree editor




NEWS Adare Manor to celebrate Independence Day with US wine tasting

Cork Airport Hotel appoints new General Manager

The five star Adare Manor, recently voted ‘AA Hotel of the Year 2019’, will celebrate Independence Day in style on Sunday 7th July. The hotel is collaborating with three leading American Wine houses for a special evening of wine tasting, followed by a luxury fine dining seasonal menu created by Mike Tweedie, Head Chef of The Oak Room at Adare Manor. Wine makers Sashi Moorman, owner of Domaine de la Cote; Pax Mahle, owner of Pax Wines; and Steve Matthiasson, owner of Matthiasson will travel from California to co-host the evening. As well as tasting a series of wines from the famous Californian regions of Napa Valley, guests will also have the opportunity to meet with Jurica Gojevic, Head Sommelier at Adare Manor.

Trigon Hotels has appointed Diarmuid Vaughan as General Manager of the four-star Cork Airport Hotel. Prior to his appointment, Diarmuid worked as Deputy General Manager at the Clayton Hotel Silversprings, following on from a six year spell at the Rochestown Park Hotel as Sales & Marketing Manager and Food & Beverage Operations Manager. He has a keen interest and involvement in all things GAA, and is very well known within Cork GAA circles.

Rebel Chilli launches second edition of award-winning hot sauce

Seafield Hotel and Spa Resort Wins AA Award Gorey’s Seafield Hotel and Spa Resort has won The AA Courtesy & Care Award for 2019, recognising the hotel’s quality and hospitality of its staff. Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs, praised the hotel on its win, saying: “To win the AA Courtesy & Care award, the staff must not only be attentive to the needs of their guests, but provide a topnotch level of service and have a willingness to go above and beyond when required. When you arrive at Seafield everything from the first welcome as you check-in to the last goodbye as you check-out makes you feel at home, and the staff play a significant role in achieving this.” Seafield’s General Manager Micheál Cunningham said that the hotel is honoured to be awarded ‘as this recognises the contribution and commitment of each of our valued team members in providing the exceptional customer service, we pride ourselves on.”

Cork based Rebel Chilli has released the second edition of its award-winning Barrel Aged Hot Sauce. Aged for 62 days in Irish whiskey casks sourced from West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen, the product is a specially made hot sauce recipe, and won a gold star at last year’s Great Taste Awards. Managing Director Paul Moore says: “We’ve learnt from our first experience with the barrels, and have tweaked the recipe slightly, so the result is a slightly hotter, sweeter and stronger whiskey flavour”.




Double AA Rosettes awarded to Reeds Restaurant for third year running Reeds Restaurant, at Wexford’s Ferrycarrig Hotel, has been accredited with two AA rosettes for the third year in a row. The rosettes, which are awarded for the quality of cooking, are similar in standard to Michelin stars, and are presented on the basis that the restaurant demonstrates exceptionally high standards of cuisine. Significant emphasis is also placed on the produce used by restaurants, with the menu at Reeds showcasing the use of quality and locally sourced ingredients from top local suppliers from all across Wexford. Tony Carty, Executive Chef of Reeds Restaurant is delighted with the win. “I am really proud of all of the kitchen and restaurant team at Reeds, it is a combined effort and we are delighted to receive this award for the third consecutive year”.


Hoteliers call for urgent action on rising insurance costs

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has called for urgent action by the Government to address the spiraling cost of insurance. New research undertaken amongst its members shows that some 62% have seen further hikes in insurance costs over the last 12 months, and of these, the average increase in premiums was 28% year on year. In addition, 90% of hotels and guesthouses say they are concerned about the impact of insurance costs on their business. IHF President Michel Lennon said that the increases are unsustainable for the industry, saying: “Exorbitant insurance costs are curtailing the ability of hotels and guesthouse to re-invest in their businesses with knock-on effects for the tourism industry….The time for foot dragging has passed. We need decisive action by Government to tackle insurance costs, particularly in relation to the handling of personal injury cases in Ireland and the excessive levels of awards being made which are four to five times higher than in the UK.” He is calling on the Government to give greater urgency to setting up the Judicial Council to review levels of awards for personal injuries, and has highlighted that a zero tolerance to fraud is required: “It is vital that a dedicated Garda resource is created specifically tasked with investigating fraudulent cases for potential prosecution.”

Flogas sponsors Omagh Food Festival

Flogas is once again sponsoring the annual Omagh Food Festival, which takes place on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th June. Organised by the Ulster Herald, the festival will take place in the heart of Omagh, featuring food and drink producers, street vendors and suppliers showcasing the best the area has to offer.  

Launching the 2019 Omagh Food Festival are (l/r), Mairead Kelly, Ulster Herald, the event organiser; Allan Duncan, Silverbirch Hotel; Paul Ruegg, senior marketing executive, Flogas; Michael McElroy, Main Street Omagh and Cllr Siobhan Currie, chair, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. 6


Marlin Hotel On Track for July Opening The Marlin Group, one of London’s largest privately owned hospitality operators, is set to open its first state of the art hotel in Dublin this summer. Located on Bow Lane East, adjacent to St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre , The 300-bedroom Marlin Hotel Dublin will open its doors in July, creating 110 new jobs. The €55 million development is being spearheaded by Irish owned Marlin, who opened the first of its seven London locations back in 2003.


Loam crowned Best Restaurant Loam Restaurant in Galway has been named the All-Ireland Best Restaurant at the annual Irish Restaurant Awards. The awards, which took place in May, each year celebrate the hard work and achievements of those working in the Irish restaurant industry. Other award winners on the night included Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant in Dublin, who took home the Best Chef gong, while Doheny and Nesbitt in Dublin won the Pub of the Year. Everett’s Restaurant in Waterford won the Best Newcomer award.

Kai Restaurant wins cracking Bord Bia competition Kai Restaurant has won Bord Bia’s Eggs for Anytime Chef competition. The competition, which is run by Bord Bia and the Irish Egg Association, invited chefs from around the country to embrace the culinary versatility of eggs and create a recipe using Bord Bia Quality Assured eggs, that would feature on their restaurant menu outside of breakfast and brunch. Chef and owner Jess Murphy created Kai’s winning dish of Pork Ramen with Bord Bia Quality Assured Eggs, saying: “We take great pride in our high-quality produce, that is sourced locally and cooked inventively, so when it comes to choosing eggs, we always ensure we use Bord Bia’s Quality Assured Eggs.”

Have your say on Skillnet strategy Skillnet Ireland is urging employers, employees, industry groups, regional groups, the general public and all interested parties to have their say in informing its new four year strategy. The Statement of Strategy 20202024 will contain ambitious actions designed to address the current skills needs of Irish businesses and develop a highly skilled workforce. With the hospitality industry experiencing issues sourcing skilled staff, interested parties can visit haveyoursay to submit views on the new strategy, and engage in the consultation process. Skillnet Ireland is the national agency responsible for the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning and supported more than 16,000 organisations last year, providing enterprise-led training to more than 56,000 people.

Monart crowned Destination Spa of the Year Monart Destination Spa has won the prestigious Pevonia Spa of the Year award for 2018. The awards, which take place annually, are decided based on nominations submitted throughout the year, and judged by a team of independent Spa experts. Mark Browne, Monart Destination Spa Manager, said: “It is an honour to have won this prestigious award, we are especially thrilled that this is the second consecutive year that Monart has been awarded the Pevonia Destination Spa of the year award. It is wonderful recognition for the dedicated and hard-working team who put all of their energy into ensuring each guest at Monart enjoys a wonderful 5-star destination Spa experience”.

Pictured are Marita Byrne Spa Supervisor, Becky Cranfield of Pevonia, Pamela Nolan Assistant Spa Manager and Lorna Murphy Assistant General Manager. Picture: Patrick Browne H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019



Blue Book wins at Irish Restaurant Awards

Titanic Hotel scoops World Travel Award

Ireland’s Blue Book have welcomed wins for Gregans Castle, The Mustard Seed, Newforge House and Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House at the recent Irish Restaurant Awards. Gregans Castle in Co. Clare was awarded Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant in Munster, along with the supreme award for All-Ireland Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant. John Edward Joyce of The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge was awarded Best Restaurant Manager in Munster, Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House received the award for Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant Leinster while Newforge House were crowned Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant in Ulster.

Belfast’s Titanic Hotel has won Northern Ireland’s Leading Hotel 2019 award at the recent World Travel Awards. The awards recognise hotels around the world for standing out and excelling in the hospitality industry. Adrian McNally, General Manager of the Titanic Hotel, is thrilled to win the award, saying: “There are so many great hotels in Northern Ireland now, the standard here is very high, so to win this award means a lot to the staff and team at Titanic Hotel Belfast. It’s fantastic to be recognised globally as a leader in the hospitality sector too”.

Tourism Ireland winning in Canada

Europe Hotel included in collection

Tourism Ireland has scooped a major travel award in Canada, having been voted as the Best Tourist Board in Europe/Middle East/Asia at the recent Agents Choice Awards gala, hosted by Baxter Media in Toronto.

The Europe Hotel & Resort has been included in the prestigious Preferred Hotels & Resorts Legend Collection. The exclusive collection, which features fewer than 100 properties worldwide, is comprised of iconic hotels that must meet the Preferred Standards of Excellence’s quality of standard.

Agents Choice is an annual travel industry poll in Canada, with 6000 Canadian travel agents selecting their favourite suppliers in more than 40 categories, ranging from tourist boards to airlines. Tourism Ireland took home the gong, beating off stiff competition from Iceland Tourism, Visit Portugal, Switzerland Tourism, VisitBritain and Atout France.

Sandra Moffatt and Dana Welch, both Tourism Ireland, with the award for Best Tourist Board in Europe/ Middle East/Asia at the Agents Choice Awards, in Toronto.




Global Irish Festival to hit the Wild Atlantic Way Failte Ireland will bring its Global Irish Festival Series to the Wild Atlantic Way this autumn, encouraging diaspora to return home to visit Ireland. The series, which will take place in Limerick and Donegal later this year, was officially launched by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross T.D. The festival series was launched as a pilot initiative in 2018, and provides funding and support for events which tap into the international diaspora networks to increase overseas visitors.

Maldron Hotel opens in Cork City Centre Dalata Hotel, owner of the Maldron and Clayton Hotel brands, have officially opened its new Maldron Hotel at South Mall in Cork city centre. An Tanaiste, Simon Coveney TD, was on hand to officially open the hotel, alongside General Manager Robert McCarthy, and Chairman of Dalata Hotel Group plc, John Hennessy. Dalata have invested €34 million in the development of the hotel, bringing a new lease of life to the South Mall and Parnell Place area of Cork city. Over 100 jobs have also been created by the hotel. Image 1 (L-R): Donna Mannion Sales & Marketing Manager Maldron South Mall, Robert McCarthy, General Manager of Maldron South Mall, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, TD, John Hennessy, Chairman Dalata Hotel Group plc

New Visitor Experience at Kylemore Abbey Kylemore Abbey has launched a new element to its visitor experience. From Generation to Generation – The Story of Kylemore Abbey, was developed with an investment of €1.7 million under Failte Ireland’s Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects 2016-2020. The re-development of the Abbey’s interior includes a large new wing featuring four authentically refurbished rooms, along with a new multimedia presentation.

Irish Distillers launches podcast Irish Distillers has launched a new podcast series, guaranteed to be of interest to anyone with an interest in whiskey. The five-part series is titled ‘A Story of Irish Whiskey’, and brings the history of the highs and lows of whiskey to life, focusing on the three families that came together to save it from extinction. The podcast series features commentary from a variety of guests including Kristen, Tara and Andrea Jameson; Charles C O’Reilly, descended from John Power and Master Distiller Emeritus at Irish Distillers; and Barry Crockett, Pictured at the announcement of the merger in 1966 are Mr Frank J O’Reilly (John Power & Son Powers), Mr. Ronald Murphy (Cork Distilleries Company) and Mr Alec C. Crichton (John Jameson & Son)




American Airlines launches Druids Glen wins Culinary new Dublin to Texas flight Excellence award American Airlines has launched a new flight from Dublin to Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas, the first time that the two locations have been connected. The summer seasonal flight will operate up to September 28th 2019, and Caitriona Toner, Country Sales Manager for Ireland at American Airlines believes the new direct flight from Dublin to Texas will open up exciting travel possibilities for Irish consumers.

Royal Visit to Powerscourt

The five-star Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort has been rewarded an AA Rosette in recognition of culinary excellent. The hotel already holds two rosettes for Hugo’s Restaurant, bringing their total to three. CEO of Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort, Edward Stephenson is delighted to receive the award, saying: “The award is a testament to the service and food offering consistently being presented in the Garden Rooms and it is a well-deserved recognition to the entire team who have been working hard for the past 12 months to achieve this.”

Sandymount Hotel wins Green Award The Sandymount Hotel, Dublin’s largest family run hotel, has once again been awarded Europe’s Leading Green Hotel for the third year running at the prestigious World Travel Awards in Madeira. The hotel beat stiff competition from some of the world’s most renowned hotels, including ICE Hotel in Sweden and Vila Vita Parc in Portugal. The win places Ireland firmly on the international map of sustainable hotel practices. Family Directors at the Sandymount Hotel, John and Gerard Loughran are proud of the win: “We’ve come a long way since we first became more environmentally aware and year on year, we have progressed our sustainable approaches to ensure that we are consistently improving and minimising any negative effect our procedures and systems have on the environment. Our dedicated in-house egreen team has been tremendous, researching and instilling new measures to offer our best environmentally friendly practices, in line with our overall guest offerings and experiences”.

Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow welcomed their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for a visit during their recent trip to Ireland. Sarah Slazenger, Managing Director of Powerscourt welcomed the visitors, along with Head Gardener Alex Slazanger and Lord Powerscourt Anthony Wingfield. As well as enjoying a reception, the Prince of Wales planted a giant Redwood tree, following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Princess Grace of Monaco, Jackie Onassis and Buzz Aldrin, who have planted trees in the Gardens.

Slieve Russell celebrates PGA partnership The Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan has been designated as a PGA National Ireland resort. The designation as PGA National Ireland means that the Slieve Russell joins an exclusive club of just eight PGA National designated resorts worldwide, alongside the likes of The Belfry and Gleneagles.



John & Gerard Loughran, Father & Son duo and Directors of Sandymount Hotel, Dublinís largest family run hotel, celebrating their ëEuropeís Leading Green Hotelí award win (third year running) at the prestigious World Travel Awards, held in Madeira Portugal, 8th June 2019.

Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort

Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort is one of Northern Ireland’s premier luxury hotel and spas, situated 30 minutes from Belfast. Set within 163 acres of lush parkland with the spectacular River Maine flowing through the estate, Galgorm Resort has a unique setting. This Resort comprises 122 luxurious guestrooms, log cabins, cottage suites and the very impressive Thermal Spa Village that is the first of its kind in Ireland. Over the last ten years The Resort has received investment of nearly £40 million and with continued investment plans, we met with the Managing Director Colin Johnson to find out more about this incredible and unique property. H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


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Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort Colin Johnston, Managing Director at Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort is originally from Belfast and now lives in Portrush. He has been with the company for 19 years, ten of those at Galgorm. Colin explains, “Galgorm has had £40 million worth of investment over the last ten years. It has grown from a 24-bedroom manor into a property with 146 rooms and lodges. We are lucky to be in the position where the owners keep investing and we’re a large employer in the area – The Resort’s success has been underpinned by continuous investment in the property and the people that deliver it”. The original manor house dates to 1857 and was owned by one of the linen families in Northern Ireland. Nicholas and Paul Hill are the current owners, taking it over in 1990. Colin continues, “When Nicholas & Paul originally purchased the property it was predominantly a wedding venue. Then in the early 2000’s they came up with the vision for the first stage of development which saw the addition of 51 guestrooms and an expansion of the food & beverage provision- The River Room Restaurant, Gillies Restaurant and Bar. 2015 saw the next stage of re-development, where we added The Thermal Spa Village, seeing the spa extend along the river’s edge and added 48 deluxe guestrooms. At the heart of the significant investment is a desire from the owners to build on our existing reputation and take it to the next level – they never rest on their laurels. We’ve just opened eleven new cottage suites, aimed at the guest who desires more space, they are ideal for those wanting longer stays such as golfers and the international market”. “2018 until 2023 is the next phase of the vision. This includes additional cottage suites, then diversifying into other types of accommodation than the traditional guestroom such as tree houses by the river. “We are also planning on expanding on our premium accommodation offering with additional junior suites as we have identified a demand for this. By becoming more attuned to the preferences of current and potential guests, we can more accurately target and build meaningful, lasting relationships with them”. There is also an aspiration to make the spa carbon neutral, ran purely from renewable sources within the next 5 years. The Spa at Galgorm is currently four acres and the next phase will see it double in size. Taking inspiration from the 163 acres of lush landscape, the spa renovations overall design will blur the lines between indoor and outdoor experiences. The panoramic views that surround The Resort will take centre stage. The main highlights will include elevated heated pools, salt based thermal cabins, sauna, steam and Vichy experiences all designed to complement the existing offering of indoor and outdoor experiences. What is your mix of business? “In terms of occupancy we were at 93% last year and approximately two-thirds of our customers are repeat guests. In 2018 our split of business was 80% Northern Irish and 20% Out of State. The drive this year is to increase our Out of State customers to 25% of our overall bookings. Historically, our Out of State guest was predominantly from Great Britain. However, so far this year the total number of rooms booked from the Republic of Ireland is 17% - two years ago that was less than 2%.The strong growth in visitors I believe can be attributed to the

“ The Resort’s success

has been underpinned by continuous investment in the property and the people that deliver it



Supplying the Island of Ireland for over 40 years! Contact us to arrange a meeting with the Rep in your area Like us on Facebook - Follow us on Twitter




H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019 01760 Heverlee Ad Galgorm 91mm x 135mm.indd 1

11/06/2019 12:24

Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort

increased marketing activity by Tourism Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Hotel Federation as well as local hotels having aggressive marketing strategies, as we do. Colin continues, “Hopefully this year tourism in Northern Ireland will hit £1 billion spend with an ambition to hit £2 billion by 2030. Tourism in NI employs 63,000 people now with the potential to support an additional 20,000 jobs. Tourism has such a positive impact on the Northern Ireland economy and we now have such a vibrant tourism scene. “Look at the restaurant industry in Belfast for example, they had a 25%increase in stock in 12- 18months so it does indicate strong confidence in the market”. However, does the industry in NI experience the same difficulties with staffing as in the republic? Colin explains, “We have great staff retention and we have concentrated on doing that by addressing staff health and well-being concerns. One long-term plan is to build a health and wellbeing centre for the staff that would give access to a range of services, including fitness suite, fitness classes, access to legal advice, mental health advice. Our aspirations would be to have this completed within the next18-24 months. Its not just about looking at the salary of staff but workplace wellbeing too. We believe in developing and nurturing talent. We invest heavily in training our staff and equipping them with the skills required to make them successful. We have invested approximately £800,000 in IT systems and a lot of that is driven by customer experience but also by staff and trying to make the working environment easier. I am proud to be a part of such an amazing and dynamic group of individuals at The Resort. The brand promise of The Resort is to “Delight Every Time” and my goal is to grow and strengthen this legacy by always hiring staff that fit our profile and in doing so creating a strong, vibrant and guest centric culture at Galgorm”. Another aspect of addressing the staff issue was to start an Academy, which commenced last year. Colin continues, “Galgorms ‘Go to Grow Apprenticeship Programme’ represents an annual investment of £125,000 by the company and will expose students to our leading hospitality approach, as well as guaranteed employment at the Resort or one of the company’s other restaurants, for those who successfully complete the programme”. “Following the success of our Spa Therapy School this year we are looking at introducing a Bar School to our Academy partnering with other local hotels. It is vital that we change perceptions and increase education about the wide range of long-term career prospects in the hospitality industry and stop young talent passing it off as a temporary and unambitious career choice - a career in hospitality can be immensely rewarding”.

So, how does Colin think Brexit will help or hinder Galgorm’s further development plans? “The exact outcome of Brexit is both unknown and unpredictable, and we have the double whammy of having had no Assembly for the last two years. This means that the £2billion that was allocated for infrastructure development is held up in the system. It’s frustrating because that investment would have the potential to create jobs, book hotel rooms and have people on the ground spending money. However, the market is buoyant and exuberant, and the currency being devalued has been a positive from a tourist point of view”. The Hill family own several hotels, bars and restaurants in Northern Ireland. Colin explains, “In the group we have Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort as well as the bar and restaurant at Galgorm Castle. We’ve two restaurants in Belfast, Café Parisien and Fratelli in Belfast on Great Victoria Street. In the last month we bought the Templeton Hotel in Templepatrick which is a 24 bedroom hotel with two bars and restaurants. The plan is to re-develop this property over the next year. There will be a strong food and beverage focus with two restaurants, a bar and a banqueting room. We also have a site on the Ormeau Road in Belfast which has just got planning permission for a 15-bedroom hotel with bar and restaurant”.Plans for the completion of this project is late 2021”. “By the end of 2021, we will have in the region of approximately 1000 staff. The owners, Nicholas and Paul Hill are originally from Ballymena and they have a focus to the local area and their continued investment reflects their commitment to the development of Northern Ireland’s tourism industry. “By further enhancing our product offering to attract the discerning traveller, we can enhance our reputation as one of the leading Resorts and an innovator in the industry”. “In five years’ time, I’d hope the NI Assembly is back up and running and Brexit has been sorted with minimal impact. I would also like to see the vision and ambitious plans of the owners come to fruition, while continuing to deliver on our brand promise. I would also like to see tourism in Northern Ireland reach its target of £2 billion, the industry as a whole has worked tirelessly to develop the tourism product and to reach this target would be a fantastic boost for the industry. With so much potential for tourism and hospitality in Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort are at the forefront of innovation, quality and unique experiences in the region.



Chairman Interview

Joan O'Shaughnessy Bio of career. Positions held to date.

My entire career has been spent in both the hotel and catering business. I retired from the position of CEO to Aramark Ireland in 2011, a role which I held for 12 years. Following that, I continued as an Advisor to Aramark until 2015. I then joined the board of Bewleys Coffee, as a nonexecutive Director and became Chairman of Tourism Ireland in 2016. I am a business mentor to several emerging companies and young entrepreneurs. I am a member of the Institute of Directors, Irish Hospitality Institute and Skål Ireland.

Since she came into the role of Chairperson, has her perception of tourism changed, given her previous engagements were more in the food service sector?

I’m much more aware now of the huge amount of work it takes to ensure that overseas tourism to Ireland is such a success story. In my work with Aramark, I dealt with clients when they were actually here, on the ground in Ireland. I now have a greater understanding of the scale of Tourism Ireland’s work around the world to promote the island of Ireland, before visitors decide to come here. I know more about what motivates an American holidaymaker to visit, vis-à-vis say an Australian. I can see how collaboration between Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and our industry stakeholders is so important. And, of course, I know how tourism is such a vital part of the fabric of Irish society and how its benefits reach every corner of the island.

How is the island of Ireland performing?

2018 was a record year for Irish tourism, when we welcomed over 11 million overseas visitors. Revenue generated by those visitors was in the region of €6.1 billion, a +10% increase over 2017, helping to sustain around 320,000 valuable jobs in communities right across the island. In terms of 2019, the most recent figures from the CSO – for Q1 – show some underlying weakness. Visitor numbers grew by +6% in the first three months of 2019. However, spend was down -4%, with North America the only market area showing revenue growth. Visitor numbers from Mainland Europe and long-haul markets were up – but they spent fewer nights here, so spend by those visitors was down. We are in constant contact with our tourism partners around the country and we know that growth in overseas tourism is not being felt evenly across the industry and that 2019 will be challenging. We have a really extensive marketing programme rolling out across the world throughout 2019, to address the challenges – which includes our new global campaign ‘Fill Your Heart With Ireland’.



Do the regions get the full benefit of the visitor numbers?

The island of Ireland now welcomes more visitors from around the globe than ever before. Tourism of this scale provides great benefits to our economy; however, we believe there is an opportunity to spread this success across the year and more equitably around the entire island. Not only will this benefit more local communities, it will also ensure we continue to deliver our renowned Irish welcome and outstanding visitor experience. Tourism Ireland has developed a set of sustainability principles to guide our marketing programmes into the future. These include a greater focus on less-visited attractions and locations that have overseas appeal, as well as driving business in the off-peak and shoulder seasons.

Does the industry (hotels/restaurants/attractions) do enough to market themselves, and could it work more effectively on this? Is too much emphasis put on the likes of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland to generate business?

Every year, hundreds of our tourism industry partners join us overseas, to promote their business at around 60 major consumer and travel trade fairs, as well as on our travel trade missions. Our Industry Opportunities website ( is a great source of information for people who want to get involved with Tourism Ireland and grow their overseas business.

Does tourism have a voice at the cabinet table? Has it improved during her tenure? If not, how can it?

We have two Government ministers with responsibility for tourism and we’re in close and regular contact with both Minister Ross and Minister Griffin. We were obviously delighted to have been allocated an additional €10 million in Budget 2019. In Northern Ireland, responsibility for tourism lies with the Department for the Economy (DfE).

Chairman Interview

The recent change in Vat is apparently having a negative impact, particularly in the regions, was this a short-sighted view from government, and will it have an overriding impact on the sector.

There is no question that our industry has been hurt by the VAT increase. I know that this is a challenging time for people running tourism and hospitality businesses – it’s a more difficult trading environment, with the increased rate of VAT and other rising business costs. However, we’ve seen a decline of -4% in spend by overseas tourists, in the recent CSO figures for the first quarter of this year – so we know that the value for money message for our overseas visitors is more important than ever before.

Is it time to have a department solely for tourism? I don’t think so. I think we are well served with two ministers.

Brexit, is it time to move on and accept that its totally out of our hands? Agri land, for instance, is increasing in price both in sales and rental, which would suggest Brexit isn't going to impact. Is Brexit the new Y2K?

Brexit, and its impact on outbound travel from Britain, is certainly a major concern for us. Britain remains our most challenging market and, while we welcome the fact that visitor numbers from Britain are up +2% for JanuaryMarch, we know that currency fluctuations and the Brexit extension continue to cause uncertainty and may affect travel demand for the summer season. We recently launched a new strategy for the British market and we continue to monitor the British market closely, working in conjunction with our British-based Brexit Taskforce.

Career wise, is the industry doing enough to make it attractive to employees? Initiatives to attract and retain staff are absolutely critical. It’s really important for leaders in the industry to nurture and value their employees, to engage in mentoring and to encourage staff members to upskill and take full advantage of training courses on offer from Fáilte Ireland and others.

Your legacy

I’m really pleased and proud to have overseen, and to have been involved with, the delivery of a number of key projects, during my time as Chairman of Tourism Ireland – such as the development of our market diversification strategy and our digital strategy, as well as the new strategy for Britain, which has just been launched and which was truly a collaborative

project between Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism NI, as well as a wide range of industry partners, at home and in Britain. I’m looking forward to bringing ‘Taste the Island’, and our superb food and drink experiences, to our markets overseas this year – an initiative which is particularly close to my own heart, given my background with Aramark and the food industry. I’m also now working on the next Tourism Ireland Corporate Plan, for 2020-2022, which will set out our strategic priorities for the next three years, to ensure we are well placed to continue to deliver sustainable growth in overseas tourism to the island of Ireland.



Time to Talk

We Need To Talk About Conversion By Claire Sawier with Dr Des O’Mahony and Samantha Salazar.

What is conversion and why does it matter?

Your conversion rate is typically defined as the percentage of how many bookings you received compared to the number of sessions to your website, and is a key metric often used to measure marketing efficiency. For booking engines using Google Analytics, the e-commerce tracking feature displays the number of bookings made and the amount of revenue generated, as well as the e-commerce conversion rate for both mobile and desktop. According to this traditional outlook a conversion is a booking. But at Bookassist we are challenging this simplistic metric.

Misconceptions about conversion

Certainly the goal for most hotel marketeers is to secure a booking and that’s where most conversion metrics end, at the point of booking. It’s a simple ‘lookers to bookers’ ratio. But what about cancellations? If you are only measuring your success in terms of bookings made, then you are masking the reality of what happens after the booking is made. Do you even know how many of your bookings go on to be cancelled? In our recent article on cancellations we found that the most successful hotels are those that take a combined view of conversions and cancellations and manage both carefully. High conversion rates might look good, but they may simply be delivering high cancellation rates unless a robust cancellation strategy has been implemented. 1

Net conversion rate

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a marketing strategy aimed at increasing the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers and is crucial to your hotel’s online success. Your CRO strategy needs to focus on; 1. Getting the right traffic to your website in the first place 2. Converting those visits to bookings 3. And making sure they stick around to actually end up staying at your hotel Conversion rates therefore need to be considered alongside cancellation rates to give a true picture of success and marketing effectiveness, i.e. we need to be looking at a Net Conversion Rate.

Figure 1 Sample Google Analytics data for a three-star Dublin city centre hotel.

