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Action Plan for Jobs tourism Seminar


South East APJ Tourism Workshop

(L-R) Sean McKeown, Director South East APJ; Liam Griffin, Managing Director, Griffin Group;

Jenny De Saulles, Head of Ireland’s Ancient East, Failte Ireland; and Frank O’Regan, Chairman South East APJ.

The task ahead will be like climbing the North face of the Eiger!

That was the message from Liam Griffin to participants at the Tourism Workshop held in Clonmel recently and organised by the South East Action Plan for Jobs. The former Wexford hurling manager and Managing Director of the Griffin Group, that owns the prestigious Monart Spa in Enniscorthy, along with the Ferrcarrig Hotel in Wexford and Hotel Kilkenny, was talking about the task of creating the jobs needed for the almost 30 thousand people that remain unemployed in the south east. Liam said he got involved in the South East Action Plan for Jobs because:

“There are so many young people wandering the streets with no jobs and it is shameful. We have to get off our backsides and do something about this situation, rather than complain and expect others to do it for us. That is not to say it will be easy. In fact it will be like climbing the north face of the Eiger. But we have to try a different approach. What didn’t work in the past won’t work now.”

Liam was invited by Frank O’Regan, Chairman of the South East Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committee to get involved in the Action Plan and be the Industry Champion for the Tourism elements of the Plan. Frank is the former Vice President of Global Operations of the multi-national company Baush & Lomb. The Action Plan has been sub-divided, for ease of implementation, across 10 sub-groups, comprising 6 sectoral groups considered to provide the best potential for job creation in the region (i.e. agri-food; tourism; life-sciences; engineering; creative industries and global business services) and 4 thematic groups critical for business investment and growth (i.e. infrastructure; education and skills; entrepreneurship; and the development of a new regional brand.) Each of these groups is led by a local entrepreneur as industry champion. Liam Griffin accepted the invitation to be the Tourism Industry champion.

The Tourism Workshop held in County Hall, Clonmel was attended by upwards of 60 specially invited representatives of the Tourism industry from across the south east, including hoteliers, hospitality providers, tourism attractions, community representatives, local development companies, entrepreneurs and business people. Liam Griffin enthralled the large gathering with his passion and enthusiasm. He said he is prepared to give the South East Action Plan for Jobs initiative a chance. He was impressed with the number of agencies involved and committed to the cause of job creation in the region. In particular, the fact that all 5 Chief Executives from the 5 local authorities in the region, namely Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary and Waterford are all working together. He said this is indeed very positive and inspires confidence that the initiative has a chance of succeeding.

Great Potential

The Tourism industry is a critical component of the economy of the south east. It is the largest employer with approximately 11 per cent of the workforce engaged in the tourism and hospitality sector. Almost 900 thousand overseas tourists visit the south east each year. Jenny De Saulles, Head of the Ireland’s Ancient East Brand with Failte Ireland addressed the Workshop. She said the region has the potential to attract at least another 300 thousand overseas visitors over the next 10 years. The spend from every one thousand overseas visitors supports at least 18 jobs in the industry. So the sector has the potential to create over five thousand additional jobs in the next decade. Jenny said:

“There is tremendous scope for tourism growth in the south east. But we have to work together in the region. We have to cross sell the product offering. Successful brands have a ‘pull strategy.’ In the past we have been pushing rather than focusing on what the visitor really wants. The challenge for the south east is to work together, to be bold and brave and aim to be the best in class.”

She said that Failte Ireland have launched a Small Capital Grants Scheme to help tourism providers improve the product offering of what is already in place. To date 25 projects in the region have been approved funding of over €2.5 Million.

The focus of the Tourism Workshop was to glean the views of the representative sample of stakeholders from across the region on how the industry can collectively improve the offering in the south east. The topics covered included what is working well and what is not working well in the sector at the moment; how is the south east going to leverage the opportunities of the Ireland’s Ancient East Brand promoted by Failte Ireland; and the potential of Greenways / Blueways to enhance the tourism experience of the south east.

Sean McKeown, Director of the South East Action Plan for Jobs said: “We will review the many great ideas and suggestions put forward at the Workshop and see how these can be incorporated into the actions already contained in the Action Plan for Jobs.”