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by Pádraic Gilligan, Chief Marketing Officer, SITE & Managing Partner, SoolNua

Plus ça change?

In describing the extent of the change to Dublin as a destination for Business Events, I’m tempted to quote our national poet, W.B. Yeats and declare

All’s changed, changed utterly …

It certainly wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I were to compare Dublin circa 1999 and Dublin today.


In the 20 years since 1999 our city has become a major player for Business Events, listed consistently as a Top 20 city in Europe on the ICCA rankings, benefiting from direct air access to all EU capitals (well, nearly all!), to no less than 13 North American hubs, to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha and – God help us – to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shenzhen too.

We have also been graced with an iconic structure in the Docklands area, our long awaited Convention Centre, and, thanks to a great facility and an even better leadership team, we’re decidedly on the radar for small to medium sized city-wide conferences and events. The hotel stock increased too adding both urban and suburban inventory at 4 and 5 star level and a key iconic attraction / venue  opened in 2000, The Guinness Storehouse.

But the changes continue …

The 20 year time lapse was front and centre in my mind when I visited the new Marriott Aloft property in Dublin 8 and came face to face, after many years, with the new property’s owner, Niall Geoghegan, a stalwart of the MICE industry in the nineties and noughties when he was Chief Marketing Officer at JurysDoyle, the biggest and most important player in the hotel industry at the time.

Niall has channeled his considerable knowledge and expertise into this new development, a stunning 4 star property with attitude, flagged as Aloft, one of Marriott’s most vibrant brands, located in one of Dublin’s edgiest, most exciting neighbourhoods.

Dublin city has been developing rapidly on both banks of the River Liffey to the East of the city centre. Over the past 20 years most of the consultancies and corporate law firms have moved there and, more recently, it has become Silicon Docks, the TechHub for Dublin, hosting Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Hubspot and many startups. The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) is there too along with a decent hospitality eco-system, although, in truth, we could do with a big box hotel there  (but don’t mention that to Pat McCann!)


Aloft Dublin & The Whiskey District

Aloft, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhood, The Liberties. London has East End, Rome has Trastevere and Dublin has The Liberties, a neighbourhood located historically  “outside” the city limits so free or liberated from city tax!

The Liberties is part of the wider Dublin 8 which has been undergoing a balanced gentrification over the past 10 years, becoming a hipster haven of great cafes and coffee shops in search of cheap rents. The Guinness Storehouse was a lonely beacon for visitors to that area of the  city for the first 15 years of its existence but over the past 5 years there’s been a veritable explosion of great tourism infrastructure in the Dublin 8 / Liberties area.


Teelings Whiskey opened in Newmarket Square in 2015 and unleashed a liquid gold rush that continues unabated today with 4 “working” distilleries now in place – Teelings itself, Roe & Co, Dublin Liberties Whiskey and Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery. Apparently another 2 are en route. All of these facilities have events spaces and provide a wonderful backdrop for authentic, local experiences in the Whiskey District!

Aloft Dublin – the details

Aloft is one of three brand new hotel properties to open in Dublin 8. Earlier this year, close to St Patrick’s Cathedral and Marsh’s Library, Dalata Group opened the 137 bedroom Maldron Hotel while later this year, the family behind the Hodson Bay in Athlone will open the 237 bedroom Hyatt Centric. This will be Hyatt’s first property in Ireland.

The global brand proposition makes a massive difference to a newly opened hotel with Aloft – a Marriott brand –  at full occupancy on the night before my visit there – and it’s not yet fully operational or properly launched.


Positioned as a 4 star hotel, Aloft is destined to over-deliver with Nespresso and bathrobes, usually associated with a five star guest experience, standard across the entire 202 rooms of the property. Entry level rooms are 26 sqm but with floor to ceiling windows and a clever, uncluttered configuration, they appear even more spacious. Colour schemes are rich and bold as befits a disruptive brand like Aloft and there’s a lovely local reference thanks to specially commission artwork on display over the bed.

Aloft Dublin – Sustainability & Technology

Behind the scenes, Aloft is pursuing an uncompromising sustainability policy which, for guests, means no single use plastics (straws are cardboard and dispensers are provided in lieu of miniature shampoo and conditioner) and compostable to-go cups (to take away your morning Nespresso).

Technology is also in evidence around the hotel, most notably in the shape of robotic room service (room service is often robotic in my experience but at Aloft the robotic service is actually delivered by a real, live robot!). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hotel with such an impressive proliferation of charging sockets, all located where they should be – two sockets with USB slots on either side of the bed, two sockets on the side of the desk … all visible. all accessible, no socket requiring knowledge of a yoga pose to get to!


Meeting and banqueting space will be added later this year while next month will see the launch of a new gastro-pub that’s part of the Aloft footprint and interconnects with the hotel. In the final stages of readiness, I was privileged to visit a magnificently appointed pub, at once traditional and contemporary, that’ll provide a perfect “Dublin” counter-point to the urban cool of the main hotel.

So, yes, Dublin has changed and continues to change, balancing an eye on the future with an eye on the past, respecting where we’ve come from while rushing headlong into a hugely exciting future. Aloft Dublin represents this crossroads: a global brand, located in the most Dublin of locations, contemporary and cool yet traditional and reassuring. It’s the the perfect place in Dublin from which to launch your re-discovery of this evolving city.

Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney and Aoife McCrum are SoolNua, a specialist agency advising destinations, hotels & venues on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events market. 



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