Nicky Logue MIHI
Fitzpatricks Castle Hotel
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|Brian Fahy FIHI
Natasha Kinsella FIHI
Irish Hospitality Institute
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Joan O'Shaughnessy FIHI
Yvonne Brady MIHI
Maurice Bergin FIHI
Hospitality Solutions Consulting Ltd
Anne O'Regan MIHI
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Fiacra Nagle MIHI
Ciaran Murtagh MIHI
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Sharon Power Cowley MIHI
Deborah O'Hanlon MIHI
Shannon College of Hotel Management
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For the first time in a while, Ireland is seeing a light at the end of what has been a tunnel of economic doom and gloom. The seeds planted to drive tourism to the country are beginning to grow as “The Gathering,” Tourism Ireland’s year-long campaign to draw back the estimated 70 million people around the world who claim Irish ancestry, pays off.
Ireland has already seen an increase of 17% by North American visitors in the first quarter of 2013. Eamon McKeon, the chief executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation says that there is clear evidence that the campaign has been effective and that it helps to differentiate Ireland from other European destinations. According to Reuters, Ireland has already achieved the highest number of trips to the country in the first-quarter since 2009 at 1.25 million people.
In the Middle East, the campaign is also reaping success as the number of visitors has increased 15% over the same period last year along with an 8% rise in visitor visa applications. The increase is partly attributed to better flight connectivity and the Short Stay Visa Waiver program which is available to visitors from the Middle East, India, China, Serbia, Ukraine, Bosnia, and Turkey.
While many industry members celebrate the success of ‘The Gathering’ and its diverse roster of prestigious events, Loyd Grossman, chairman of the UK’s Heritage Alliance, told the Irish Times that the tourist board needs to focus more on promoting Ireland’s unique heritage as that is what gives it a competitive advantage in the world. He went on to say that the world is becoming homogenized and that places are starting to look the same but Ireland is rich in its heritage, natural and historic environment.
Preserving the heritage will indeed make Ireland worth visiting as iconic buildings can be found almost everywhere. Experiences like Ashford Castle will also be a popular draw for tourists to enjoy the country’s rich history. But other industry professionals might argue that popular tourism campaigns or even unique heritage is still not enough to set a competitive advantage to maintain Ireland’s momentum and that it is people who are truly the defining the difference in a homogeneous world fueled by globalization. Many tourist boards are re-aligning their efforts to shift from purely marketing a destination to concentrating more on managing the destination. That is to ensure that the visitor experience is in sync with the message that is being marketed. After all, positive visitor experiences generate positive word of mouth and happy tourists will become happy ambassadors of Ireland when they return home.
The idea of destination management lies rooted in developing a culture of caring industry wide. The premise is that people will not always remember the places they visit but they will remember the people they encountered. Countries like the Philippines where tourism inventory and infrastructure are limited are relying on “the people experience” as the promise of its very own successful, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign. The beauty of such a strategy is that the opportunity to create memorable experiences and build the tourism relationship with your visitors becomes universal whether you work at a historic attraction or the village post office. The goal is to get everyone to embrace the same philosophy of building a culture of caring in their communities.
Building Friendships Keep Visitors Coming Back For More
The very foundation of the culture of caring is the unique ability to build rapport with your visitors. Rapport helps to create a bond of trust and credibility between the service provider and the guest. It is that bond that initiates the friendship and sets the stage for greater cultural exchange and intimate experiences. Nobody knows or can showcase a destination better than locals yet many tourists end up visiting a destination and its attractions and fail to be part of the local culture and traditions. Culture is indeed one of Ireland’s unique attributes and it is best showcased by people. If everything we become and accomplish in life is with and through other people, then building rapport is the most important skill that one can ever learn. Ultimately, successfully building rapport establishes friendships that will build a lifelong relationship between the visitor and host. That will bring the visitor back for more.