1 2 18


You therefore need to start tracking cancellation rates, both direct and OTA, for a more realistic conversion metric for your distribution channels and an assessment of their true effectiveness. The real challenge for CRO is to tackle the full booking journey right through to the point of stay. The industry as a whole needs to switch mindset to reporting on net conversion rates and not just conversion from the point of view of bookings. And marketers also need to focus on their post booking strategy to minimise cancellations and increase net conversion rates. This is particularly important with the clear rise in online booking cancelation rates that we’ve been seeing throughout the industry in recent years.

Limitations of website conversion metrics

It is often quoted in the industry that the average website conversion rate for hotels is 2%2 or thereabouts. This 2% is based on the bookings made relative to the ‘total’ number of sessions to your website. Many hotel website visitors of course have no booking intent and are simply browsing the showcase aspect of your site which often includes spa facilities, restaurant, wedding and corporate pages. We’ve all done it. So your website conversion figure is a useful benchmark but it doesn’t really tell you a lot. For example, the 2.93% conversion rate shown in figure 1 tells us simply that the website in question is performing above the industry average, but it doesn’t give you any insight into the steps that you need to take in order to improve your direct booking capability. Because hotel websites are traditionally a cross between a showcase and an e-commerce site, a more relevant conversion metric is the booking engine conversion rate. Unlike your overall website conversion rate which is skewed and therefore lowered by your overall general-purpose traffic, your booking engine conversion rate focuses exclusively on the booking e-commerce aspect of your business and is likely a truer and more insightful measure of what your are trying to achieve. Your booking engine conversion rate and conversion goal funnel provide so much more additional information, especially where your booking engine employs Enhanced E-commerce with Google Analytics, as is available from Bookassist. Essential insights into your visitors’ paths to purchase tell us how many people enter the booking engine funnel, what room types or packages they

Time to Talk are engaging with, where you’re losing bookers along the way, and at which stages we can improve their experience. In our opinion at Bookassist, hotels should focus on their booking engine conversion rate as a priority over the overall website conversion rate. Furthermore they should not settle for the industry average and should not be complacent around average figures. In terms of website conversion there is a lot that separates hotels who achieve figures much higher than the industry average and there are a number of factors that can cause this number to fluctuate wildly. Equally, good-performing hotels report website conversion rates lower than the industry average and that may be okay too, depending on their overall website goals and type of visitors that they want to attract. Hotels simply differ too much across the industry for industry averages to be relevant in many cases.

Strong conversion strategy = strong conversion rate Strong conversion rates are only possible when underpinned by a strong conversion strategy. This takes time, cost and attention but is absolutely worth the effort in terms of the resulting increase in revenue. Once a hotel’s booking conversion funnel has been optimised for an engaging and frictionless booking experience, the increase in booking and conversion opportunities will inevitably follow.

If your website and booking process are not optimised to convert then you are just wasting your money investing in activities to increase traffic to your website. As a result of this incorrect focus, many hotels are surprised when their increase in PPC or meta search advertising spend does not result in a significant bookings uplift. Sure, the more you throw at something the more likely some of it will stick, but if the conversion issues are not addressed before you invest in bringing more people to your site you’ll find that you may only manage to increase revenue slightly, and to a degree where it is not worth the additional spend and effort. You’d be better off spending your time and money first on making sure that your site, booking engine and booking engine setup are converting your current visitors before turning to visitor growth. Try taking that journey yourself to understand first-hand the would-be booker experience when booking a room online for your hotel. We’ve yet to come across anyone who enjoys the experience of a slow site, inaccurate information, broken links, or being forced to sift through volumes of information trying to find what they are looking for, all against a background of dubious data security. In many cases you’ve already lost your potential booking even before they check availability.

CRO before SEM

By improving your website’s current conversion rate, you’ll also get better value out of your existing traffic as it’s more cost effective to generate increased revenue from your existing traffic than it is to drive more viewers to your site. Better still, if you improve your conversion rate before investing in paid online advertising, you’ll get a better return on investment on all future marketing efforts. A healthier conversion rate together with an increase in the number of visitors to your site will result in increased direct booking revenue.

Frictionless booking experience

Consumer expectations are the same the world over - a booking experience that is speedy, seamless and secure. Friction will not be tolerated and hotels that continue to add friction to the booker’s journey will pay in terms of lower conversion and ultimately lower revenue. Your website, booking engine and digital marketing all need to work in perfect harmony. In this holistic scenario, (a) your digital marketing effort generates traffic with high purchase intent that (b) goes on to visit your mobile-ready and fully-optimised landing page showing the best available rate and clear direct booking benefits, thereby (c) drawing that traffic into the booking engine which (d) has clarity of content and presentation that makes it simple for customers to complete their reservation with ease. Bookassist tightly integrates booking engine with website and digital marketing for a truly frictionless direct booking experience. This holistic approach is far more effective than using separate providers for each solution where that tight integration is much harder to achieve.

How to increase your conversion rates

There are a number of actions that you can take to increase both your overall website and booking engine conversion rate for desktop and for mobile. We’ll dive into the detail of successful conversion rate optimisation and share some really great success stories with you in our next article, so stay tuned!

Bottom Line

Conversion is a key measure of marketing success, but there are many misconceptions about conversion and hotels need to focus on the metrics that matter. A strong conversion strategy is needed to affect strong conversion rates. Hotels that adopt a holistic approach to remove booking friction will be rewarded in higher conversion and increased direct booking revenue.

Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO & Founder, Claire Sawier is Head of Marketing and Samantha Salazar is Digital Marketing Specialist at Bookassist, (bookassist. com), the multi-award-winning technology and digital strategy partner for hotels worldwide.




Hotels of Choice

Choice Hotel Group is a leading Irish hospitality company. It is Irish owned and operated, with many years of experience across the highly moviated central group team, led by industry veteran & CEO Andrew O’Neill and Marie Richardson, Group Sales & Marketing Director, the central team are a core group of seven.

The group manage, franchise and lease hotels across Ireland and the UK. One of only two world-wide Master Franchise holders for Choice Hotels International, a relationship which the group clearly value highly, this agreement allows the group to directly negoiate and contract franchise agreements with hotel owners or operators through specific brands across the island and with agreement into the UK. The most familiar brands/flags used in the Ireland market to date are Clarion Hotels, Quality Hotel, Comfort Hotel, and in recent years the Ascend Collection, a white label brand made popular when they previously opened the gibson hotel. The group now features a range of 4 & 5 star independent hotels, located in Dublin, Galway and Clare, as well as further afield in Belfast and London and mostly using the the Ascend Collection, Clarion & Quality brands. The group’s current operating hotel portfolio includes the stylish g Hotel & Spa, Hotel Meyrick on Eyre Square (known locally as the Old Dame of Eyre Square) and The House Hotel, a boutique hotel in the popular Latin Quarter in Galway; a total of 270 bedrooms in Galway city centre. In addition, there is Hotel Woodstock, a 67 bedroom family run property in Ennis, Co. Clare; Shoreline Hotel with 35 bedrooms in North County Dublin and north of the border in Belfast city centre Malone Lodge Hotel, a 102 bedroom hotel consisting of a mix of suites and apartments. The 212 bedroom Croydon Park Hotel in London has been part of the group since 2017 again, and is running under the Clarion Brand. Within the franchise group 4 of the 7 managed hotels are members of The Ascend Hotel Collection. This collection of upscale and independent hotels have 260 Ascend Hotels across the globe, with 60 across Europe, and growing – this soft brand allows their hotels to connect globally with travel agents across the world and capture international tourism into their region, as well as be a part of a €38million member Choice Privileges Loyalty Programme, while keeping their original local identity. The group is also very proud of its long running relationship with the Quality Hotel In Youghal Co Cork, one of Ireland’s most popular family destinations a hotel which runs under a franchise agreement with the group.



Marie Richardson feels that the long built up market knowledge, understanding, and strategic planning coupled with the hands on approach from the highly motivated central group team, offers individual hotels or small group companies great benefit and experience when trying to connect into a crowned market. Our system offers global access to customers and rates they may never see, also stating one of the reasons helping the Choice Hotel Group grow quickly. One of the most recent acquisitions and devleopment projects undertaken by the Choice Hotel Group is the Shoreline Hotel in Donabate in Co. Dublin (10 minutes from Dublin airport). This superbly located 35 bed boutique hotel sits perfectly on the Fingal coastline in Dublin, and has just completed a €1 million plus investment/refurbishment program by the group. The focus is to make it one of Dublin’s idealic hotel locations and venues, close to Dublin Airport. “When the group purchased the property last year, it was in need of reinvestment”, says Richardson. “The property hadn’t had any upgrade works in over 12 years and our customers had great patience with us through that time whilst we renovated, expanded and brought the property up to 4 star standards. We are happy to say we’ve now completed the refurbishment of the ground floor reception and afternoon tea lounge with undisrupted views of Lambay and Irelands Eye, the 120 seater Shoreline Brasserie, comfortable new bedrooms with stunning views of the coast line and an elegant function room fitting for any upscale wedding. The hotel is an integral part of the community built for the Fingal community, and it will become one of Ireland’s leading wedding venues and locations with a team that will move heaven and earth for that special day business. “The expansion of Donabate Village and increased accessibility over the coming months will no doubt be a huge benefit to the hotel. We completed the refurbishment six weeks ago, and we have already seen positive feedbaclk & results.” The Choice Hotel Group is growing steadily and at pace, since it’s re-birth in 2016 under the investment by Andrew O'Neill CEO. As Richardson explains, “following our re birth in 2016 we started the year and new business off with just three managed hotels, and this has now grown to seven in subsequent years. We will continue to strive to grow our portfolio across key markets in Ireland, UK and Europe using strategic partners to support

Hotels experiences throughout each of our hotels and properties for both. We always encourage internal promotion first, and are continuously developing our team members through structured training programmes across our group. Our last trainee management program managers have just started graduating and we are really excited for their future. – our teams are the key and path to any success we achieve in the future.” In recent weeks Choice Hotels international has honoured both Hotel Woodstock in Ennis and the Malone Lodge Hotel in Belfast members of the Ascend Collection for excellent customer service ratings and property presentation. Hotel Woodstock received the prestigious award for Best Ascend Collection Hotel in Europe 2019, at the Choice Hotels European Convention in Amsterdam in April 2019, At the same event, Malone Lodge Hotel was awarded UK Ascend Collection Hotel for 2019. The second international award from the group having been recongised as Best Newcomer in 2017.

that growth. Our development plans are similar for growth recruiting leases, management contracts and franchising, and we are always seeking opportunities for same.” Choice Hotel Group certainly has a lot to offer potential new members and partners and are open to approaches. “The franchise model is something we can offer independent hotels”, says Richardson. “As times get a little more challenging, independent hotels may look for global support through a brand. With the Choice Hotel brands and coupled with our knowledge, we have successfully delivered up to 45% of a hotel’s revenue through a central reservations system. There is great potential to really grow that area, and to get that global business you seek through the GDS system, particularly for an independent hotel. “As a franchise holder, you have access to a central reservations system, which in turn provides the access to the Global Distrubution System (GDS system) and your position in a Global Market. We offer better commission agreements with OTA’s, cost savings across systems such as siteminder, property management systems and websites to name but a few, along with a global sales and marketing structure of more than 150 sales personnel across the globe. There are now 7,000 hotels in the global Choice portfolio and growing. The sales and marketing support as a result of this throughout Europe is invaluable to an independent property or small group.” With loyalty being so important in todays market, the group is renowed for its award winning Choice Privileges Loyalty Programme with some 38 million members worldwide, loyalty really is a key driver.” Richardson also recognises the importance of having good people. “We have strong senior teams across each of our hotels, their focus is firstly on our customers and staff ensuring we create memorable

Booking trends and rates within the hospitality industry in early 2019 have seen a decline in a lot of our regional markets on the island according to data release by Trending, Tourism Ireland and STR. Like all other hotel operators in Ireland and the UK, Choice Hotel Group are not exempt from the big challeneges faced in this period like Brexit, the decline in Sterling value vs euro, VAT rate from 9% to 13.5%, Ryanair strikes, Dublin Airport becoming more of a hub airport and the Boeing plane groundings have added to this trend. “We are looking forward, we always do, you can’t manage your business looking in the rear mirror, the first quarter was tough to take following the last few years performances, and yes we would have loved to not have had any of the disruption mentioned above of course we would. The impact of the VAT change has been a real bitter pill for us to swallow it simply didn’t make sense and I really expected nothing else with Shane Ross being our gate keeper, however I would still urge the government to revervse this decision later this year in the budget, we work tirlessly across the world selling this island at trade shows and events, we have recruited and used this 4.5% to become the second largest employment industry on the ireland, don’t put this at risk”, says Richardson. “As for brexit we just want it done so we can really see what it means, the uncertainty is unforecastable for us and that’s the truth. GB wouldn’t be a strong market in some of our regions, however the movement in domestic travel and buying patterns across Ireland would certainly have affected the first quarter when Dublin found its self with occpuancy to shift. “Our focus is on strategically targeting markets we can improve, drive business direct from and to our hotels, whilst increasing length of stays and average rate. Future Pace is key to how we target our growth.”

As well as their excellent customer service, the Choice Hotel Group is a very progressive and inclusive group, with a high percentage of female managers and General Managers employed across our portfolio. Richardson explains: “4 of our 7 hotels have female GMs and in our central group team there is a 60-40 female/male split. There’s a strong female management presence across the group and our CEO is extremely concise and proactive in encouraging this.” With some exciting developments planned this year, there’s no doubt that the Choice Hotel Group will continue to grow and thrive in the Irish hospitality sector. H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


Fáilte Ireland Industry News

Fáilte Ireland announces €150million investment for attractions Fáilte Ireland’s new Platforms for Growth initiative is the National Tourism Development Authority’s largest programme of investment yet, and forms part of its Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects which runs to 2022. Major new visitor attractions of scale will be developed and existing attractions greatly enhanced through Platforms for Growth, with individual grants available for large-scale visitor attractions of €2.5million upwards. It is unlike any previous investment announced by Fáilte Ireland, as it specifically targets ‘platforms’ or projects that have the greatest potential to grow tourism and fill gaps in the Irish tourism offering in order to meet changing visitor preferences. Through this approach, Platforms for Growth will pave the way for large-scale transformative attractions that will become key motivators to visit an area. In turn, this will step-change the economic value of tourism in the area through increased visitor numbers, revenue and job creation. The first ‘Platform’ will focus on developing Immersive Heritage and Cultural Attractions. Overseas visitors are increasingly seeking out more hands-on experiences that bring local culture and heritage to life. This platform will invest Making the Platforms for Growth announcement were Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development Fáilte Ireland, in projects that deliver innovative and interactive experiences for the visitor to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD and Paul Kelly, CEO Fáilte Ireland ‘immerse’ themselves in. Further platforms will be announced over the course of the programme. The Immersive Heritage and Cultural Attractions Platform is now open for applications, with a submission deadline of 17th July for expressions of interest. All details are available on Platforms for Growth is funded under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 strategy with the aim of driving sustainable tourism growth, higher revenue and job creation across Ireland.

