Why did you want to stand as president of the Irish Hospitality Federation?
When I came back into the business after education and teaching at Shannon School of Hotel Management, it was a natural progression to get involved. I joined the local branch of the IHF and served as vice chair and chair. “The legacy of my mother from an early age gave me a great grounding in the business and the federation, it was great training.” She said.
What had you planned for your term of office?
When my tenure started, Covid -19 was something happening somewhere else and it was not on our radar. I had a ten-point programme of what I would be focussing on. It was:
- A sense of tourism – for tourism to be at the heart of the Government’s economic agenda.
- Employers of choice – as an industry we would work on how we would deliver tourism as a career choice.
- Sustainability – to be at our core with a strong green programme and to work towards being carbon neutral.
- Enhance our own research capabilities – If data was required, we didn’t have it. But now we are really good at getting data from our members.
- Celebrate success – when we do things really well, we should learn to shout about it.
- Make IHF as relevant to our members as possible. Covid-19 brought out the best in our members, a willingness to help each other and take on new projects. “That is the thing I felt the most, a sense of community and a coming together,” she went on to say.
- Set a new bar – in terms of best in class on a global stage.
- Embed tourism in the Irish school system – bring tourism into the classroom from early on. Not just as part of geography, business studies and home economics.
- The challenges of seasonality to be better managed.
- Paving the way for a balance between work and life. Hopefully we will be better at it in the future.
The IHF and VAT rate
When it comes to the VAT rate, Ms Fitzgerald Kane is with Fáilte Ireland that the rate at nine per cent is the correct rate for Ireland. The Government has reduced the rate of 13.5% until September 2022. It puts Ireland in the middle of the VAT rates across Europe rather than second highest after Denmark.
She said, “people need reassurances particularly when it comes to contracting. Messing around with the VAT rate confuses the message.”
Skillnet, Training and Recruitment
There are two types of cohorts for the tourism industry, those who choose it as a career and those who are studying something else but do not necessarily choose hospitality as number one in their career.
Skillnet has been really important as it provides bespoke training at all levels. It also provides for on-site education. The Education Training Boards are also helping to frontload hospitality education along with the Technical Universities.
The hospitality industry has been supported by more students than ever this year. How will your industry manage when they return to schools and colleges?
“This is a big conundrum,” said Ms Fitzgerald-Kane, “we do not know what we are facing in September and October. “Apart from the students, recruiting outside the EU is a challenge. “The permit system is not fit for purpose,” she went on to say. “you try to bring someone from overseas it can take up to four months. The restrictions are quite onerous, i.e. wages must be above €30,000 per annum. And there is a cost that is non-refundable, if it does not work out.”
Will indoor hospitality reopen as planned?
It is a very difficult balance the Government has to weigh. There is no sense of what is going to happen. The implications for not opening is hard for people who have been out for business for so long.
Government support has been very welcome but people do want to stand on their own two feet. “No amount of support is going to sustain businesses in the long run, we in the industry are having a cash burn every month,” Ms Fitzgerald Kane said.
Biography – Elaina Fitzgerald Kane is the 38th President of the Irish Hotels Federation. She is a Director of Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel & Spa, a family-owned, four-star hotel at Adare, Co Limerick. The 89-bedroom hotel, which has a team of over 200 people, was established by her parents, Mary and Dick Fitzgerald in 1983. Mary Fitzgerald is a former President of the Irish Hotels Federation.
A graduate of the Shannon School of Hotel Management, NUIG and UCD’s Smurfit Business School, Elaina has been an active member of the IHF for many years. She serves as a member of the Federation’s National Executive Council. Prior to her election, she was Vice-President of the IHF. She has also held the position of Chair of the Shannon Branch of the Federation.