(Image Caption - Garry Martin, Director of Service, speaking to Pauline Sweeney, Donegal Airport, Sarah Nolan, Tourism Officer, DCC and Henry Doohan, Donegal Tour Guide. Donegal County Council by Clive Wasson)
Prof. Samuel McConkey commented by recalling favourable memories of holidays as a child in Donegal. He spoke broadly on various topics including Covid-19, leisure, health and wellbeing, contingency planning, benchmarking against other offerings. He also looked at a shift in values following difficult last 2 years. Visitors search for more meaningful holidays / moments, have higher expectations and are looking for extra quality during their travels. He stressed that providers should keep that in mind and strive to meet expectations to provide something new, unique and attractive to their guests. He also advised businesses on risk management and contingency planning in the times of Covid and emphasized the importance of investing in our youth, so they can gain necessary language and intercultural skills to understand visitors coming from different backgrounds and cultures.
John Casey, Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort, spoke about the golf packages as a tourism incentive for the county. He mentioned the importance of working with tour operators showcasing the offering of golf courses in the region and attractions in the area, which are a huge asset to the overall golf offering, as well as the necessity of getting staff to go out and experience the best product in the county. John also highlighted that Donegal is quickly becoming one of the top locations for golf in Ireland and Britain. He also emphasized the importance of working together in promoting the county.
Charlene Boyle, Fáilte Ireland provided an overview of the biggest recruitment research ever conducted involving the industry, workers, recruitment agencies, as well as international benchmarking. This very insightful study reports on current findings and challenges facing hospitality when it comes to recruitment. It also identifies what changes need to happen to ensure hospitality businesses can successfully continue to deliver their services. Fáilte Ireland is committed to supporting businesses in their recruitment efforts and ultimately help them in their endeavors towards recovery.
Following Charlene’s presentation, two speakers representing local businesses took to the stage and shared their experience on the issue of recruitment. Natasha Gilleece from Harvey’s Point Hotel spoke about the key recruitment challenges, way of adapting and overcoming these challenges, as well as the hotel’s strategy to employee retention. Siubhán O’Connor, the owner of Corcreggan Mill in Dunfanaghy also addressed the main challenges in her business. She spoke about the approach to staff retention, the importance of creating a happy environment for the staff and reasons why the employees choose to return for the next season. She also demonstrated that guest reviews are reflective of their business ethos.
David Mellet, Regional Co-Ordinator of the Climate Action Regional Office, spoke about Climate Change & Green/Sustainable Business. He provided a lot of insight and advice regarding the mitigation and adaptation in tourism with regards to the climate change and opportunities arising from the climate change. He also addressed the topic of emissions reduction especially in transport and how businesses can support tourists and their needs and attitudes change. David also encouraged attendees to empower employees to promote sustainability in the workplace and provided useful sources of information attendees could refer to following the seminar.
The award-winning travel writer and expert Pól Ó Conghaile provided attendees with an update on Digitalization & Travel and how Donegal businesses can adapt. Covid has accelerated tech use for us all and some businesses introduced changes in their offering to keep up with the changing trends, and are paving the way in the digital world of hospitality. Pól also referred to the change in travel attitudes, visitors looking for slow, meaningful travel, hobby holidays and pet friendly places to stay. He also focused on the importance of direct booking, accessible bedroom booking online and programmes such as ‘Digital that delivers’ by Fáilte Ireland that supports businesses and enables them to improve their online presence and drive operational efficiencies through new technologies.