Hotels encouraged to adapt outside activity offerings

An industry expert believes that the rural hospitality sector could benefit hugely in a post-Covid environment and once restrictions loosen-up, as vacation-starved punters opt for carefree isolation over the hustle and bustle of city getaways.

Helen Leddy, a well-known hospitality marketing professional, recently launched 'Back Office Marketing', a consultancy firm geared towards assisting hospitality and tourism businesses with their marketing needs. She believes the government needs to be more concerted in its efforts to assist the beleaguered sector.

“There is definitely a need for a clear roadmap for reopening hospitality in this country,” says Helen, a native of Redhills in Cavan and now living in Navan.

Helen, who started up her new company to help hospitality and tourism businesses with their marketing activities during and post-Covid, says the closure of the sector impacts many other industries that feed from it.

“There are so many people indirectly impacted by the hospitality closure. It effects people you wouldn't even think of. A lot of people are very worried right now. Hotels are wondering should they be promoting getaways for Easter, or are they being unrealistic. Should they even be hiring new people at this point?”

A lot of people employed in hospitality are now leaving the industry says Helen, looking for jobs in other sectors that are hiring or will provide them with a less public-facing role out of concern of getting ill.

“We saw it happen to a degree during the first reopening, back in July last year, when not only were hotels and tourism businesses finding it hard to hire in casual staff, but even getting their old staff back was proving difficult. So I see human resources as being a massive challenge going forward,” says Helen, who has written an extensive blog on the subject of how hotels might recover once reopening occurs.

“There needs to be more supports, adaption funds, to help businesses to reopen when the time is right. The 9% VAT looks like it will remain, and local authority rates being waived are a huge help for businesses right now. But specific training should be given, so that when the recovery does come they know they have the right people there and ready for employment. I think that's really important.”

Where Helen does see a silver lining however in the dark cloud of Covid is the location of businesses in rural settings to benefit going forward.

Examining industry trends during Summer 2020, Helen identified that occupancy rates in hotels in rural counties was significantly up compared to their urban counterparts.

Helen is a huge supporter of local tourism and hospitality businesses through her role as Marketing Manager of Cusack Hotels with operates the Ardboyne and Newgrange hotels in Navan and her association with Boyne Valley Tourism and Trim Tourism Network.

“I believe there is a great opportunity for growth in Ireland post Covid,” says Helen, who states now is the time for the government to show leadership on the subject.

“I see it as being the great recovery in the great outdoors. We saw during the summer Dublin was not doing well, the rest of Ireland was. Occupancy was down in the cities. So Dublin will have to reposition itself certainly and where rural hospitality can build further is by adapt as much as they can. Wherever the premises is, they're bringing the outside in as much as possible. Whether that's an outside area, or collaborating with an outside-based producer, a visitor farm or some other attraction, even tour guides. It's about giving guests more value, and that's what Irish people want.” For more information on Back Office Marketing visit the website on www.backofficems.ie

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