Take a Routine Experience and Make it Memorable
The secret to better visitor experiences is to create a personal connection with your visitors. People like people who they can relate to. It makes them feel comfortable and puts them at ease. Taking a routine experience like checking a guest in, serving them coffee or taking them on a tour and making that experience memorable is the main idea behind creating special experiences that will inspire the visitor to build loyalty to your tourism business and ultimately, your local community and country. Just do what you would do for your own friends and family. Developing rapport is about establishing a personal connection on behalf of your destination or business that the guest will remember for life. Building personal connections with each other will establish a comfortable platform in which to share personal stories with one another. It is in the sharing of these stories that we build deeper relationships and form bonds.
Basic Values of a Culture of Caring, Service, and Hospitality
The core seeds of planting a culture of caring in your tourism driven community can be found in the basic service values of respect, excellence, curiosity, and stewardship. If the entire community is willing to embrace these values of good service and treat guests like family, the tourism businesses and community will be successful in building lifelong relationships with its visitors.
Respect is as easy to explain as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you treat others the way you wish to be treated, you cannot go wrong. Be open minded and understanding when facing conflict and always give your visitors the benefit of the doubt. It is your job to respect them for who they are by acknowledging that often cultural differences can lead to miscommunication.
Excellence can be described as being proud of yourself, your home, your community and your country. It is because of this pride that you set standards of excellence for yourself, your family and your community when entertaining guests because you want to show them the best that you have to offer.
Curiosity enables us to show interest in our guests. Showing interest in their history, family, culture, interests and lives will not only make them feel valued as guests but also create opportunities to develop a common bond by discovering shared aspects of your life. It also ensures that issues are resolved quickly before they become problems if you remain focused on your guest needs and satisfaction.
Stewardship describes your role as an ambassador of your family, community, business, and Ireland. It is your responsibility to represent all of these stakeholders to the best of your ability to leave the visitor with a positive impression. As a steward, you do everything that you can to ensure that the experience of your guest in your community is welcoming, safe, comfortable and seamless. Ensuring that all members of the community do their part acting as stewards and keeping their businesses and community clean and friendly will contribute towards your efforts of good stewardship. Always look out for what is in the best interests of all parties involved.
If communities embrace and practice these values of good service, the chances of creating a positive and memorable experience for your visitor and a valuable cultural exchange will be strong. But these service values alone will not make your guests feel like friends or family. Such relationships are created with the memories that you share and the personal connections that you establish. Your ability to interact as often as possible, connect and build rapport will take the culture of caring beyond the values of service and to the lifelong personal connections. Hotels and lodging establishments play a critical role in this process as they become the visitor's home away from home and the staff become the adopted family. One such hotel that is known for its service oriented culture is Slieve Donard Resort & Spa which was voted 'Best Irish Hotel' in the Blue Insurances Travel Media Awards last November.
Tourism needs to matter to everyone whether you live in a destination that is home to a star attraction or if you are merely a road side pit stop. There is much to be gained by a host as there is by the visitor in the cultural exchange created by tourism. It is a significant economic generator and creator of jobs. Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry employing approximately 200,000 people to service the roughly 7.27 million overseas visitors who came last year. These numbers are expected to grow and if everyone seeks to establish these personal connections, Ireland will enjoy many friends for the indefinite future and locals will enjoy a steady source of employment.
How You Can Help Build the Culture of Caring
All residents of Ireland own a stake in the success of tourism. As an ambassador of tourism, the culture of caring needs to begin before people even get on the plane. There are plenty of things that you can do to assist prospective tourists in their travel planning and promote travel to Ireland both before and during the trip. Often simple and thoughtful gestures are what count the most.
Here are some basic examples:
* Highlight the affordability of Ireland given its close proximity to the rest of Europe. Being knowledgeable about ways people can save money eating out or staying overnight will help to make the destination more appealing and people always appreciate advice from locals.
* Always be familiar with the local attractions and services in your town. If you don't know where the post office is, how could you expect a tourist to know?
