The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) has announced Michael Lennon as its newly elected president for a two-year term. A fifth generation hotelier with over 25 years’ experience in the hotel sector, Lennon becomes the 37th President of the IHF, succeeding Joe Dolan. The IHF is the leading representative tourism body in Ireland, representing almost 1,000 hotels and guesthouses, which employ over 60,000 people throughout the country.
During his term, Lennon will give priority to addressing the ongoing challenges facing the hotel and guesthouse sector, focusing on ensuring that the right business environment exists to support the sustained growth of Irish tourism. His key priorities include mitigating the risks posed to the industry from Brexit, tackling the high cost of doing business in Ireland, increased marketing and product development support for tourism, particularly in the regions, and the continued expansion of skills and training support for employees within the tourism and hospitality industry.
Lennon said, “Tourism has enjoyed strong growth in recent years. 2017 was a record year for the sector and the signs are promising for 2018. The renewed confidence felt by hoteliers can be seen in the growing numbers employed within the sector with tourism now supporting over 230,000 jobs, making it Ireland’s largest indigenous employer. It is also reflected in the increased investment taking place in hotels, from refurbishment and expansion to new developments, particularly in the case of Dublin, where it is much needed.
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“However, there are serious challenges that need to be tackled to ensure the sustained growth of the tourism and hospitality sector. Chief among these is Brexit, which poses a particular risk to tourism in the regions. Tackling the high cost of doing business in Ireland will help to ensure that the right business environment exists to withstand the negative impact of Brexit. In recent years, we have seen how market diversification and new product development can open up new parts of the country to tourism to great success. We need to build on that success, particularly for those parts of rural Ireland that are in danger of being left behind. And, as an industry, we need to continue to prioritise the development of best-in-class training and skills programmes for our employees, helping them to build successful and flexible careers.
“I look forward to working with the government to ensure tourism remains at the heart of Ireland’s economic policy. We must work closely together to sustain the growth of the Irish tourism and ensure it realises its full economic and job creation potential,” says Mr Lennon. “Our industry has a proven track record of job creation, having created one in every four new jobs since 2011. Given the right support, Irish tourism has the capacity to generate a further 40,000 new jobs by 2021, which would be of tremendous benefit to the economy.”
A native of Co Carlow, Lennon is a graduate of the College of Catering, Cathal Brugha Street. He began his career in Chicago before returning to Ireland, where he initially worked with the Great Southern Hotel Group before joining Brian McEniff Hotels. Together with his wife, Joanne McEniff, he owns and runs the Westport Woods Hotel, which they bought over twenty years ago.