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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

O wad some Power the giftie gie us 
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Robert Burns “To a Louse”

The sayings of my late mother have featured previously in this blog. This time I lead with one of her favourites, from Robbie Burns, written originally in 1785, but as valid today as Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 19.10.44ever – “Would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us?”. I quote it in the context of recently finding myself very happily in the company of Ian and Lynn Quartermaine and being given 4 hours to showcase the city to a true doyen of the global MICE industry. Afterwards, and without any prior warning, I e mailed some questions to Ian to which he generously provided the following answers. I present his answers unedited, unexpurged and without comment as a real testimony of how a very experienced meetings and incentives planner sees our destination in 2014.

Airport to hotel from a taxi – what were your initial opinions of Dublin?

Very friendly – the local taxi driver was full of local information and detail, including the weather forecast and some interesting Guinness trivia.  It’s a short transfer by comparison with other cities and that’s a very strong opening plus!

The Shelbourne, The Conrad, The Merrion, The Westbury – Four 5 star properties in the city centre. Were you impressed? 

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 19.14.57Yes, the standards were high and as good as any international destination.  The Conrad, where we stayed, was a pleasant 5 minutes walk through St Stephen’s Green to the main attractions of the city. Although starting to look a little tired, the rooms were of a good size and the service was warm and welcoming.  A quick look at the Shelbourne showed why it was one of the premier hotels in Dublin with iconic public rooms, deep with history. But why the Renaissance brand, that has to be a misbranding if every I saw one? The Merrion, full of class, very luxurious feel about the place from the valuable artwork to the little touches such as the peat in the fire to provide real Irish atmosphere. The Westbury has a magnificent location on Grafton Street and a very superior room product, particularly at suite level.

The Little Museum of Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, The Guinness StoreHouse – 3 attractions in the city. Did they deliver a sense of Ireland’s capital to you?

If you only had a short time these 3 really give a great sense of Irish culture from the modern social history perspective of the Little Museum of Dublin to the rich cultural and artistic appeal of the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin – now there’s a spot for an incentive event if there ever was one!. What a library! Then to top it off one of the most impressive big brewery tours I have ever seen. Many major attractions could learn from the Guinness Storehouse, particularly around visitor engagement from learning how to pull a pint of Guinness to tasting it in a bar with 360 degree view of Dublin.

Walking the streets of Dublin – how did it feel by comparison with other cities?

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 19.16.22I always believe that to really understand a city you have to walk it. Padraic knows the city like the back of his hand and made our “odyssey” easy and enjoyable with plenty of “rest” stops on the way including a great lunch at Hatch & Sons. Dublin is certainly up there with the likes of Prague, Paris, Edinburgh, Brussels as a great city to walk and explore. But a great differential is the genuine friendliness of the locals.

Based on your whirlwind visit how would you start to structure Dublin’s value proposition for MICE?

The key elements of the value proposition would be:

  1. Easy and value access form most European cites and uncommonly good access from the USA and Middle East (Dublin is better connected to the US than many EU capitals);
  2. Good range of hotels to fit most budgets
  3. Good range of mid to large convention space.
  4. Great evening entertainment and spousal program opportunities
  5. Good place to meet and to network
  6. Good value at the moment with Ireland coming out of a difficult time. In some markets Dublin still struggles somewhat with the negative image of Stag and Hen parties

CEO for VisitDublin – would you take the job? what 3 – 5 things would you do in your first 100 days?

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 19.17.41Now there is role I would go for and here’s what I’d do (and some of these initiatives may already be in place:

First, business tourism:

  • Bring all the key groups together and form a tourism business alliance with Visit Dublin as the neutral manager to get Dublin working as a group and winning the bids not as separate entities. This is tough thing to achieve but if you can get it going then Dublin 2 +2 can equal 5;
  • Create a marketing campaign showing that great business can be done in a great city with great connections and great network in iconic and thought provoking spaces – including MICE orientated video content focused on social media). I’d do a mega fam trip – bring 1000 MICE buyers to Dublin and really showcase the city. Then I’d get out and start building the key relationships with the major movers in the space using channels such as ICCA, Site, MPI, PCMA etc..
  • I’d do a separate web offering purely for business tourism and MICE and create an business ambassadors’ programme;
  • Show ease of access and show that Dublin is in a 3 hour window form anywhere in Europe and under 8 hours form USA and Middle East – thus ideal for global meetings. I’d also highlight that limited Luxury or APD tax is paid making it very much more cost effective than London!
  • I’d create sample programmes from small to very large to showcase what can be down
  • Look a the range of activities for network in and around Dublin from Golf, to fishing to cycling etc
  • Provide site selection services to help fund the activities (like London&Parters)

Then, leisure tourism:

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 19.20.05Work closely with current Irish tourist board offering and ensure that the key messages of irish hospitality, warmth is really brought home. Show that Dublin is a place on par with key European cities such as Prague, Paris and that it has to be on everyone’s bucket list to do. Perhaps look at a campaign to say always start or end your European trip in Dublin!

What are your lingering thoughts of Dublin a week after you’ve been there?

Still one of my favourite cities and one which I will promote and always look at for future events and meetings.  Friends, great food and drink and even if we were only there for a day, wonderful things to do.

Ian Quartermaine is a recognized international expert in the hospitality, travel, meeting and event sectors with an entrepreneurial background in key enterprise solutions, commercial acumen, business process improvements and board direction. He has worked with British Airways, Air New Zealand and Helmsbriscoe and now runs the on-line portals Meetingsin and Meeting the World.





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