Ask the Manager: Conor Dillon – Dylan Hotel, Dublin

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What started as a summer job collecting glasses quickly became my chosen career, I knew pretty quickly this was the industry I wanted to work in and I was lucky enough to have some really great mentors to guide me along the way. Padraic Frawley of the Cornstore group made sure I got a great foundation in the industry while working with him during college. At 20 I made the move to Dublin and got a role as Duty Manager with O’Callaghan Hotels where I got some great experience working across all departments.

Following a year out to travel I got a fantastic opportunity to work in Bermuda with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts at the Hamilton Princess. I started as a Guest Service Manager and was promoted to Front Office Manager shortly afterwards, it was a phenomenal experience and so much of what I learned there, I still apply today.

In 2010 after three years in Bermuda and four years away I decided to move home. I started in Dylan’s sister property Dunboyne Castle Hotel as Front of House Manager. In 2013 I moved to Choice Hotels as Operations Manager of the Clarion IFSC before starting in Dylan in 2014. Initially my role was Director of Rooms before being promoted to General Manager in January 2018.

When did the Dylan open?

The Dylan opened in 2006 as a fresh new concept and one of Dublin’s first true boutique hotels, with 44 bedrooms. In that time we have added an additional 28 rooms in 2017 with an extension to the property and a complete refurbishment and redesign of the ground floor spaces in 2019.

How has business been this summer?

All things considered, business has been better than initially anticipated. Dublin as a destination has definitely struggled in terms of occupancy but since international travel reopened we have seen green shoots and are positive about the future. The stand out performer for us was our food & beverage, it reopened strongly and performed very well for us all summer.

What type of outdoor dining does your property have?  

We are incredibly lucky given our central location to have two fantastic outdoor spaces in the hotel. The Eddison Terrace at the front of the property and the Nurserie Terrace in the centre of the hotel. Both terraces are covered and heated and really inviting spaces and have a been a blessing during the pandemic. We have built a steady trade over the last 18 months as various restrictions have come in. We offer an all day dining menu with the classics and seasonal à la carte offering which has been well received by our guests.

Dylan Hotel Dublin
The Eddison Terrace

How have you coped with staff shortages, if you had any? 

We were very lucky to have retained the majority of our team and we made sure to recruit early for reopening so we were well placed for the summer. We have noticed since the start of September –as we have needed to take on additional staff due to business levels– that it has been particularly challenging to fill roles across all areas of the hotel. It’s a limited labour pool and we are all competing for the same talent so it’s about making sure you stand out in terms of fair pay, flexible hours and good working conditions.

What changes have you made to enhance guests’ experience? 

We have used the opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships with local businesses to enhance our offering to our guests. During the summer we had a ‘City Discovery’ package that incorporated a Dublin Bay Cruise, we also ran on site pilates on the terrace for residents with our neighbour OSLO Health. For the autumn/winter we are working on creating a spa package in conjunction with Eden One in Ballsbridge.

How are bookings going? What is the autumn looking like?  

Bookings are getting stronger each week, the booking window is very last minute still but with events and matches etc scheduled to return from the 22 October we are expecting to see demand increase further out. Christmas is looking to be very busy for us at the moment which is great to see.

Where do your guests come from mainly? 

Domestic guests continue to be our strongest market since reopening in June, we also welcomed our fair share of guests from Northern Ireland over the summer. The US market returned, albeit in much smaller volumes since August and they are enjoying experiencing Ireland without the crowds. We can see that continuing for the coming months as the postponed trips from 2020 are being taken.

Dylan Hotel Dublin
Suite at the Dylan Hotel

Are there any signs of business travellers returning? 

Thankfully, yes. With each week that passes we are welcoming back more and more of our corporate guests. It started with small numbers in August really and with the return to the office in September we have seen steady week on week increases. It will take some time before it gets back to pre-pandemic levels but the outlook is positive for 2022.

What challenges does Dublin face in light of the low occupancy during the past year? 

Dublin will struggle with occupancy for some time to come. The market is very driven by events and large conferences, corporate travel and international tourism.

The lack of these important drivers over the last 18 months has challenged all Dublin hotels. The good news is that restrictions on gatherings, events and travel are being wound down and the city should start to see tourism and events coming back over the coming months.

Have you any special offers to entice visitors to your hotel?   

We have a number of great packages available at the moment, the most popular would be our ‘Celebrate Together’ package which includes overnight accommodation with breakfast, dinner for two in The Eddison and a bottle of bubbles chilling in your room on arrival. It’s perfect for a romantic night away or a long overdue catch up with family or friends.

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Joan Scales
Joan Scales
Award-winning journalist, Joan has been writing about travel and tourism for many years principally for The Irish Times and lately for travel2ireland. Joan has appeared many times on television and radio talking about the business of travel and all its component strands. She is also a public speaker and has appeared at many international conventions and conferences.

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