New festival Púca will celebrate Ireland as the Home of Halloween Púca is the name of Fáilte Ireland’s exciting new festival that aims to position Ireland internationally as the home of Halloween. It has been developed in partnership with Meath and Louth County Councils and will take place this year in Ireland’s Ancient East. Rooted in ancient tradition, the festival will celebrate Ireland as the birthplace of Halloween with a full programme of events centred around Trim and Athboy, Co. Meath and Drogheda, Co. Louth from 31st October to 2nd November 2019. ‘Púca’, a character from Celtic folklore often associated with Samhain, was chosen as the name for the festival following consumer research in key markets. At Halloween, the Púca comes alive, changing the fortunes of those that cross it and immersing them in the true spirit of Halloween. Head of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland, Orla Carroll, said: “Our market research tells us that overseas visitors are motivated to visit Ireland to attend the Púca festival. Over the next three years, we are investing €1.5million to develop Púca as a world class festival that positions Ireland as the home of Halloween internationally. We believe it has the potential to motivate 100,000 overseas visitors to come to Ireland Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D, Minister Regina Doherty, T.D, Minister Helen McEntee, and generate €12million in revenue for the local region.” T.D, Minister Damien English, T.D, Jenny DeSaulles, Head of Ireland’s Ancient East, Jackie Maguire, CEO Meath County The festival is being funded by Fáilte Ireland, Meath County Council and Louth Council, Joan Martin, CEO, Louth County Council, Head of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland, Orla Carroll are County Council. pictured at the Hill of Ward, Co. Meath at the announcement of Fáilte Ireland’s exciting new festival, Púca

Taste the Island Key players from the food, drinks, tourism and hospitality arena recently gathered at Fáilte Ireland’s Dublin head office for the first Advisory Group meeting for ‘Taste the Island’. ‘Taste the Island’ is a new food and drink initiative developed by Fáilte Ireland, in collaboration with Tourism Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and a range of other stakeholders. Running over eight weeks between September and November this year, Taste the Island will showcase Ireland’s world-class food and drink culture across the island of Ireland. The initiative will provide visitors with access to authentic food and drink experiences, high quality local ingredients and world-class Irish food and drink produce. Members of the Advisory Group were updated on the progress of the project, including the successful series of workshops which has recently concluded as well as the exciting opportunities that exist for all those involved. Find out more Pictured at the Taste the Island Advisory Group Meeting are Martina Bromley, Fáilte Ireland, Catherine Fulvio, Ballyknocken House & Cookery School, Paul Keeley, Fáilte Ireland, Joan O'Shaughnessy and Aine Kearney, Tourism Northern Ireland



Fáilte Ireland Industry News

Iconic Kylemore Abbey Opens New Visitor Experience with €1.7m Fáilte Ireland Investment An exciting new element to the visitor experience at Kylemore Abbey and Gardens has officially been opened by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross. Entitled ‘From Generation to Generation…The Story of Kylemore Abbey’, the project was developed with an investment of €1.7 million under Fáilte Ireland’s Grants Scheme for Large Tourism Projects 20162020. The re-development of the Abbey’s interior has transformed the visitor experience by using state of the art storytelling to create truly engaging introduction to the Kylemore Abbey site, and Fáilte Ireland has worked with Kylemore Abbey and Gardens to develop this new aspect of the already well-known historic and cultural attraction.

Conor Coyne, Executive Director of the Kylemore Trust, Mother Maire Hickey OSB, Mark Mitchell Henry, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, Sr Magdalena OSB and Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland pictured at the opening of the new visitors experience at Kylemore Abbey

Arriving on Inaugural Flight from Texas Leading Tour Agents Explore Ireland’s Ancient East Five US travel agents with Virtuoso, the leading global network of agencies specialising in luxury and experiential travel, recently arrived in Dublin on the inaugural flight from Dallas, Texas to Dublin. American Airlines have begun daily nonstop flights until the 28th September from Fort Worth, the 13th-largest city in the US. This is the first ever direct flight from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport into Dublin. Fáilte Ireland, in conjunction with Tourism Ireland, showcased attractions and places to stay in Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny and Waterford to the group of US luxury tour agents with Virtuosi and an American Airlines representative who arrived on the American Airways inaugural flight from Dallas.  Travel agents Mary Jean Thompson, Arlene Thompson-Brantley, Daniel Brantley, Andrea Ballard, Jennie Holden, Virgile Rivet, Hillarie McGuinness from Tourism Ireland, Lettie Cronin from Fáilte Ireland with Caitriona O’Mahony and Siobhan O’Sullivan from Mount Juliet

Contacts and contracts at Fáilte Ireland’s pitch to global tour operators Fáilte Ireland hosted a custom-made workshop at the Glasson Hotel & Golf Club, Co Westmeath, as part of a targeted 2020 global sales drive for Irish tourism businesses against the backdrop of Brexit. Nearly 60 Irish tourism businesses were given the opportunity to pitch directly to up to 20 of the world’s leading tour operators who are based in the UK and sell holidays to Britain and Ireland to international markets including China, India, Japan, Australia and the US. Maria Kelly, Ardilaun Hotel, Galway; Oonagh Kelly, Fáilte Ireland; Victorio Vavarro and Stephanie Olivier, Kuoni Travel

Further detailed information on the articles above is available at : H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


Chef Network

KITCHEN CULTURE Meet the chefs & teams of Ireland’s professional kitchens, with Chef Network The Chef Network community brings together chefs at all levels from all sectors across Ireland. In a Hotel & Restaurant Times regular column we meet some members and hear from them what inspires and motivates them, their career challenges and opportunities, and how they believe we can improve the industry.

In this edition, we meet

Erik Van der Veken, Technical Advisor at Redmond Fine Foods and Director & Owner of Arcane Chocolate

the love of my life. I later followed her to Ireland so that she could finish her master’s degree here.

Why did you become a Chef? I’ve always been really into making cakes and baking, ever since I was a child. Every year, starting from the age of ten, I would make the Christmas cake for my family. It was always something I loved to do. When it came time to decide which direction to take in high school, my heart was set on culinary and, after a few heated discussions with my parents at the age of 12, I was allowed to pursue it. In Belgium the education system is a little different, you walk away from high school with the skills to carry out the job that you’ve studied for. For me, I had chosen to focus on cooking as my career. From the age of 12 I had been studying and practicing cooking in school. In third year, I was finally allowed to specialise, of course at this point I chose baking and pastry. From the moment that I was introduced to Patisserie, and in particular chocolate, I knew it was what I wanted to do for a living, and I have never looked back. What was your path to where you are today? When I was in school, I worked part-time in a local bakery. From the age of 16 until I turned 23, I worked every weekend in the kitchen here. After I finished high school, I decided to take a break from the industry for a bit, although I did continue to work in the bakery. I went to college and ended up studying a few different things; diet science and marketing being two of them. I was also very involved in sports. I had a lot of interests and wanted to explore all the options. In 2010 I got back into the industry and started working in a chocolate shop. Shortly after that, in 2012 I decided that I wanted a change of scenery and so I made the move and travelled to London, where I worked in 5-star Café Royal and MARC Patisserie as a chocolatier. Working under the watchful eye of Executive Pastry Chef Simon Jenkins, a man to whom I owe a lot today, lifted me to a higher level while keeping my feet firmly on the ground. Working in London later led to being recruited for a start-up chocolate business in Saudi Arabia. Although I was a little worried about making such a big trip I was also excited for the adventure and I’m lucky I made the move as this is where I ended up meeting 24


While moving to Ireland was all very new and a little terrifying, especially as I didn’t have any contacts or a job lined up, but it all turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it led me to work for Redmond Fine Foods which has connected me with some of the leading brands in the world of pastry and chocolate as well as the right people to help me progress my career to where I ultimately want to go.

Thinking that you have it all figured out is a dangerous mind-set


What is the most important ingredient in your success to date? I suppose it’s my constant hunger to learn. I’m always trying to research and learn new things, whether that's reading about the ingredients we use, taking courses to build or improve my skills or reading books on business and self-improvement. I am passionate about learning and I urge everyone to keep upskilling and progressing. Be open to learning from everyone you encounter. Thinking that you have it all figured out is a dangerous mind-set, one that will render you irrelevant over time. I frequently travel abroad to take courses with great chefs. I have learned some great things from chefs such as Frank Haasnoot, Melissa Coppel, Ramon Morato and Stéphane Leroux, to name a few. Skills alone are only one part of the puzzle, to really excel in any industry you need a combination of skills, the right mind-set, and experience.

Skills alone are only one part of the puzzle


Tell us about the team you work with. At the moment, I mainly fly solo in the kitchen. However, I do frequently get the chance to collaborate with leading Pastry Chefs and Chocolatiers across Ireland. I’ve also been lucky enough to present several masterclasses, where I love to share my knowledge with other chefs.

Chef Network Recently, I worked on a roadshow with renowned Chef Michael Zorin who works for Sosa Ingredients. That was a really great experience. There is a growing excitement around Patisserie here in Ireland and seeing that firsthand was fantastic. I am part of a great team here in Redmond Fine Foods and it’s great to work with people who are all as passionate about food as I am. I share my knowledge and get them excited about chocolate and pastry, by showing them my world and teaching them about chocolate or ingredients they might not be so familiar with. In the past, when I worked in Saudi Arabia, I managed a team of 10 pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Many of them were excellent workers, with lots of talent in the kitchen but struggled quite a bit with their self-belief and confidence. I believed in coaching them, trying to build up their self-esteem, helping them to understand that they don’t have to resign themselves to just being a “worker” in the kitchen. I encouraged them to dream bigger, apply focused energy on what they wanted to excel at, and helped them believe they could become sous chefs and head chefs if they put their mind to it. Several of them were able to progress their career after working with me, and I’m still in touch with them today. It feels good to know you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life.

If the people who work with you are not happy then you’ll constantly be searching for new people


Have you seen a negative side to the industry? Of course. I’ve worked in kitchens in the past where bullying has taken place. However, I am a big believer in creating a positive and inspiring place to work, one in which everyone feels valued and the mentality is around “team” rather than “I”. The atmosphere in your kitchen is very important. If the people who work with you are not happy then you’ll constantly be searching for new people. Of course, we all have to work to a certain standard, that a given, but there’s no reason why we can’t have a good experience in the kitchen. The Chef Network Kitchen Charter aims to create a positive and nurturing work environment in kitchens. Which point(s) on the charter do you feel are most important and how do you implement these in your own kitchen/business? I think it’s important that people have a life and interest outside of work, that there is a good work-life balance. Happy people with a fulfilling life outside of their job perform better while at work. Striking the right work-life balance is not a black and white thing, and it shouldn’t be either. Everyone will need to find their own balance. Sometimes, it will be inevitable that you have to stay on a bit later to finish up the job you’re working on, but this should never be pushed to the extreme. Work as required. We should all have time to be able to do what we want.

Positivity in the workplace works to motivate your team and contrarily negativity will cause issues. In a world with opportunities like never before, people choose to become chefs out of a passion for food. We have a responsibility to inspire and fuel that desire, we must encourage this passion and be careful not to kill it. I believe in coaching you team. Getting to know them, knowing what makes them tick, their individual strengths and figuring out how to use that to create the best possible end result. I also believe that as a team leader, it’s about outlining the vision you have, getting the team excited about that and giving them the freedom (within reason of course) to create and contribute to this vision.


The most rewarding thing I’ve done is…. Coaching junior chefs for competitions. The growth they go through in a short timespan was a beautiful thing to watch. I have learned that… There is always something to learn or improve on. The key skills or traits to have in this job are… Resilience, creativity, work ethic and an eagerness to learn. We can create a better workplace by… Leaving the egos at home and striving together for constant improvement.


starting out is… Reverse engineer your career. You want to be a Michelin star chef one day? Start by working for one. You dream of opening a chocolate shop? Work as a chocolatier first. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Without failure there is no success, I fell flat on my face several times, and I probably will many more... it’s part of the game. Ultimately you only fail when you quit on your dream. trying to progress their career is… Walk before you run, you are not doing yourself, or the company you are working for, any favours by taking on a head chef position if you’re not ready for it. My greatest mentor has been… Simon Jenkins, Executive pastry chef at Café Royal in London My biggest inspiration is... Two people come to mind: Ramon Morato, Creative director of Cacao Barry and a true pastry genius, and Frank Haasnoot, former World Pastry champion who has developed his instantly recognisable signature styling. My favourite job ever… Owner and consultant at Arcane Chocolate, which I have recently set up, there are some exciting things in the pipeline. My role here allows me to travel the world and meet amazing and inspirational people. Something I would like to achieve… I want to be the first person representing the Irish flag at the World Chocolate Masters final in Paris, the biggest and most prestigious chocolate competition in the world. Keep an eye out for the next edition! How to keep or attract staff… Make them believe in your vision. Coach them, help them develop and achieve their dreams. When the time comes for them to move on to bigger and better things; be happy for them.

Our Kitchen Workplace Charter

Have you put your plan in place to improve your Kitchen Culture? You can now find a template and advice in our online community to help you put your own Kitchen Workplace Charter plan in place. Visit today to download your copy Share your support & progress with us online #KitchenCulture Working together towards a better industry

Chefs and Employers, have you seen our Kitchen Workplace Charter?

Join CHEF NETWORK free today at to connect, communicate and collaborate with your chef community H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


Tourism Ireland

Tourism Minister unveils new strategy to grow tourism from Britain Great Britain offers considerable potential for Irish tourism, according to a new strategy launched by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD. The strategy was developed by Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism NI, in close collaboration with a wide range of industry partners, at home and in Britain. The strategy sets out an ambitious target to grow revenue from British holidaymakers by +25%, to €705 million, by 2022 – while ensuring continued regional growth and season extension. At a time when Britain is facing ongoing uncertainty, the new strategy provides up-to-date insights, to ensure we are best placed to tackle the challenges and to make the most out of future opportunities. It has been developed cognisant of the ongoing Brexit negotiations; and the recommendations of the strategy remain valid and can be flexed under all potential outcomes of the negotiations. Britain continues to be a very important market for tourism to the island of Ireland, delivering 44% of all overseas visitors and around 25% of all overseas tourism revenue. In 2018, we welcomed around 4.7 million British visitors to the island of Ireland. Revenue from British holidaymakers to Ireland is up +53% since 2012.

Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin; Joan O’Shaughnessy, Chairman of Tourism Ireland; Stephen McNally, Deputy CEO of the Dalata Hotel Group and Chair of the GB Market Review; Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland; Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland; and Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Britain, at the launch of a new strategy to grow tourism from Britain.

The strategy provides new insights on: - why British holidaymakers choose the island of Ireland; and - how those holidaymakers currently behave when they’re here – both on a first-time visit and when they return. It also shows how we can tap into these insights to unlock the economic lifetime value of a British holidaymaker. Unlocking the lifetime value of British holidaymakers: British holidaymakers return to the island of Ireland time and time again. A key finding of this strategy includes a change in behaviour when British holidaymakers return to Ireland. Repeat holidaymakers tend to be more adventurous; they are more likely to come for longer, spend more and venture beyond our cities into the regions. As many British holidaymakers come back time and time again, this makes them an important group to nurture.

New research on Canadian market The Canadian market has performed strongly for tourism in recent years. Ireland is now the seventh most popular European destination for Canadian travellers, in a growing outbound market. In 2018, around 240,000 Canadians visited the island of Ireland, spending about €230 million. And, holiday visitor numbers from Canada have more than doubled over the last five years – from 72,000 in 2013 to around 165,000 in 2018. Canadian visitors are highly prized as they tend to stay longer, spend more and visit more of the regions of Ireland than the average visitor. Tourism Ireland aims to build on the success of recent years. The organisation undertook research of the Canadian market this spring, which examined the profile of our current Canadian holidaymakers. It also identified the opportunities and challenges which will drive growth from Canada to Ireland over the coming years. One of the key factors working in our favour is the number of direct flights from Canada to Ireland. Summer 2019 will see an estimated 10,627 direct, one-way air seats available each week from Canada to Ireland – from major gateways including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, Hamilton and Calgary. Pictured at the launch of the new research were (l-r) Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Head of North America; Dana Welch, Tourism Ireland’s Manager Canada; and Siobhan McManamy, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Markets. 26


Tourism Ireland

Lights, camera, action … Tourism Ireland kicks off filming for phase 2 of its global advertising campaign Tourism Ireland kicked off filming for phase two of its global advertising campaign recently. The footage will be used to create new TV, cinema and online ads and will reach millions of potential visitors around the world. It will be designed for the digital era and will also include lots of short ‘snackable’ content for use on social platforms. Locations and attractions which will feature in this second phase of Tourism Ireland’s campaign include Rathlin Island, the walled city of Derry, Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Trim Castle, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Powerscourt House and Waterford. The ads will go live in early 2020, in Tourism Ireland's top overseas markets – Britain, the US, France and Germany – to kickstart the tourism season for next year. The campaign will then roll out further in other markets, including Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Pictured during the shoot at Trim Castle are Lisa and Fredrik Lexfors, the stars of the campaign (left); Jenny Jensma, Tourism Ireland (centre); and the camera crew.

Promotion with Porsche highlights driving holidays in Donegal and along the Wild Atlantic Way Tourism Ireland in Germany joined forces with the famous car manufacturer Porsche – to showcase Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way as a fantastic driving holiday destination. A team from Porsche captured content – at places like Horn Head, Fanad Lighthouse, Sheephaven Bay, Glenveagh National Park and Glencolumbkille – for its website and social media platforms. The Porsche crew was joined by two bloggers from Off the Path, a popular German adventure travel blog. Pictured at Sliabh Liag are Sebastian Canaves (second left) and Line Dubois (second right), both bloggers from Off The Path; with the Porsche crew Sven Labenz (left), Markus Schwer (centre) and Roman Schwer (right).

Ireland’s ‘rendez-vous’ with France Ireland was promoted to in Paris at a B2B tourism event, called Irlande à Paris. The workshop and networking event, organised by Tourism Ireland, involved some 60 leading French group travel operators meeting, and doing business with, tourism companies from Ireland. It provided an excellent platform for the participating Irish companies – including hotels, visitor attractions and DMCs, as well as air and sea carriers – to secure a greater share of group tour business from France. Pictured at the event are the tourism companies from Ireland with Fiona Dunne (left), Maïlys de Seze (second left), Monica MacLaverty (sixth left), Viktoria Varecza (eleventh left), Marc Faivre (third right), and Kate Murphy (second right), all Tourism Ireland.



IT Solutions

Tierneys - When IT matters explains: “Last year we started to market ourselves primarily as a hospitality business, it just so happens we look after the IT side.” Tierney’s currently employs 45 people and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. The company continues to go from strength to strength and is now responsible for the IT systems in approximately 50% of Irish hotels. It counts among its customers some of the country’s biggest hotels and hotel groups, including The Dalata Hotel Group, iNua, SÓ Hotels and Choice Hotel Group, as well as many of the country’s biggest independent hotels.

Tierney’s is a well-known name in the Irish hospitality industry. The company, which was established in 1993, is widely known as the Hospitality IT experts, having built a strong reputation within the sector. Tierney’s provides a comprehensive range of IT services to its clients, with IT support contracts offering different levels of support and maintenance contracts for both hardware and software solutions. The company also offers a range of advisory and technical implementation services, security platforms, cloud services, hospitality POS solutions as well as managed print solutions. Wi-Fi networking is a substantial area of growth for the company, and Tierney’s provide fast, secure and reliable wi-fi solutions for the industry. Based in Ennis, Co. Clare, Tierney’s was founded by Mayo native Andy Tierney in 1993, and quickly found its niche with the hospitality industry. Tierney explains: “We decided we needed a niche market, and fell into the hospitality industry. It seemed to work very well with our business. We started off doing back-of-house systems for hotels, looking at file servers, PCs, printers etc. We were pretty successful with that, so later when we were expanding, we looked at offering more to hotels, rather than expanding into other sectors.” The company developed its offerings to the sector over the years, moving into Point of Sale system solutions in 2008, then in 2010 they started offering guest WI-FI. Recognising that the hospitality business is at the heart of what Tierney’s are as a company, in 2018 the company adopted a fresh approach, as Tierney



In 2016, approaching saturation point with the hotel business in Ireland, Tierney’s decided to look to the UK to expand the business. And while it’s a tough market to enter, particularly in the current climate, Tierney says “it is going pretty well for us. It’s a tough market, but we’re working on it.” Tierney’s is also moving into new sectors, such as fast food, working with companies such as Five Guys and Gloria Jeans Coffee amongst others. “The sector is competitive, but because of our knowledge of the sector, we’re finding it easier to win the bigger chains”, says Tierney. “Some hotels use a general IT company or a non-specific IT company to look after their hotels or will work with local IT providers. It can be tough to break into these areas, but our customer retention is huge, and we don’t tend to lose customers. “To my knowledge, we are the only IT company that specialises in the hospitality business. Today 94% of our business is the hospitality sector, and there is no other company catering for as many hotels as we are.” “Our focus this year is to go back to basics, giving very good customer service. We’ve a lot of new people who have come on board very fast, so we need to ensure that they fully understand the company ethos and our mission statement. We want to maintain our existing customer base first, and then grow our base, particularly in the UK.” Most recently, Tierney’s completed a massive project with the new Aloft Hotels in the Liberties area of Dublin, a Marriott brand Aloft Dublin City which is marketed as a high tech hotel. Andy Tierney was excited to be so heavily involved in the Aloft development: “We’re excited about working with Aloft, because we were asked to project manage the whole

IT Solutions

IT element from start to end”, he says. “This included introducing an Oracle reservations system – we sourced it, and did an awful lot of work that normally the developer would do, but because the IT was so important for this project, they wanted someone who could handle everything and co-ordinate it all. “We managed around fifteen suppliers. Normally this is done by the hotel themselves; it’s incredibly stressful and complicated at times, especially if things go wrong. Every IT element has to work together, from the key cards to the minibars, to the guest entertainment, and the guest WI-FI, PMS and POS. We removed that stress and made the life of the hotel operators far easier.” Managing the entire Aloft IT infrastructure was a new venture for Tierney’s. The long and complex project started in late December 2017, and officially finished at the beginning of April this year. “Normally we would manage the IT part of the project only, but in this instance, it was far more involved. It was our responsibility to make sure that all systems, and providers worked and communicated. Normally we wouldn’t be involved in that, because we’re simply there to make sure that our piece of the jigsaw works. The project went exceptionally well, and we delivered what we said we were going to deliver. When you do that, you can’t do much more.” Daisy Geoghegan, Marketing Manager for the Aloft Dublin City explained that having an Irish based company was integral to the success of the project. “It was important for us to work with someone on the ground in Ireland. We’re very comfortable with Andy and had worked with him

previously. Tierney’s are very respected in their field, and we felt that the level of support there was definitely something we could harness.” Leading the project, Andy Tierney was the liaison between the cost control company and the directors of the operation company, and the role involved managing all aspects of the project, dealing with any issues and challenges which arose along the way. It’s an approach which worked for both Tierney’s and the Aloft Dublin City. As Daisy Geoghegan outlined: “It’s worked very well for the hotel to have just one company project managing and leading it, as well as the support afterwards, and this is very much what was delivered. We have a great working relationship, and we are very happy we went that route.” Andy Tierney is confident that the recent project management role is a trend for the future for his company. “We’ve seen it as a very valuable offering for the hotel operator, and we the best equipped to provide the service as we have all of the necessary expertise and management ability to do so. The news has gone out that we did such a project, and we now have two quotes out for two other hotels. I’m pretty certain it’s something we’ll do more and more of, as it makes the operator’s life so much easier.” The success of Tierney’s reflects the increased demand for hightech services in the hospitality sector, with hotel guests now expecting to have technology available as a basic service. As Andy says, “After all, one of the most famous hotel operators in this country has said that technology in a hotel is more important than water!”

HARDWARE ¨ NETWORKING ¨ SOFTWARE ¨ SUPPORT ¨ HOSPITALITY Quin Road Business Park, Ennis, Co. Clare, V95 TWC1 • Email: • Tel: 065 682 8281 • H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


Fáilte Interview

Paul Hayden -

Head of Tourism Careers at Fáilte Ireland Is the new Tourism and Hospitality Careers Oversight Group (THCOG) going to change the world of tourism and catering careers as we know it? We all certainly hope so. Our national tourism industry is a fast-growing and under-funded sector made up of a multitude of sub-sectors, all of whom are crying out for staff and all of whom are looking to increase the numbers of trained staff, to entice them into the sector and to keep them there. Ireland’s tourism sector has been on an upward growth path for the last few years. With that growth has come an impressive rise in tourism employment with the sector now employing an estimated 260,000 people. This, along with the delivery of €7.8bn in revenue, underscores the importance of the tourism sector to Ireland, particularly when you consider that growth in revenue and jobs is generated in many parts of the country where many other major industries do not exist. However, there are challenges on the horizon for the sector, and the shortage in labour supply is one of these. Paul Hayden, Head of Tourism Careers at Fáilte Ireland is chairman of the group and is very confident



that this will be a game-changer. He explained recently how the tourism agency is taking the lead in addressing this issue. The THCOG was established to coordinate the relevant bodies in the tourism and hospitality sector to agree and implement a work programme that will address current and future labour supply and skills requirements in the sector. This group, chaired by Fáilte Ireland, brings a variety of invested parties together to realise this strategy and includes a myriad of industry representative bodies such as the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) and Irish Hotels Federations (IHF); education providers such as Education and Training Boards Ireland and Technological Higher Education Association, as well as government departments and state agencies. Paul Hayden, Head of Tourism Careers at Fáilte Ireland describes how the group came about: “In 2018, a stakeholder engagement process took place to better understand industry and education providers’ views, their requirements, and the work of the former Hospitality Skills Oversight Group which many of the stakeholders were members of. This group was set up to support implementation of the national Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) recommendations, whose report covered the period to 2020. The group was chaired by Solas for the first year and by the IHF representative Michael Vaughan in its second year”. Based on feedback and extensive desk research, Fáilte Ireland took the lead in establishing a Tourism and Hospitality Careers

Fáilte Interview

Oversight Group (COG) as a successor group to coordinate the relevant bodies to agree and implement a work programme to address current and future labour supply and skills requirements in the sector. “We then carried out a number of workshops with industry and education providers. After these workshops, we agreed what was within the scope of the group and what was outside of its scope and we developed a two-year plan from that. It was based on what we believed working together collaboratively would have the most impact on the industry.” According to Paul, a collaborative approach was very important: “To formulate a plan that would make a real impact, we needed to work together with a clear common purpose in mind. It was agreed by the group that our purpose is to support sustainable employment in our sector. We are actually one of the few countries where industry members, education representatives and government departments and agencies are coming together in this collaborative manner to do something about the issue at hand – the decreasing volume and quality of talent available.” The group, he says, has set five broad objectives to provide a working solution to the challenges facing the industry: 1. Career Promotion 2. Employment Connections 3. Recruitment and Retention 4. Curriculum Alignment 5. Mapping Existing Provision Fáilte Ireland plays a pivotal role in the THCOG, Paul explains: “The plan sets out very clear objectives, each of which is led by a member of the THCOG. As chair of the group, Fáilte Ireland oversees the plan and supports members of the group to deliver on these objectives.” Paul is acutely aware not only of the precarious situation that the industry is currently in, but also the dangers for the future without such an approach, citing the current experience of the British tourism and hospitality sector as an example: “There is evidence in the UK of tourism and hospitality courses actually ceasing because they’re not getting enough people interested in pursuing a career in tourism enrolling in them. It’s vital for the industry and education sectors to collaborate to understand what it is that the industry needs but also vice-versa.” Making the tourism industry more attractive to prospective employees and maximising the talent out there has been one of the biggest ongoing challenges facing the sector. It doesn’t help, either, that in competitor countries such as France and Italy, the culture of food and catering is far more ingrained in society. In those countries, careers in the sector are held in higher regard than the seasonal and/or casual light that they are often viewed here in Ireland. “There is a different attitude to tourism careers in some countries, but every country is suffering in this space to some extent because too many people are not viewing tourism as a viable career option. We need to promote the opportunities that working in the sector provides. We are undertaking detailed research in this area so that we can gather consumer insights that will give us a solid basis to develop a careers promotional campaign to alter the current perception of what a career in tourism is, and arm us to attract more job seekers to the sector.” “It’s all about perception. Currently tourism can be viewed as a temporary and relatively low-paid career with little opportunity to progress. One of our objectives in the THCOG is to change this view and introduce the public to

the opportunities and wide-ranging skills that working in the tourism sector provides for people. This needs to be a joined-up approach as Tourism is a diverse industry. Yes, there are chefs but there are also so many other employment opportunities for a range of skills, including skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, technical skills in areas such as marketing, as well as tour guides and front of house. Our aim is to showcase what a career in tourism can offer.” “We’re doing careers promotional research at the moment. What we’re trying to do is to effectively inform a more coherent careers promotional campaign. We’re looking to identify the insights to develop marketing activity to try and attract job seekers. We need to look at this a bit differently because over the last ten years, there haven’t been too many positives around the sector itself.” Within the tourism industry, has the Group identified areas of particular concern that are in most need of urgent action? “I think it’s important to remember that the sector does provide opportunities for people with a range of skills. It’s quite broad in that sense – it’s quite a diverse industry. Obviously, chefs come through as quite prominent in terms of a need of skill sets that are required. That’s something that is happening across Europe and beyond. I think that the significant increase of 32% in employment we’ve seen between 2007 and 2017 and which is continuing to increase is a big factor. But there are two factors happening here: there’s replacement demand which is the return rate within the sector and there’s also expansionary demand because if we continue our growth, we’re going to hit 11.6 million tourists in 2025. “We therefore have to have quantity and volume of people in place to actually service that demand. So chefs would be high on the priority list but so would many others such as front-ofhouse staff, waiting staff, bar staff, restaurant managers and many others. So it’s a case of dialling up that experience of what a career in tourism can offer.”



