Ireland has imposed some of the strictest COVID-19 travel regulations in Europe, but the GM and staff of the Conrad Dublin remain positive.
DUBLIN—With Ireland having perhaps the toughest lockdown regulations in Europe—a shutdown that restricted residents to travel of no more than 3 miles within their own counties—hoteliers have had to be inventive, said Martin Mangan, GM of the 192-room Conrad Dublin.
As part of HNN’s Q&A with a GM series, Mangan, who took up the role in April 2008, said his hotel is currently welcoming guests only from County Dublin, but that has not stopped him and his staff reaching out to guests and the local community, especially now that regulations have been relaxed for the holidays.
This scenario comes after a summer in which guests preferred rural and seaside locations, a trend replicated in the neighboring United Kingdom.
“Our property in particular has a strong guest following from Europe and the United States. There has been a national focus on reopening by the holiday season, so our team has been dedicated to creating hotel experiences that really celebrate this festive season,” he said.
Q: It is a given that hotels have the necessary safety and hygiene standards in place, so apart from those what has the hotel done to attract what business there is?
A: “Something our team excels at is going above and beyond for our guests, and this didn’t change during the pandemic. We have launched new food and beverage offerings, opening two new concepts—The Terrace Kitchen & Social House, as well as The Terrace Pantry and Café, new takeaway food options from our afternoon tea to-go, Christmas hampers and authentic Irish grocery items.
“We have also pivoted in looking at news ways to utilize our space, such as converting our Iveagh Suite as an in-house theatre and partnering with a local school to host their students for study-hall period. We also know that at this time people are more likely to travel with pets for comfort and overall ease … so we have also launched a new pet-friendly approach.”
Q: How did that schooling initiative come about? What other community actions has the hotel been involved in during the pandemic?
A: “We wanted to do our part in making sure students could be safe during the school day and offered our meeting space to utilize for their study hall, which offered more space for social distancing. Beyond the school partnership, we have also partnered with Dogs Trust for our pet program and are donating €5 ($6.06) of each room sold directly to this charity.”
Q: How has the hotel evolved its offerings during the pandemic to stand apart from other properties? What else has the hotel done to highlight local heritage and culture for what I assume is an increased domestic clientele?
A: “The Iveagh Suite is one of our favorite locales in the hotel. Its décor and ambiance really transport guests into a sophisticated space influenced by the literary work of Oscar Wilde. Our Terrace Pantry & Café also has a strong Irish connection … and our gourmet Irish Christmas hamper also has a local influence, filled with Micil Irish gin, Anchill Island sea salt, Lismore shortbread biscuits, Gubbeen farmhouse cheese, smoked ketchup and more.”
Q: With vaccines showing huge promise, how are you reaching out to guests to convey confidence?
A: “We are always planning ahead and pivoting as we see change and most recently have launched a selection of vouchers for guests to ‘buy now, experience later.’ We understand that booking habits have changed as a result of the pandemic. Some may not want to be locked in to a reservation, some may want to book last minute, and beyond offering flexible cancellation we saw this as a way for guests to think forward without committing to a date of travel.
Q: Have you changed your distribution model in these last months?
A: “Naturally we are more focused on the domestic market due to travel restrictions. However, we have not dramatically altered our distribution as we continue to see guests from our main source markets, including North America booking, albeit further out.”
Q: From your perspective, what’s going to be different coming out of this?
A: “When you think you have seen everything and been through everything, that is not the case. As in COVID-19, nobody saw this coming. Always expect the unexpected.
“During the past eight months, I have learned that being flexible, trusting in your team and immersing in positivity is the only way to get through tough times. We are committed to staying true to our brand and our Irish heritage, and although this time has been more than challenging, we have really come out of this showing our guests what matters most to us—their safety, giving back to our community and providing a luxury and truly authentic Irish experience once our guests feel comfortable checking back in.”
Q: Can you relate something about your career and the history and operations of the Conrad Dublin? How has Dublin changed since the hotel was opened?
A: “The hotel is built on the former ground of Alexandre College, opposite the National Concert Hall, which used to be the previous location of University College Dublin. The Conrad Dublin when it opened its doors in 1989 was the first branded hotel to open in Dublin in nearly 50 years and marked the end of a crippling recession and a newfound period of prosperity and confidence in Ireland.
“I myself returned to Ireland in the late 1990s, as did many of my fellow countrymen and women who left Ireland to follow their careers.”