Irish tourism 'needs to be about what matters on the ground'. Can this new event address that?
The Tourism Space LIVE will provide practical tips and inspiration to those at the frontline, its organiser says
Anybody involved in tourism and hospitality knows the calendar is chocabloc with conferences. So do we really need another?
Absolutely, says Tina O'Dwyer.
"What makes this event stand out is the fact that it's focused on the business of tourism, literally the point of transaction between businesses and visitors."
O'Dwyer is a Co Clare-based tourism facilitator, trainer and clarity coach, and "this event" is The Tourism Space LIVE, a new professional development initiative she is staging in Thomond Park, Limerick, on January 17th.
While many tourism conferences focus on strategy and policy debates, loading their line-ups with overseas and public sector speakers, The Tourism Space LIVE is about "the big picture, within your business," she explains.
The event is designed to give tourism managers and entrepreneurs both inspiration and practical tips to deal with the day-to-day challenges of their business, she adds -"to build energy, spark creativity and ignite innovation".
So the business-speak checks out. But what about the line-up?
All speakers are from the private sector in Ireland, O'Dwyer points out - a mix of trainers, advisors and businesspeople ranging from hotelier John Burke (who has also climbed Mount Everest) to HR and Employment Law expert Caroline McEnery, and restaurateur Anthony Gray, co-founder of the Sligo Food Trail.
A record year for tourism, but what's next?
The Tourism Space LIVE comes as Ireland nears the end of another record year for tourism, with Fáilte Ireland forecasting further growth in visitor numbers of up to 5pc in 2019.
O'Dwyer welcomes the growth and says this is a very positive time for tourism - she points out that tourism employs over 220,000 people in this county - but also believes success shouldn't be measured by visitor numbers alone.
"The numbers are good, but there is room for improvement in terms of increasing average visitor spend and maximising the margins coming from that... that's how you move from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional view [of tourism success], by factoring in visitor numbers, revenue and the benefit to communities."
Tourism entrepreneurs and business managers are critical to Ireland's economic growth, O'Dwyer believes, and the new event will focus squarely on them.
These frontliners face huge opportunities, but also challenges, she says - a VAT rise from 9 to 13.5pc and minimum wage increases, for example.
"All of this places downward pressure on profits,” she claims. “There is a need for swift, responsive and proactive action if the business of tourism is to remain competitive and provide stable and sustainable margins.”
"Irish tourism needs to be about what matters on the ground."
NB: Tickets for The Tourism Space Live are priced at €99pp until December 1, and €149 thereafter. See thetourismspace.com/liveevent for more.
Read more:Pól Ó Conghaile: How one small Irish community is re-thinking 'drive-thru tourism'