Customer Focus


David Collins, Co-Founder and Director of Communications, Great National Hotels and Resorts Group

Don’t forget the Customer. David Collins, Co-Founder and Director of Communications, Great National Hotels and Resorts Group – one of Europe’s largest independent hotel services companies - which now includes specialist rooms revenue agency,, discusses getting back to basics when it comes to pricing. You’ll be aware of the long-running bun-fight between hotels and those ‘dastardly’ OTAs charging high commissions for business that might otherwise arrive direct. And you’ll also be aware that Google it appears is now beginning to encroach on the OTA and meta-search space – especially the latter – as it positions itself as the ‘go to’ place for aggregated hotel rates. There’s a creeping inevitability about this that’s not just limited to hotel search but that’s another discussion. In any case, there’s a lot noise and energy now around the issue of hotel channel management and pricing and driving direct that you would be excused for choosing to zone out: not necessarily because you’ve better things to do (after all, your channels, direct and indirect, are your principal routes to market so ignore them at your peril) but because there’s a lot – and I mean a lot – of well-intentioned views on this. So figuring out how best to manage your pricing and distribution is becoming really, really, really challenging … What channels to turn on and turn off and when. Which competitors to follow. How to price in order to optimise yield and occupancy. And so on. And whereas there are now lots of tools available to help hoteliers, pricing decisions are often still made on a wing and a prayer. In hope rather than expectation.



Remarkably however the one person in the room that rarely gets a look in within this melee that is pricing/distribution strategy is the customer. How is it that we’ve lost sight of what guests are actually prepared to pay? Think about it. A lot of the traffic on this is one way in terms of driving customers to buy, be they special offers or closed user group discounts, or pressure sales techniques such as timer count-downs or ‘one room left at this rate’ messaging. All of this is geared towards getting customers to book. And yes, that they do, suggests that the price is ‘right’ but the fact is that this couldn’t be further from the truth as most of the cues are driven by the seller. Not the buyer. And it needs to be said that a lot of cues used by less scrupulous operators – direct and indirect – have been exposed to be spurious at best (eg fake reviews) and anti-consumer at worst (eg ‘you got the best rate’). (Fun fact In general, your conversion rate is higher when your direct price is in parity with your 3rd party channels or OTAs. Hotels that undercut OTAs 0 -10% of the time tend to convert 42% more business than those that undercut 30 - 40% of the time. Source: Triptease 2019.) So why is this an issue? Well simply because if this happens on an industry-wide basis, the customer becomes wary, cynical and frankly untrusting of every player, hotel and agent, and not just one or two. This is not good.

Customer Focus Ballykisteen Golf Hotel & Resort, Tipperary

The Kinmel & Kinspa, North Wales

It’s difficult and costly enough maintaining visibility on Google so as to drive direct business without having the third party channels undermining themselves (and their client hotels) to the point that ultimately Google rides into town with big pockets and ends up controlling everything. And I mean everything. Every single aspect of your business generation. It’s not just OTAs or meta search sites by the way that need to check themselves. It can be hotels too. There’s lots of bad habits and sharp practice floating about that needs to be reigned in if we are to retain consumer confidence. Including some control over our destiny.

starts to provide context, even ‘believe-ability’ and gets away from the ‘sweaty salesman’ approach. Basing your price on what each of your individual customers are in fact prepared to pay should not be just an aspirational work towards, customers now expect this level of intuitive personalisation. Admittedly it’s not without its challenges but if we’re all about ‘connecting with clients’ and ‘forging lasting relationships’, price should be part of that conversation.

So come back to your customers. I accept it’s difficult to figure out what a guest is prepared to pay. Each one is different as are the reasons for their stay. And yes hotels should price based on optimising yield, maximising profitability and remaining competitive. But a simple way of engaging the customer on your website perhaps differently and with some greater transparency if they are browsing, might be to simply display what the same equivalent room rate was last year and the year previous. Or if you have access to their previous history, what price they paid last time they stayed. Or simply ask them, do you consider this good value. All this at least

Revanista is a specialist rooms revenue acceleration agency for hotels which combines an end-to-end suite of proven solutions ranging from digital marketing and channel management to intelligence-based yield management and magnetic pricing. For further details including performance related fees from just €129 per week plus 6% commission on uplift only, visit



Tourism Regionality

Tourism’s Tide

Waiting for

By Conor Power

to Reach the Regions

We’re approaching the halfway mark in 2019 and the tourism season is continuing strongly along the same lines as 2018, according to statistics. Preliminary figures from the CSO indicate a 5.5% increase on overseas visitors for the first quarter of the year. In May, the increase for the first four months of 2019 was tempered somewhat to 5.1% and the figures also came with the news that tourism spending over the period was down by 4%. There’s no doubt, however, that that these are still very good apples, particularly coming on the back of a record-breaking year in the industry. Just how that filters down is the next question and, in particular, how does it filter down to the regions? Dublin traditionally gets the lion’s share of the bounce when it comes to tourism. At any time of year nowadays, you’ll find it difficult to elbow your way through the hordes of tourists that have become a constant presence in our city centre. That the Guinness Storehouse is currently doubling their famous Gravity Bar and taking on 250 additional staff is as good a barometer as any of the kind of growth Dublin continues to experience. But are the hotels and restaurants around the country feeling the love of the international tourist in the same way? Are the statistics causing an economic lift to the regions as well to the capital? “As a general rule, the answer is no – the accommodation centres and restaurants around the country are not feeling it,” says Neil Grant, Chairman of the Cork Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation and General Manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, Co Cork. “At a tourism event recently, both Niall Gibbons (Tourism Ireland) and Eoghan O’Meara Walsh (ITIC) were saying that they’re acutely aware that the statistics are saying one thing about arrivals and percentages but that in restaurants, pubs and hotels, they’re not seeing that. From what I understand, Airbnb is seeing an increase as well as other forms of accommodation like student accommodation selling on the likes of but these don’t come into the figures of tourism really. So there are other forms of accommodation which maybe are soaking up that increase rather than the traditional forms.” Seán Lally of the Hotel Woodstock in Ennis describes the season so far as “very difficult”. He is, he says, fortunate to have benefitted from the muchpublicised American presidential visit to Clare, as well as the fact that the Irish Open Golf Tournament will be played at Lahinch in July, but for all of that, the much-heralded CSO figures are not being felt in his neck of the woods: “I would question those figures,” he says. “I’m not sure how accurate those figures are... There may be a number of visitors transiting through Dublin Airport



and I would question whether those figures are being driven by this.” “In one word… no,” says Hal MacIlroy of the Trident Hotel in Kinsale. “We’re battling hard to try to keep to last year. There is possibly a slight increase but certainly nothing like 5.1%.” “Overall, Ireland Inc. is doing very well,” says Joe Dolan of the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon and former head of the IHF, “but it is very inequitable where that growth is happening – in the traditional honey-pot areas such as Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Kerry. When you go out into the more non-traditional areas in the regions, that growth is not being felt. It is just modest or very slight incremental growth… In the border areas, the UK market is in decline.”

Government out of Tune

Lally also believes that the current Government doesn’t understand regionalisation: “I don’t think they do. I think that their focus is very much inside the M50… It’s a serious problem and that wasn’t the case a few years ago but it’s a serious problem now… I think that the Government has lost its way a little… It was very pro-tourism a number of years back.” “I think they talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk,” says Neil Grant. “I have a lot of time for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland – I think they do a great job – but there’s a lack of understanding at government level.” “I thinks it’s very much Dublin-focused,” say Hal MacIlroy “Even talking about those CSO figures of people coming in… I’m not sure where they’re going. If it’s Dublin-based, that’s fine, but it’s not spinning out to the regions as much as it should be and there’s not as much support as there was for the regions.”

Tourism Regionality

The VAT increase has also affected the regions more than the capital city, according to Grant, who explains in detail how it is putting hotels and restaurants in a near-impossible squeeze from which businesses are struggling hard to break free: “When they increased the VAT rate, it didn’t harm businesses in the city in the same way that it harmed them in the regions. I can’t govern my rate in January or March or even April sometimes – the market tells me what people are willing to pay and I set my rate accordingly. Did I grow my rate by the amount I needed to to make up for the VAT? I didn’t. “I’ve been reasonably successful on the top line: my occupancy was good and rate revenue was there or thereabouts – they weren’t too bad but there wasn’t growth. But my contribution to the bottom line for January was appalling. My contribution to bottom line in February and March was a challenge and I had to make up for it in other ways the fact that I wasn’t making as much profit on the rooms. I think that if the Government were in tune with tourism and the needs of regionality, they would have said ‘Well, we can put the VAT rate up by 4.5%. It can be sustained in the city, it’s going to kill the regions, so what do we do because they’re the ones at the mercy of the average rate, the ones at the mercy of 50% occupancy rates?’ “They also could have decided to put it up on accommodation but leaving the food side of it but they put it up on both. That really kills hotels and restaurants in the regions because they are as reliant on the local trade as they are on the overseas trade.”

Costs Spiralling into a Perfect Storm

MacIlroy says that the VAT issue is part of an overall problem of rising costs, many of them Government-inflicted at a time when Britain’s exit from the EU is about to happen: “A lot of people shrugged their shoulders when the VAT was increased and took the attitude of getting on with it in spite of it but it’s really taking its toll. “We took a decision not to increase a lot of the contracted business, but it’s having more of an effect than we would have thought, to be honest. Minimum wage went up at the same time, insurance costs are increasing and it’s all had a multiplying and knock-on effect… Margins are difficult.”

In common with the observations of a number of other hotels, he also notices a reduction in the number of tourists arriving by coach. “We’re finding that a coach on which there should be 45 people arrives and there are only, perhaps, 25 people on it. This seems to be a trend that we’ve been hearing about it.” While most players in the tourism industry are very appreciative of the efforts of the state agencies of Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland (who do appreciate the regional problems, they say), it’s the lack of support of understanding at governmental level that is the problem. “There were signs that tourists were coming off the tried and tested hubs,” says Grant. “There were signs that they were definitely getting there. Now, what has happened since the VAT increase is that space has opened up in the traditional centres and tour operators are taking their business away from the newer places where there was value and back into the well-worn places where there’s availability and where there’s a slightly better value than there was a few years ago.” “I’d like to see more of a focus on regionality of customers,” says Lally, “spreading tourists around the country as opposed to just funnelling everyone in and out of Dublin Airport. We’ve a number of regional airports along the Atlantic Coast that bring you right into the Wild Atlantic Way and none of them are operating to capacity. Are there opportunities to incentivise more airlines to come into the West? That would help to keep people employed in the area.”



Insurance Costs

by Alan O'Neill

Drive Insurance Costs Down Fitzwilliam Hotel

Sitting proudly on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, is the iconic Fitzwilliam Hotel. Led for the last eleven years by Louth-man Fergal O’Connell, this business continues to go from strength to strength. Privately owned by Michael Holland and designed by Sir Terence Conran in 1998, the business has grown each year since it was founded. Rather than partnering with a recognized international brand, it was decided to go it alone and develop as an indigenous Irish hotel, offering an authentic Irish experience. With a guest list that includes some of the top global names in showbusiness, it has no problem driving occupancy in its 139 contemporary bedrooms and penthouse suite. No names were forthcoming as I twisted Fergal’s arm. He became a GM at age 28 in the Galway Great Southern and is the soul of discretion ever since.

The Marketing Strategy

The target market is corporate 30%, group business 20% and leisure at 50%. The business cleverly targets the tourism market with an inspiring podcast on its website of a walking tour of Dublin. And given the national decline in visitors from UK, Fergal is an admirer of Tourism Ireland and its marketing to other markets such as Canada, Australia and the U.S. Visitors get a strong sense of place when they come to The Fitzwilliam. Customer experience is not just cliched but a top priority for the whole team. “It’s totally embedded in our culture. It’s just the way we do things. Pampering our guests is now just instinctive” said Fergal. Being independent, there is no big brother telling the team what and how to do things. The style, the personalization and the way the team listens intently to each customer’s needs, is all part of this culture. “We create memories for our guests and that is good for Ireland and our own brand” added Fergal. The return rate of past clients illustrates this.



In-house dining is serviced by Glover’s Alley. This is a partnership with renowned chef Andy McFadden. Having spent the last eleven years in London, Andy became the youngest chef in London to hold a Michelin Star. The front of house team is led by Frenchman Hubert De Seroux and this top-class restaurant is now a destination in its own right.

Focus on Insurance

With the market changing so dynamically, competition is growing and costs continue to rise. There has never been so much focus for hoteliers and restauranteurs on management of margin. In essence that means driving revenues up with a strong sales plan while minimizing costs - without compromising on quality. Payroll and insurance premiums are two costs in particular that are of real concern to all. Fergal and the team in The Fitzwilliam Hotel have seen insurance premiums rise 60% over the last three years and it’s a priority area for them too. In an age of almost full employment and a real shortage of manpower, keeping payroll costs down is very difficult. That’s just one significant challenge. Insurance costs on the other hand are also getting a lot of bad press right now. The ‘compo culture’ is a real problem for this country that needs to be tackled by government. But that will not happen tomorrow or the next day. But every hotel and restaurant in Ireland is in the same boat. In the meantime, there is perhaps more you can do to minimize your insurance costs.