* Recommend your favourite local spots and hang-outs that may be off the beaten track. Tourists enjoy exploring the local life but also appreciate experiencing the authenticity of the country without paying the hefty tourist prices in popular and overcrowded areas.
* Be sure to always have plenty of suggestions on things to do. Many tourists have flexible itineraries and the more reasons you give them to stay, the longer they will stay.
* Be familiar with the languages of your foreign guests. Not everyone will be capable of speaking English well and any assistance you can provide is always a welcome relief. It also helps to establish a warm personal connection even if you simply greet your guest in their native tongue.
* Ensure that you are knowledgeable about directions to the hottest attractions and most popular places in your areas. There is no doubt you will be asked for help.
* You are more familiar with the Irish weather than your guests are. Be sure to advise them on appropriate clothing to pack and ensure they are well equipped for their days out.
* Make sure your guests don't forget the basics and bring along their passports, airline tickets, medicines, confirm their hotel and flight bookings, and most importantly, arrange travel insurance for the entire family especially the children. Ensuring these essentials are in place will allow for a smoother visit and if the worst were to happen, their insurance would provide financial protection.
Playwrights, musicians, poets and writers will descend on the North Clare village of Doolin today (Friday) for the launch of the inaugural Doolin Writer’s Weekend.
Famed throughout the decades for hosting some of the world’s most famous writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, J.M. Synge, CS Lewis, George Bernard Shaw and Dylan Thomas, Doolin is this weekend hosting a series of workshops, lectures and readings by some of Ireland’s leading literary and arts figures.
Playwright and Director Peter Sheridan, Irish punk music pioneer Terri Hooley, and Steve Wall of The Walls & The Stunning are amongst the line-up of participants scheduled to take part in the festival which continues through Sunday.
Hosted by the Irish Writers' Centre and Hotel Doolin, the Weekend will also include the announcement of the winner of the 2013 Doolin Short Story Competition 2013, for which there is a prize fund of €1000.
There is no longer an option – you have to be mobile. This was the main message at our national Web Check Digital Conference - Connectivity on the Move - which took place yesterday in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Dublin.
Leading digital experts from international companies Google, Facebook, O2 and Book Assist shared their insights into the area of mobile technology at the conference which drew a large attendance of tourism professionals eager to learn how they could attract more visitors to Ireland by getting mobile.
With a ‘must have’ digital presence and a touch point for customers, the mobile channel creates a unique opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the customer acquisition and customer engagement efforts.
O2 Commercial Director, Brian Darcy, led by example outlining how more people receive information through smartphone usage, which in turn leads to more sales.
According to Stephen Murphy from Google –“Mobile represents a shift with how people relate to both the digital and physical world. Businesses that understand and act on this change, will win”.
This point was only reinforced for tourism businesses when he outlined that one in three travel related queries from one of our key markets, Britain, come from mobile devises.
Speaking at the conference, Fáilte Ireland Business Development Manager, Stephen Dudley explained: “As ever our goal through Web Check is to give tourism businesses access to experts who will encourage them to win a larger share of the tourism market through digital means. Mobile is a hot topic at the moment, and one which the Irish tourism industry can no longer ignore if they are going to grow their businesses and connect with potential customers who are always on the move.
“We were also delighted to announce a new initiative from Fáilte Ireland - the National Web Test - which allow clients to receive a remote independent review of their website from an IT consultant on the Web Supports Team.”
Sean Kinsella, who died at the age of 81, was a devoted family man who adored his wife, Audrey, their two sons, Stephen and Andrew, and granddaughter, Tara, mourners at his funeral yesterday heard.
He was described as ' the chef supreme of his generation'
He was also a dedicated charity worker, raising over €1m for a multitude of causes in his lifetime.
Many former customers of The Mirabeau restaurant were among the gathering at St Anne's Church in Shankill, south Dublin.
