The Ballygarry House in Tralee is one of the finest hotels both in Ireland, and in all of Western Europe. Recently we spoke with owner Padraig McGillicuddy about his roots, his business, and world-renowned Irish hospitality.
What is your own ethnicity/heritage?
100% Irish, as is everyone who came before me. My second name is McGillicuddy which is the name of the largest mountain range in Ireland, and I guess we came from there some time ago.
When and why did you get involved with the Ballygarry?
I wanted to be 2 things since I was a child. An hotelier & a helicopter pilot… thankfully I achieved both & fly my own helicopter all over Europe regularly. Our house was next to the hotel & we were pulled in to help once we had 4 healthy limbs! I took over in 2003 when my father passed away as a young man. I was 28& had been managing a 5 star hotel& had trained in Hotel Management College in Ireland & Switzerland. It was a challenge at such a young age to take over from such a prominent hotelier. Thankfully I was surrounded by great staff.
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
Owner, Financier, General Manager, leader, motivator, trainer, innovator, therapist, stratagist, server, barman, waiter and a general everybody…!!!
What are the challenges involved?
My greatest challenge is recruiting the correct staff. This is something that our HR manager does well but to find the talent at a supervisory or managerial level is getting more challenging. I decided many moons ago to promote from within. Seek out talent, harness it, motivate it, promote it and monitor it. We can all build hotels…………building the team is the true challenge of an hotelier. Our team is made up of over 100 Irish and 50 non-nationals.
What are the rewards?
The reward is 100% in guest satisfaction. This is the true measure of our success. The financial reward is a bi-product of this.
What is the facility’s history and current mandate?
The hotel started as a small 15,000 square foot house in my grandfather’s time in 1958, my father took over in 1968 and evolved into a 30,000 square-foot hotel and is now almost 90,000 square feet. It has evolved from a small county house hotel to a large leading hotel in Ireland ranked in the top 10. We have just completed a 5 million Euro development over the past 2 years. We have spent 11 million since 2003 on achieving a master plan for the future.
Who are your core clients?
Primarily Irish local and domestic guests. Overseas markets are UK, US & European mostly.
How do you reach them?
Firstly by word of mouth thorough positive experiences, and secondly by reinventing ourselves. We had an aging demographic that we recognised was going to be a problem. We reached out to kids by doing events like, Easter Egg hunts, Scary bedtime evenings at Halloween, Doing entrepreneurial talks for local schools & reaching out in general to the next generations to come. This has been an enormous success.
What can they expect to experience there?
True Irish hospitality at a world class level of service & facilities.
How do you differ from your competition?
By excelling with attention to detail & going the extra mile
How has the internet helped your business?
It has revolutionized our business – more so through social media. For the first time there are platforms to give real time reviews! That will keep you on your toes!
Is enough being done to promote tourism in Western Ireland?
There are 3 main promoters forIreland as a destination that are all doing a great job, Tourism Ireland are based overseas in many countries to get the message about this little green island out, Failte Ireland promote the tourism within Ireland & look after the guests Irish experience but lastly it’s the people of Ireland who will make you want to come back.
How can that be improved?
By continually evolving. I travel a lot throughout the world with my wife & I have to say it’s hard to beat Ireland for the quality of life, quality of food, scenery, drink, genuine Irish craic and overall experience. So long as people continue to experience this we will have a long future in Tourism.
What are your future plans for the facility?
I’ve been building and extending the hotel for 13 years now. For the moment I’m going to sit back and enjoy our guests from all over the world & the stories they bring…and do a bit more flying!!