Insurance Costs

How to Reduce your Insurance Premiums

7. In the event of a claim, early notification to insurers is essential. Otherwise the insurer may have to settle the claim due to late notification. Keep records of CCTV (if available), witness statements, staff training records and any information that will make it easy for insurers to defend the claim. If no back-up documentation is available, or is made available, insurers will find it very difficult to put forward a defence.

1. Engage with your broker or insurer well in advance of the renewal. 6-8 weeks at a minimum.

The Last Word

There is no doubt that many businesses are being unfairly treated by insurers in relation to their insurance premiums. Businesses however, can do more to help themselves secure competitive premiums. I met with John Moylan, of O’Leary Insurances in Dublin to seek his advice on how to reduce premiums.

2. looking for a loan from the bank. Sell the business to the insurer rather than having scatty, incomplete, last minute renewal information. The market for hotel and leisure business currently is limited and businesses need to make their presentation stand out from the crowd. Look to meet with the insurer, where practical to do so. 3. Where there have been past claims, give every detail. Show what steps have been put in place to mitigate the chances of a repeat. In other words, give the insurer every reason to write the business. 4. Insurers look really closely at ‘risk management’ and ‘health and safety’ information both in terms of general good practice and the ability to defend claims. So paperwork is key. Have copies of staff induction, staff training and cleaning records. CCTV also helps insurers to defend claims and ensure they aren’t settled simply because defence information was not available. 5. The insurance market in cyclical so businesses should try and agree Long Term Agreements (LTA’s) in a soft market and profit share arrangements in both a hard and soft market. That will ensure the insured benefits from good claims experience. 6. If working with a broker, pick one with access to facilities, and direct access to markets. Resist having multiple brokers so as to prevent paying multiple broker fees. Also, with too many brokers, you will be less relevant to any one and likely to be steps away from the insurer in the event of a claim.

Despite the negativity around the rising cost of insurance, there is a lot that you can do to minimize your costs. For example, O’Leary Insurances were asked to help place a liability policy for a large mufti-functional hotel that had a questionable claims history when under previous management. OLI met with the new owner twice on the premises, took time to understand the business, bought in to the new management style and what improvements they planned to make in terms of risk management and loss prevention. This enabled OLI to present an excellent picture of future risk to insurers, rather than insurers merely basing any premiums on past experience only. The insurers embraced the improvements the client was planning, and quoted a premium that was €60,000 (c30%) less than the previous policy, with additional loyalty bonuses built in to the policy. These included an end of year percentage refund should the claims experience run well, thereby incentivising the client to further minimize claims. In a nutshell, there is so much more you can do to minimize your premiums. Early engagement with a good broker that has done this before, is key.

Alan O’Neill, is Managing Director of Kara and author of Premium is the New Black. Contact if you'd like to Supercharge your Sales



IFSA news

Play your Part in a more Sustainable Foodservice Sector

- Save the Date: Future-Proofing Foodservice Seminar Returns, 17 September

The Annual IFSA Golf Classic Save the Date!

Another competitive and friendly day with plenty of networking potential is planned for the IFSA Golf Classic on Friday, 23rd August at Tulfarris Golf Resort, Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Alongside the general competition teams from the various association trade bodies will be challenged by a ‘crack IFSA 3-ball grouping’ for the title of IFSA Association Challenge Champions and the Contract Catering fraternity will again compete for the coveted Contract Caterer’s Trophy. The day’s golfing will be followed by a dinner and prize giving at 8pm. Book your place by contacting IFSA at louise.mcloughlin@ or by calling Louise at 086 2780979.

Addressing our environmental impact and becoming more sustainable is now something that every business needs to look at and take action on. IFSA and Chef Network recognise this is a priority for many members and believe that chefs and suppliers can support each other to achieve this. Last September IFSA and Chef Network jointly hosted their first Future Proofing Foodservice Sustainability Seminar to great success. The day saw a panel of expert chefs and industry suppliers share their experiences on how they have made their businesses more sustainable by reducing the waste in their kitchens, upcycling and sourcing with sustainability in mind. IFSA Suppliers had the opportunity to showcase their products and services to the audience of chefs in attendance. The Future-Proofing Foodservice event will return on the 17th of September this year and will build upon last year’s event by looking at practical case studies of businesses across Ireland and how they were able to become more sustainable, addressing key themes of concern or challenges for the industry. It will provide a unique opportunity for chefs and suppliers to access knowledge and ideas on achieving sustainability and to highlight and showcase products and service that can support this aim. If you’re interested in taking part or showcasing your product or service at this event, contact Louise in IFSA at

Member Profile

Order Online now at www.<http://> for all your catering and hygiene needs, with over 10,000 products ready to buy. You can track your orders, download invoices and Proof Of Delivery, see your favourite products and more all online. Galgorm Group was established in 1968 and since then has been supplying catering equipment throughout the UK and Ireland. Today we stock over 10,000 lines of product from blue roll to chefs’ knives, from kitchen utensils to washing up liquid, along with furniture and commercial equipment. We are proud to have established an excellent reputation amongst restaurants, bars, hotels, cafes from providing consumables to servicing equipment to full commercial kitchen installations. Our headquarters are based on a 5-acre site near Ballymena, Northern Ireland just 30 minutes from Belfast, operating our own logistics fleet to ensure reliable and prompt delivery throughout Ireland, along with a robust carrier service to fulfil orders throughout the rest of the UK. We have also recently acquired a new Dublin Depot based in Blanchardstown. Galgorm Group realises the importance of prompt delivery and after sales equipment service, operating our own delivery fleet and in-house qualified service team. Placing your confidence with Galgorm Group has the added advantage of linking you with our contract furniture, laundry, floor care, kitchen hygiene and tableware divisions - literally a one stop purchasing experience. Any questions? Email or call +44 (0)28 2564 3211.



New Skyline Combi Oven Range Product Launch Electrolux Professionals New Skyline Combi Oven 6 and 10, 20, 40 Grid Range has developed a combi solution that is the perfect duality of smart technology and human-centred design. Super intuitive, simple to use and with a host of pioneering intelligent features that will change the way you cook, SkyLine Premium has the lowest running costs on the market and is best in class for ergonomics and usability. For a further information, Brochures to arrange a Demonstration and more simply email info@ . To avail of our limited Launch offer pricing simply quote SKYLINE COMBI. Offer available until August 31st 2019.  https://professional.electrolux. ovens

IFSA news

Guillaume Foodservice Design

We were established in 1998 As an independent, professional consulting service. Offering the design of commercial foodservice facilities to owners, architects. We are a highly experienced foodservice design company We have specialised in the design of kitchens and bars for hotels, restaurants, hospitals, staff restaurants, both public and private sectors, catering colleges and universities. We offer unbiased designs Which will meet your operational methods and budget concerns? Our philosophy is orientated to a team approach, and we believe in working closely with the client, architects, engineers and interior designers. Our knowledge of the technical intricacies of construction, ventilation, electrical and plumbing requirements allow us to incorporate this information into our plans and work closely with all members of the design team. Our Experience Public Sector Office of Public Works staff catering facilities, Leopardstown Racecourse Refurbishment, Ballymun Regeneration, New Civic Centre Catering facilities, Fingal CC Swords town hall refurbishment. Restaurants ESB Temporary H Q East Wall road Gateway project ESB Wilton Refurbishment. Cork. Bewley’s Café, Grafton Street Basement Bakery & Production kitchen and restaurant service counters Healthcare St. Patricks Hospital Waterford, Peamount Hospital Dublin, Nation Forensic Hospital Portrane, Community Nursing Units (CNU) in Tralee, Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Inchicore, Clonskeagh. Education Catering colleges WIT Waterford Tourism and Hospitality, AIT Athlone Hospitality, tourism and leisure. UCD Student Restaurant Our designs will match the brief, the budget as developed, and all aspects Comply with IS340 and HACCP food hygiene regulations.

Give us a call

GFD associates 37 Kilbelin Abbey Newbridge Co. Kildare. Phone 045 446171 Mobile 0868095878 Web: Email

Trailblazer BBQ

Designed to be the ultimate mobile charcoal BBQ/Grill, the Trailblazer range now consists of 7 upgraded models with 11 variations. If you need a towable or mobile BBQ/Grill or food truck trailer for anything from small, to very large groups, or from a high volume to a high ticket event, then nothing comes close to the amazing TRAILBLAZER range from a compactness, capacity, theatre and staggering return on investment. Boasting immense outputs, adjustable grill heights/heat control, ash scraper blade, removable ash collection box and iconic gull wing doors, Trailblazer is unrivalled in the marketplace! When you own a Trailblazer, it is not just another piece of catering equipment, it will enhance your business, grow new customers and extend your season.

Procure Wizard has been providing the hospitality sector with software solutions for the better part of a decade. In 2009, company founder William Gorol put the wheels in motion to create a market leading solution that would combine cutting-edge technology, easy-to-use functionality and a tangible ROI for organisations with first-class customer service and customer-led solutions with continuous development. Procure Wizard Ireland was subsequently established in 2015 by David Noone. The solutions have been tailored to address a control requirement within the hospitality industry with the clear objective of increasing efficiency and profitability, and streamlining processes. The modules include Purchase to Pay, Food and Beverage Control, Retail Stock Control, Laundry Control, Time & Attendance and Contract Diary among others. Currently they work with about 400 customers including Hotels, Restaurants, Bars and Nursing Homes. Some key clients include Dalata, Tetrarch Hospitality, MHL, Winward Purchasing, Gourmet Food Parlour, Michael Wright Group and Mowlam Healthcare. Following the acquisition last year by The Access Group, the vision for the future is to deliver leading edge technology for operators, from reservations and ticketing through to EPoS, HR, labour optimisation, property maintenance and compliance, all on one platform from the same workspace.

REL Group taps into future The REL Group have become the proud distributors of BRITA Professional filtration systems in Ireland. Having operated in the refrigeration and dispense industry for over 60 years, they recognised that the future of water is now. “The demand for filtered water is rising as people are more concerned with environmentally responsible solutions. Our systems offer a new approach to bottled water which businesses across industries will benefit from through reducing their carbon footprint and assisting with their corporate social responsibility efforts” says REL Group CEO Liam Byrne. REL Group offers a number of BRITA professional dispense systems to suit every office space. The systems dispense unlimited mains-fed filtered chilled still, sparkling and even hot water. These systems are available from REL Group now. +353 (0)1 9121660

Introducing Tork LinStyle® Tableware

Tork LinStyle napkins are the perfect choice when you want to give the luxurious look and feel of linen but prefer the efficiency of single-use. And now you can have matching Tork LinStyle tableware to complement the napkins. Rolls, slipcovers, tablerunners and placemats, the extra absorbent new products have the same luxurious look and feel as our popular, single-use Tork LinStyle Napkins and come in four popular formats. A rainbow of colours! Now you can mix and match from tableware in 6 colours (white, grey, cream, midnight blue, burgundy and black) and napkins in 17 colours. That means almost endless possibilities for colourful and creative tablescapes and banqueting settings. Our Tork LinStyle napkins and tableware are significantly softer and bulkier than standard paper products, and extra absorbent – letting you efficiently create the high-end experience that will keep your guests coming back for more. Learn more and request a sample at H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019


Guest Experience

The 5 stages of travel to inspire travellers and drive bookings

Travellers are online at every stage of their journey. Whether it’s social media, review sites or your own website – there’s a huge audience of potential customers active online, just waiting to be inspired and satisfied. But, today, hotels are facing complex distribution, pricing, and guest contentment challenges that sees them fighting to balance their own business needs, whilst remaining in touch with evolving technology trends and the savvy, resourceful attitudes of travellers. A few years ago, Google produced a study that laid out the five major stages of travel. These five stages help to define the consumer’s behaviour before, during, and after their trip. Here, Guestline, the global leader in hotel cloud property management, distribution and digital marketing solutions, delves further into these five stages to best determine how your property can engage with and attract more guests.

1. Providing the DREAM inspiration

A destination featured in a magazine; a picturesque scene in a movie or a friend’s holiday photos on Instagram may be the spark that inspires the dream, which in turn, is what kickstarts the potential customer through the buying cycle. Most people in the dreaming phase are looking for an experience, it’s unlikely that they are interested in the trouser press or free wifi, so think about the overall experience, location and unique selling points and using photography to convey your product is a great way to catch attention.



We know from research that over 60% of travellers look online, therefore, it is imperative that we utilise technology to trigger memories or reminders about your property. Make sure your Google presence is spot-on, including your Google maps presence, your website SEO and your hotel details. And, don’t be afraid to explore social media. We engage with social media fully in our personal lives and now it is time to translate this to business.

2. PLAN to sell beyond the room

Helping to turn the traveller’s dreams to reality is not easy. After the initial dreaming, the customer has decided to action and moves to the planning stage where we know from industry research that they will visit at least 20+ websites in order to find the ‘perfect’ hotel. Aside from the obvious details such as dates and prices of your bedrooms, think about the guest’s other needs, such as the location, experiences and what they can do when they are with you. Your website is the hub of your digital ecosystem and should provide as much as the planner needs with clear and concise ‘what next’ calls to action to move them to the all-important ‘booking’ journey. Whether the planner finds you directly or through a third-party site, your omni-channel marketing strategy should ensure the future guest receives the same value proposition from you, wherever they find you and that you in turn attract, convert and compete direct bookings by implementing a price comparison tool such as Triptease. Travellers also want reassurance they are making the right choice so ensure you get positive reviews on TripAdvisor by using reputation management software like GuestRevu or Review Pro to encourage guests to leave reviews.

Guest Experience

3. Converting planners into BOOKED guests

After dreaming and planning, the traveller is ready to book their stay – hopefully with you! It’s up to you to make it easy for them. This is where a hotel’s value proposition (i.e. price, room, rate, restrictions) is the fundamental and most important piece of product marketing a hotel can do. Guestline’s solutions help customers to formulate, define, execute and propagate their packages, rates and products. By automating bookings through a Property Management System, you can review, modify, release rooms and manage cancellations quickly and efficiently, popping rooms back up for sale automatically to help you sell down to the last room. While OTAs are still a top resource, OTAs play a greater role in the dreaming phase. Now travellers are simply revisiting OTA and direct websites to price compare the options already on their radar. Whilst on your website, it is essential that it is attractive, easy to navigate, best portrays your hotel and that you have a robust direct booking platform in place to attract and retain visitors to your own website. Guestline’s open API platform allows partnerships with website creators and booking engines to further assist hoteliers to convert lookers to bookers.