A daily summer service from Shannon Airport to Philadelphia by US Airways which was dropped four years ago, resumed operations yesterday.
A High Court decision to allow a Clare hotel to remain open enabled a wedding to go ahead yesterday.
Stacy Higgins and Jamie Hourigan had their reception at Ballykisteen Hotel and Golf Resort at Limerick Junction a day after Mr Justice Michael White allowed the hotel to continue operating following a case brought by Ulster Bank. He approved the appointment of a provisional liquidator nominated by the bank. The hotel is currently operated by thge Prem Group and is reported to have bookings for 75 weddings.
A new free audio guide for the recently developed Grand Tour Driving Route in Kildare and Wicklow which was launch by Minister Varadkar, has n
ow been developed to help visitors discover the fascinating stories and colourful insights that exist along the driving route.
This new exciting tourist development threads a number of narratives together - linking the top attractions in Kildare and Wicklow through a master
The audio guide is narrated by travel writer Pól O’Conghaile animating the 29 iconic attractions and sites located along the route. Visitors can download the guide to accompany the Grand Tour guidebook and map which will take them on a journey around Kildare and Wicklow’s culture and heritage attractions.driving route and associated themed sub-routes resulting in a compelling tour of wild landscapes, elegant gardens, big houses, motoring history and Early Christian heritage easily accessible from Dublin.
Kevin Moriarty, Head of Operations for Fáilte Ireland believes the Grand Tour Audio Guide is a positive addition to the tourist experience –
“We are delighted to announce this new free audio guide for visitors to Dublin’s Doorstep. The modern visitor expects a much more interactive experience when they come to Ireland now more than ever before. As a national tourism development authority, Fáilte Ireland is keen that an new technology be exploited to the maximun in order to allow tourists to have a fully hands on experience when they visit us. These audio guides are an innovative way of exploring the cultural and heritage attractions on The Grand Tour.”
The new audio guide, was developed with the support of the Kildare Wicklow Steering Group and can be downloaded in MP3 format from www.grandtour.ie
The number of beaches awarded the Blue Flag this year has dropped by 15 per cent compared to 2012.
Some 70 beaches and four marinas are to be given the flag – an overall drop of 13 on last year.
An Taisce – the organisation responsible for the operation of the Blue Flag programme in Ireland – said the drop could be attributed to stricter criteria that has been introduced.
The areas that achieved the award “met a specific set of criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education and beach management”, said An Taisce education director Patricia Oliver.
The classification of the bathing water is now based on water samples from a four year period instead of results from a single bathing season.
“As a result, there was a predicted decrease in Blue Flags awarded in 2013,” said Ms Oliver.
The awards were presented by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan a in Dublin. He said the flags “raise environmental awareness and encourage good environmental behaviour among stakeholders”.
Popular bathing spots in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area of Dublin welcomed a return to Blue Flag status with Seapoint and Killiney included. The Royal Cork Yacht Club – a new marina – was the only other new addition.
The popular surfing location of Lahinch in Co Clare lost its Blue Flag, along with Dublin beaches Donabate, Skerries South Beach, the Brook Beach Portrane, and the Velvet Strand in Portmarnock.
Elsewhere, Ballybunion North beach in Kerry, Ceibh an Spideal in Galway, and White Strand Miltown Malbay in Clare lost their Blue Flag status also.
The Glen of Aherlow, Co Tipperary, Inishbofin , Co Galway, Loop Head peninsula, Co Clare, Derry city and Killarney have been shortlisted for the title 'Best Place to Holiday in Ireland' in a competition oprganised by 'The Irish Times'.
The judges are currently visiting these five locations before announcing the overall winner on May 27th.
Members of the public were invited to nominate the places they love to holiday. There were more than 1,400 entries from every county in Ireland. The writers of the nominations showed a strong preference for remote locations and holidays in coastal regions, especially in the west of Ireland.
The list of five finalists reflects these preferences but also recognises the work by local people in making the best of their natural resources.