Working in tourism and hospitality: “You develop skills you don’t get the opportunity to in other industries”

We spoke to Donal O’Brien from The Reg Bar in County Waterford about how the tourism and hospitality industry is becoming more flexible and offers roles that suit every type of personality.

A member of staff serving happy customers in The Reg Bar, County

Jamie Concannon


It would be easy to assume that tourism and hospitality is an industry that is best suited to those of us who feel comfortable in a social setting and chatting to countless people on a daily basis. While it is true that you can often tell when the person serving you in a bar or taking your order in a restaurant has an outgoing personality, tourism and hospitality is such a multifaceted industry that you can find roles to suit just about anyone.

That’s certainly the sense you get from speaking to people working in the industry. They are the ones leading the charge in both making it a more rewarding line of work and ending any misconceptions people may have.

According to Donal O’Brien, General Manager of The Reg Bar in Waterford, there is a role out there for everyone.

“There’s a place in tourism and hospitality for every single type of person; whether you’re an introvert who doesn’t necessarily like working with a big group of people or an extrovert who loves singing and chatting to staff or customers,” Donal says.

Donal O’Brien from The Reg Bar in County Waterford

The Reg was recently awarded Best Employer – Food and Drink at the Fáilte Ireland Employer Excellence Programme Awards. The aim of the programme is to help to reposition the Tourism and Hospitality sector as a rewarding and attractive place to work, and to support participating businesses in attracting and retaining the best talent.

“Being part of the Employer Excellence Programme demonstrates to our current team, and to our prospective employees that we care about our people and are committed to their training and development.

“Talent are more particular about whom they work for nowadays, and choose their employer carefully, often looking for benefits other than wages, such as training and development opportunities. So, being part of the Employer Excellence Programme means we are more attractive to potential employees versus a business that has not signed up,” he says.

“There is a girl we took on a few years ago and I remember interviewing her and my initial thoughts were that she’s really not suited to tourism and hospitality. But she had the courage to come in and do an interview and try to sell herself so we took her on. She was initially as meek as they come and really shy but she’s flourished, and now as a result of the upskilling and development opportunities she has had, both personal and professional, she’s a totally different person.

“She’s very involved in what we do and popular with the group but if you had met her the first day you would have thought ‘not a hope!’ There’s a place for everybody in tourism and hospitality, and there’s the opportunity to then go where you want with it,” Donal says.

Whatever industry you work in, feeling as though there are opportunities to progress is something many of us would place a lot of importance on. Be it a promotion within your own team, a course to help you develop new skills, or a chance to work within another part of the company, it’s mutually beneficial to employers and employees that staff are encouraged to grow their careers and abilities.

Many of the skills you develop from working in tourism and hospitality are also easily transferrable to other lines of work, or indeed other aspects of life.

“The practical life skills you learn in tourism and hospitality are unique in that they are transferrable to any other industry.

“The amount of people that we meet is amazing, and the problem-solving mindset that comes with the job is invaluable, because there are so many moving parts to the job and it’s so unpredictable. You really do develop skills that you don’t get the opportunity to in other industries, and that creates that resilience all types of employers are looking for,” he says.

Staff in The Reg bar hard at work cooking food for their customers

Letting your team flourish

Not only does it ensure that employers keep their options open when lining up potential recruits, but maintaining that mindset expands into customer experience as well. When staff are given the freedom and knowledge to find new ways of doing things, things happen that can benefit the company as a whole.

This may not have always been the case in the tourism and hospitality sector, but the tide is certainly changing, and willing employers need only make use of what is available to see real progress. One of the benefits of the Employer Excellence Programme is that it helps employers hear the views of the employees, and to set things in motion to find innovative new ways of training and developing staff.

“The programme has provided me with a comprehensive set of toolkits, templates and checklists to help me manage the business more effectively and ensure a healthy, positive and inclusive culture. The importance of properly inducting new employees to set them up for success really hit home and provides an opportunity for existing staff to get involved in coaching new people.

“I would strongly urge any tourism or hospitality business to sign up for the programme. The online learning and assessment materials are user friendly, efficient, and professionally produced. The time commitment required is well worth the effort and really helps to put a better structure in the business.

“Since taking part in the programme, The Reg has seen a notable increase in high quality applicants wanting to join our team, and there is an obvious improvement in communication between all departments. Our staff go about their work with increased confidence, and I believe, our industry has now become a place where people can enjoy long-term careers and opportunities to advance,” Donal says.

Order up – Donal says he thinks that keeping staff happy is crucial for keeping customers happy

Innovation doesn’t always involve great technological advances, and sometimes it comes down to simple and effective strategies that complement the company’s ethos. A good example of this is that Donal’s colleague Dodie tries to keep people’s individual needs at the forefront of his mind when drawing up the roster, trying to structure it in a way that keeps things flexible.

Rather than have two days off interspersed throughout the week, he keeps them together and allows staff to be able to plan their weeks a bit better and maintain a better work-life balance.

This takes more time to plan than it would to simply copy and paste the roster every week, but if you look at it as an investment it makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Showing staff that you respect their personal time can often be an effective way of proving you value their contributions while on the clock.

“Our Industry needs to be innovative in attracting and retaining staff. What Dodie does with the roster is innovative in that he treats the roster from a family point-of-view.

“Any innovation, we should share it between us in the industry to keep staff happy. As Dodie says, ‘happy staff, happy customers!’” Donal says.

Find out more about the Fáilte Ireland Employer Excellence Programme and register now at:

If you are considering a career in tourism visit