Hotelier who heroically halted auction of family farm takes helm of hotels federation
Leitrim hero and newly elected president of the Irish Hotels Federation, Joe Dolan, has warned Ireland's patchy economic recovery has resulted in a three-tier hospitality industry, with businesses in large swathes of the country untouched by growth.
"Dublin City is booming and then you have other large urban centres like Galway and Kilkenny and Westport, which are obviously experiencing some degree of growth too" said Dolan.
"But the story for hotels and hospitality businesses in the rest of the country is completely different. There are a large number of hotels which are only beginning to bottom out."
Dolan owns the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon. He and his wife Rosie were recent winners of Leitrim's Person of the Year Award.
Dolan is well known for intervening in the auction of a distressed property owned by a local farming family which took place at the Bush Hotel in 2014. The property was being sold against the family's wishes. Only realising the nature of the event as it was beginning, Dolan called it to a halt on health and safety grounds.
He and his family were struck by tragedy three years earlier; his son Andrew died aged 20 following an unprovoked street attack in December 2011 in Mullingar. A man was convicted of manslaughter related to Andrew's death and another man and woman were convicted of assault charges.
"Our community was a huge support to us" said Dolan. "People rallied around us."
His first request of Government as head of the Irish Hotels Federation is the restoration of its tourism marketing budget to 2008 levels.
"We need to control our own destiny. Most of the factors that have been driving the recovery of tourism are external, out of our control - like the strength of the dollar and sterling, increased air capacity and economic recovery in our key markets. It's not healthy to be too dependent on things out of our control. We need to invest in marketing, in infrastructure and in public heritage sites," he said.
The nine per cent special VAT rate afforded to the hospitality sector "was the single largest job creation initiative in the history of the state", he added, and must be retained.
Sunday Indo Business