'Towards Excellence' Seminar highlights the critical challenges facing the tourism industry.

Maintaining and improving competitiveness is one of the most critical challenges facing the tourism industry. As a result, the identification and increased promotion of principles of best practice and total quality management within enterprises to help build and sustain profitability and enhance productivity and performance is needed. This is according to Dr Tony Lenehan, Director of Training, Quality and Standards with CERT who presented the keynote presentation at the recent 'Towards Excellence' tourism seminar (2nd April) in DIT, Cathal Brugha Street.

The seminar organised by Dublin Institute of Technology in association with Excellence Ireland brought leading industry and academic figures together to discuss performance enhancement strategies that will improve the competitiveness of the tourism sector. The seminar was particularly timely and relevant to the tourism industry as Ireland has dropped from 11th to 24th place in the world rankings of the most competitive countries. This can be attributed to our worsening monetary and fiscal policies along with global events that our outside the country's control.

Pictured at the Towards Excellence Seminar l to r: Ciaran Mulooly, Journalist & Broadcaster and Dr Tony Lenehan, Director of Training, Quality and Standards with CERT

According to Dr Lenehan, 'It is clear that Ireland, like many mature tourism markets, is not a cheap destination and competing on price is therefore, not a viable basis for building competitive advantage. As a consequence, businesses are increasingly seeking differentiation and competing on aspects of quality.'

Seminar highlights included presentations by AIB, the Musgrave Group and Beaumont Hospital. These organisations have experienced similar problems as the tourism sector in terms of customer service issues, recruitment procedures, employee retention and quality standards. Speakers from these organisations highlighted performance enhancing strategies they have developed and used, with assistance from DIT and Excellence Ireland, and how they can be successfully applied to the tourism industry.

Dr Aodán Ó Cearbhaill, lecturer in Management & Marketing, School of Culinary Arts & Food, DIT pictured at the Towards Excellence Seminar

Peter Jordan, Retail Fleet Manger, ICG and Claire McLeod, HR Manager, Hilton Hotels discussed quality improvements they have already made to ensure best practice in their particular businesses. While Detta Melia, and Dr Aodán Ó Cearbhaill from DIT's Faculty of Tourism and Food presented research showing how to improve competitiveness in the tourism industry through measurement and quality auditing.

According to Andy Maguire, Head of Innovation & Industry Services, Faculty of Business, DIT, 'It is essential that the tourism industry takes advantage of the lessons learned by other sectors in terms of innovative strategic programmes, benchmarking and self-assessment procedures to ensure that tourism remains a significant contributor to the Irish economy.'

Ciaran Mullooly, journalist and broadcaster, chaired the event. The conference was organised by the DIT's Offices of Innovation & Industry Services who help industry identify sources of R&D funding, formulate project proposals, provide expertise on commercialisation of research and link organisations with appropriate expertise within DIT Faculties or associated centres. Excellence Ireland is the country's national organisation for quality management and performance improvement. A not-for-profit organisation financed by its members, Excellence Ireland strives to promote the awareness and application of international best practices amongst Irish businesses.

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