by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
I remember that Summer in Dublin …
It was a warm 22 degrees and the mid morning streets of Dublin were bathed in bright July sunshine. Our pop-up café culture was already in full swing, the pavements crammed with cool people drinking all sorts of coffees and coloured juices and smoothies. My mental jukebox was alternating between Bagatelle’s “Summer in Dublin” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Girls in their Summer Clothes” as we moved along the thronged streets and lanes. It could as easily have been Barcelona or Berlin as Dublin. It was a perfect day for a site inspection.
But weather is very thing you cannot control when you’re showcasing your destination to a potential customer. In a destination where weather is, at best, unpredictable you’ve got to work hard at all the little details, the ones you can control, to maximize your chances for selection. This week I was part of a site inspection for a 300 person event in 2016 and was super-impressed by the ultra-professionalism of our destination partners. Here’s why:
Four Seasons Dublin
Four Seasons Dublin hosted breakfast for our guests on the morning of their arrival off a long transatlantic flight. The entire experience was pure Four Seasons – special, attentive to detail, highly creative, focused on high touch. Aline FitzGerald and Grace Ann Fallon, the senior sales team, and Robert Nolan, General Manager welcomed our guests upon arrival and remained with them for the duration of their visit to the property. They escorted them immediately to a private banqueting suite where revitalizing head and shoulder massages were administered, the perfect antidote to a long flight.
Breakfast was laid out on individual tiered trays on a beautifully set block table with stunning florals. Patricia, the Junior Sous Chef was on hand and charmingly explained all the food items while offering freshly cooked crepes and eggs. Knowing that the customer was from the health and wellness sector, the individual food items reflected this – I particularly liked the Quinoa Salad with Natural Yogurt, Walnuts, Dates, Pistachios, Feta and Lemon Zest and the energy shot with Avocado, Ginger, Pineapple and Cucumber.
It was great to be back at Four Seasons Dublin and to witness the ground floor refurbishment which accents the contemporary with a colour palate in the lobby lounge of raspberry, beige and slate grey. The 55 signature art pieces, which include a wonderful Sean Scully, have been augmented by three impressive Michael Warren installations and, in the Ice Bar, by a series in Oil, by Hilary Eustace. The guest rooms, at 42 sqm, are by far the biggest that Dublin has to offer.
Our Ovation Ireland friends coordinated a truly impressive site visit to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, one of Dublin city’s premier banqueting solutions for larger groups. Inspecting function rooms often calls for suspension of disbelief and imaginative skills akin to those of an artist – you’re shown a blank, sad and vacant room and required to envision what it looks like dressed and filled with living sounds. Marie Lawlor’s team at Ovation Ireland had set three round tables with contrasting linens and three different types of banqueting chairs. Crucially they arranged for Emer Kenny, harpist and performer extraordinaire, to come and fill the room with beautiful music. It was easy to sit back in your specially customized Hanna Jane Chair (a great alternative to Chivari, designed by Philip Daly of Total Events Rental), close your eyes and imagine what it would be like for a formal dinner with 300 guests.
The Shelbourne Hotel
Our day concluded with another special moment, this time choreographed by Yvonne Donohoe and her team at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. The Shelbourne is the “Grande Dame” of the hospitality scene in Dublin as it approaches 190 years of continuous service. It has hosted Princesses and Presidents, Captains of Industry and Sport, Rappers and Rock’nRollers. It underwent a recent radical refurbishment and now presents as a luxury property in the style of a European Grand Hotel with clever local touches and a pervasive sense of Irishness.
Nowhere is this more evident than The Constitution Room, a glorious space to the front of the building, overlooking St Stephen’s Green where between February and May 1922 Michael Collins and others of the nascent Irish Free State painstakingly drafted the parameters of what it would mean to be a citizen of Ireland. Yvonne arranged for Denis, learned historian and Head Concierge at the Hotel, to walk us back through 190 years of the hotel’s history. It was indeed a privilege to sit on the very seats used by our drafting forefathers and to listed to an entirely compelling account of the vicissitudes of our history, peppered with some amusing aphorisms. When relating a story connected with Princess Grace who was given the option of avoiding the adoring crowds by exiting discretely out the back door Denis intoned
Every good hotel has a front door. Every great hotel has a back door.
Dinner, served under the watchful eye of Francois, was spectacular, drawing on locally sourced produce but presenting it with true artistic panache and brio. My picture of the painterly Clare Island Turf Smoked Salmon with Castletownbere Crab and Tempura Prawn was retweeted many times. Throughout dinner conversation flowed easily as we listened to gentle sounds of slow Irish airs and poignant operatic arias played gracefuly on concert harp. It was a moment to treasure, a moment from which great memories are forged and, ultimately, a moment that’s often the tipping point for planners as the weight up the pros and cons of the destinations under selection.
Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a boutique consultancy offering marketing and digital marketing advice to entities in the hospitality and MICE industries. With Patrick Delaney, his business partner, he was privileged to work on this site inspection on behalf of Ovation Ireland with the excellent and ultra professional Kip and Brent of Destinations Inc. a full service incentive travel company based in Salt Lake City, Utah .