4. EXPERIENCE the dream

Whatever the reason for travel, your guest has expectations from the dream, plan, book phases in the digital world to match up with the reality they face during their stay. Engaging with the guest with the right mix of staff and technology can make your guest feel welcome, connected and above all, happy with their choice of hotel. From the moment the guest books and checks in to the moment they check out, the hotel’s PMS system is fundamentally the core product that helps the hotel, the staff, and the guests all connect, leveraging the power of the data retrieved to ensure the guest is ‘not just a booking reference’. It is important to blur the line between the technology and the guest, guests want to be known by name, not by digital reference or a room number. Reaching out to guests’ pre-arrival to kickstart their excellent customer service journey is a great time to upsell. We know what the guest has booked, but this is where you tempt them to purchase add ons i.e. book

dinner reservations, spa treatments, golf tee times etc. By developing a relationship with the future guest, you are also prepping operations in advance, yielding tables and managing staff requirements – by extracting information not normally available at booking. The intel extracted at this stage proves vital ahead of their arrival at the hotel. As the hub of the hotel, the PMS can notify other systems of check-ins, check-outs, no-shows, etc. mapping a full picture of what stage the guest is at, for example; check-in is smarter as reception staff can now see more information about the guests (from pre-arrival profile communication), helping staff to be more guest centric. Whilst staying at your property, it is important to know your customer by using PMS technology to assist the guest journey across your restaurant, spa, room service, concierge etc, ensuring all staff have visibility as to who the guest is and what their expectations are from their stay.

5. Reflect and SHARE the experience

Most people choose their travel options based on recommendations from family and friends and those they follow or who influence them online. So, when your customer posts a photo of your spectacular lake views from their balcony, sharing a moment they had – will encourage other contacts in their network who are at the dreaming stage to consider your hotel. It’s proven that a disgruntled guest will share their problems with the world, but a happy guest is less likely to speak up. But a bad experience can provide great feedback to staff if it’s dealt with satisfactorily, to eliminate negative post stay reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor. In order to encourage communication of those positive guest experiences, the stories less likely told, hotels need to provide touchpoints and encourage reviews via review sites and social media – Instagram photos, Facebook check-ins and Twitter hashtags. From obtaining client’s contact details for future marketing, encouraging feedback and online reviews, communicating benefits (and rewards!) of booking direct to following up with email campaigns, it is up to you to wow customers and provide a memorable experience. H&RT JUNE/JULY 2019



Is Hospitality a Career ? Frank Corr looks at a perennial recruitment issue As the Summer of 2019 reaches mid-point, thousands of young Irish people who have completed examinations are looking towards a career which will bring them satisfaction and a comfortable life style for decades to come.

By all accounts, chefs are among the highest earners among skilled hospitality employees, so if it is extremely difficult to attract them to work in Irish kitchens, how much more difficult must it be to attract food and drinks servers, house assistants, kitchen porters and other semi-skilled employees?.

Targeted by a high-impact recruitment campaign funded by Fáilte Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation, many will look to the hospitality industry to fulfil those dreams.

The reality is that many of those recruited to these positions, do not see hospitality as a career, but rather a short-term solution to particular circumstances. The industry employs thousands of students every year, particularly in Summer months, and generations of Irish people are most grateful to the local hotel or restaurant for enabling them to earn enough to support a modest lifestyle. Many other employees gravitate to the hospitality sector as they await a definitive career move. This is particularly true in the case of immigrants who take hotel and restaurant jobs until they move to a definitive career path in another sector.

The question for the industry however relates to its ability to deliver on its promises. Among the many sectors competing for staff in a near full-employment economy, hospitality has to work exceptionally hard to attract students to its industryrelated courses and school-leavers to take up jobs. Each year sees the publication of the ‘Get A Life’ magazine and website, open days in hotels, school visits and much more. Hospitality, it seems, is not an instinctive first choice as a career for a majority of school leavers. The recruitment problem is not new in the industry, nor is it the product in the recent expansion in the hotel and restaurant sectors. Even during the black days of 20082010, restaurants were reporting difficulty in filling posts and much the same prevails today. The sector now has a workforce of around 260,000, having created 20,000 new jobs in 2018 and it is likely to require another 20,000 in the year ahead. The jobs range from pot-washers to general managers, and in every category, hospitality employers are facing stiff competition from other sectors of the economy. The shortage of skilled chefs gets most of the headlines, thanks to regular statements from the Restaurants Association of Ireland. Finding extreme difficulty in recruiting Irish chefs (partly because of a lack of training facilities), restaurateurs began to look to other EU countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, and when it became difficult to find chefs there, the RAI sought an exemption which would allow it to recruit chefs from Africa and the Far East.



Employee turnover in hospitality is exceptionally high when compared to sectors such as manufacturing, financial services or IT. Internationally, employee turnover in hospitality is an eye-watering 73%, compared to 10-15% in other sectors and there is no indication that the rate in Ireland is otherwise. One restaurant manager told me this month that he counts himself very lucky if a chef or waiter remains in a job for two years. This high turnover rate compounds the recruitment problem in a growing market and the industry might well consider why it is so. It has been well proven that pay is not the most important element in employee retention- but this is true only when employees consider their pay to be adequate to support a given life style. There are many indications that a very large number of hotel and restaurant workers receive the Minimum Wage, among them the strong protests from the IHF and RAI whenever the rate is increased. Surviving, let alone supporting a modest lifestyle, would be extremely difficult for a minimum-wage employee in Dublin or other cities, and therefore such employees are likely to move on at the first opportunity. Many hospitality jobs also offer little opportunity of advancement. A McDonald’s team member has the chance

Careers and opportunity to rise through the ranks, but in the vast majority of cases, a porter, waiter, bar server, house assistant or security guard does not enjoy a defined career path. There are of course exceptions to this generalisation, and a small but significant number of hoteliers and restaurateurs do help employee of all grades to climb the ladder. These tend to be the companies who enjoy higher levels of staff retention and loyalty.

traditional solutions to traditional issues. Rarely do highperforming managers from other sectors such as FMCG, retailing or manufacturing migrate into hospitality, and even more rarely do hotel and catering managers end up in senior positions in factories, retail chains or airlines. This inbreeding of hospitality managers has its merits, but it may also stifle the ability of the industry to solve issues such as recruitment and staff retention.

So too are employers who take serious note of the work difficulties imposed by the industry. Hotels and restaurants operate 365 days a year and often 24/7. All too often this results in staff working long and unsociable hours while often attempting to achieve challenging goals. Recent times have however brought a re-think of working hours and conditions by some progressive employers. Accommodation staff hours are tailored around life style demands, split shifts are eliminated or reduced and more part-time jobs have been created. This is not rocket science. In fact many of the changes have been introduced following discussions with the staff involved. There has also been some movement towards helping employees cope with accommodation costs and shortage. A number of upscale staff housing blocks have come on stream and one Dublin hotel has bought a large house for staff members.

The arrival of investment companies in the hotel and restaurant sectors may encourage the hiring of managers with different experiences and varied skill-sets. Such managers will however need to also possess the communications skills at which many hospitality managers excel. Management skills associated with processes and systems may be a valuable addition to hospitality enterprises, but they must not be at the expense of interpersonal communications. Managers of hotel staff, food servers, and other service employees need to be able to manage both processes and humans. They need to know how to handle conflict, delegate orders, and communicate openly with both their team and customers.

Finding the right staff and retaining them is of course, a management responsibility and therefore the calibre of management in the sector is of critical importance. Compared with operational roles, hotel and restaurant management is a popular career choice, with a strong continuous pipeline of graduates emerging from the colleges. They join a coterie of management which has almost entirely taken the same route to its present position. Hotel managers graduate from hotel schools, are trained by other hotel managers and then work for hoteliers. It is an extremely condensed gene pool, essentially bred to apply

While recruitment has been the subject of many industry studies, the key area of retention has received less attention. However the Hospitality Skills Oversight Group did look at the issue in 2017-18 and said that â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The industry has not been progressive enough in developing programmes to aid career progression and pathways to promotion within the industryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. One interesting initiative has been the Chef Apprenticeship scheme, which was promoted heavily, but failed to attract targeted numbers of either employers or employees. It did however provide food for thought as to the image of the industry as a source of careers and the willingness of employers to invest in their workforce.


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Mount Juliet Estate

Mount Juliet Estate celebrates 5 Star Fáilte Ireland award with Minister Brendan Griffin TD in attendance New rating for the original Manor House, the new 93-bedroom Hunter's Yard hotel and activities across the 500-acre estate 21th June 2019 - Mount Juliet Estate marked the awarding of 5 stars to the magnificent estate by Fáilte Ireland with a celebratory lunch and ceremonial tree planting with the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Mr. Brendan Griffin TD in attendance. Minister Brendan Griffin TD said, “The five star classification from Fáilte Ireland will elevate Mount Juliet even further as a luxury destination to tourists for both the home and international markets. Mount Juliet continues to play a vital role as a contributor to the local economy, particularly for those industries linked to the tourism industry. It is a well-deserved accolade and recognition for the consistently excellent service from the team at the Mount Juliet Estate.” Mount Juliet General Manager Mark Dunne said, “The awarding of the Fáilte Ireland 5 stars is a testament to the work of the team here at Mount Juliet, who endeavour to deliver the exceptional level of service and personality that this heritage estate merits. We look forward to building relationships with our neighbours and putting the Mount Juliet Estate on the international tourist destination map.” Celebrating the recognition for the Mount Juliet Estate with the Mount Juliet General Manger Mr. Mark Dunne was Minister Brendan Griffin TD, Cathaoirleach Peter Cleere, Mayor



of Kilkenny Martin Brett, Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick, Cllr Andrew McGuinness, Cllr Joe Malone, Mr. Brian Magee from the Crafts Council of Ireland, Ms. Justine Carey from Fáilte Ireland, Ms. Anne O Sullivan and Ms. Rebecca Reynolds from Butler Gallery, Ms. Jane Davis from Connolly Red Mills, Ms Carmel Nolan from Ballykeefe Distillery, Ms. Aine Hutchinson from Nicholas Mosse Pottery and Mr. and Mrs. Glen and Celine Collins administrator of St. Canice Cathedral Church and Round Tower. The 5-star rating by Fáilte Ireland reflects exceptional standards across its two properties, the 32-bedroom Manor House and newly-opened, 93-bedroom Hunter’s Yard hotel, Michelin-starred restaurant the Lady Helen, the Jack Nicklaus designed signature championship golf and the wealth of country pursuits such as fishing, falconry and a state-of-theart equestrian centre. Under the command of Mount Juliet Estate’s Executive Chef Ken Harker and Head Chef John Kelly, contemporary fine dining restaurant, the Lady Helen, has retained its Michelin Star for 5 years in a row while The Hound in Hunter's Yard, awarded a Michelin Plate, offers an informal dining experience. For nearly 300 years, Mount Juliet Estate has been recognised as one of Ireland’s finest country estates, a 5-star escape in the heart of Kilkenny’s beautiful countryside.

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Irish tourism’s competitiveness challenge Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, CEO, Irish Tourism Industry Confederation

The industry’s 8-year roadmap for tourism success – Tourism: An Industry Strategy for Growth to 2025 – was published by ITIC last year after widespread consultation and engagement with Irish tourism and hospitality businesses. The Strategy included a number of themes, kicked off by the importance of competitiveness and it was no coincidence that this topic was “first amongst equals”. Repeatedly, as part of the research for the strategy, the critical need to support and sustain competitiveness was highlighted. It is nearly a given that Ireland has the product, people, scenery, and culture and heritage to deliver tourism success in the years ahead. However a competitive environment is paramount. Put simply, a competitive tourism sector will deliver growth, an uncompetitive sector will struggle to do so. Fáilte Ireland annual surveys on overseas’ visitors’ perception of value for money when holidaying in Ireland act as a key metric in terms of competitiveness. 2018 figures show nearly 60% surveyed rating an Irish holiday as “good” or “very good” value for money, a level that has been very consistent over recent years. However 2019 is likely to prove a more challenging trading year for Irish tourism and ITIC has just completed a major report on the sector’s competitiveness, how it has worryingly diminished, and what needs to be done to improve it. Within the report an industry survey identified labour, insurance, utilities and Vat as being the major cost pressures for business. No surprise there but delving into the detail throws up some interesting and concerning factors are at play. Did you know that Ireland is the 5th most expensive country in the EU? And prices are 13% more expensive than the EU average? These findings come from the latest National Competitiveness Council study which also point to the fact that the cost of labour has risen 4 times faster than average prices in the last 12 months alone. Is it any wonder that tourism businesses are experiencing a more difficult trading year with pressure on margins? Furthermore the cost of credit in Ireland is a whopping 65% higher than the EU average and there is a proposed 18% hike in commercial water charges on the way from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities. And that is to say nothing about the insurance calamity that is hitting the tourism and hospitality sector in



particular very hard. A recent survey by the Irish Hotels Federation showed that the average insurance premium increase for their members is 28% higher than last year. That is simply not sustainable and indeed certain activity providers have been unable to get cover at a reasonable rate and have had no choice but to close their doors this summer. Of course the Vat increase kept coming up time and time again in consultations with industry. Shockingly Ireland now has the highest tourism Vat rate across the whole eurozone according to Hotrec analysis. Our 13.5% Vat rate compares very unfavourably with the likes of Germany at 7% or France or Spain at 10%. In theory, being a value added tax, Vat should simply be added to the selling price of room/meal/ attraction but many businesses around the country – urban and rural - have been unable to pass it on to the consumer and thus this eats into an already slim bottom line. All this means that Irish tourism is taking a competitiveness wallop this year and much of the additional charges are Government-induced. Unless the competitive playing pitch for Irish tourism businesses is improved the next couple of years are going to be far more challenging for the sector than they should be. Crucially ITIC’s competitiveness report, as well as articulating the problems, also identifies firm recommendations as to how to improve the business environment for industry. These will form the basis of ITIC’s pre-budget submission and there is an urgent need for Government to take action now to support Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer. This is more important than ever in light of Boris Johnson as PM of our nearest neighbour and a hard Brexit being back on the agenda later this year. In summary ITIC identifies that Irish competitiveness can be improved in a number of ways: the tourism Vat rates should be reviewed so that Ireland is in line with the rest of Europe; insurance reform and a new book of quantum urgently needs to be fast-tracked and expedited to lower premiums; the commercial water rates increase should be deferred; and there needs to be relief on commercial rates for tourism businesses in local authority areas where valuation revisions have yet to be completed. These and other measures must be enacted to ensure the Irish tourism sector can manage its way through choppier waters that lie ahead.




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Hotel and Restaurant Times June/July  

Hotel and Restaurant Times June/July