Ellen Redmond might be Dublin’s Grande Dame; smart and stylish, she is quick with the craic, a kind word, good advices – and even quicker with the wine bottle.
“I’m the very best of Irish,” she smiles, “Dublin born and bred!”
“Redmond is an anglicized version of Raymond le Gross, who arrived with the Normans,” she explains. “However, as with many of the Irish who were subjects and often took the name of the masters, only a DNA test will prove if I am Celt or Norman. Or even something else…”
Her love of Eire’s history and heritage, and a natural affinity for people, made a career in her country’s thriving tourism industry an easy choice. After a trial run with Bord Failte (the Irish Tourist Board), Redmond found her fit.
“Clearly we liked each other!” she laughs. “Today I am the International Media Executive responsible for North America, and my responsibilities include drawing up itineraries for, and meeting with, visiting media. My goal is to make each one exciting and different, with something new for the readers or viewers.”
The role, she admits, is not without its challenges.
“Trying to fit everything into the day can be difficult. It’s a busy office with deadlines and complex itineraries that quite often need to be changed at the drop of a hat. Getting on top of, and staying on top of, all new social media outlets is interesting too!”
The rewards, however, are well worth the efforts.
“Reading a print piece or seeing a broadcast is very satisfying, but it is probably the reaction to those who find something unexpected here that’s great. One example is the astonishment at how good the food is. There is an expectation of first time visitors here that it is all bacon and cabbage, but what you get is highly sophisticated cuisine (as well as bacon and cabbage!) that beats any destination I have visited hands down. The surprise and delight of our guests always gives me a kick. And being with someone who is telling the tale of visiting an ancestral homestead or perhaps meeting up with new found cousins is always moving.”
And while the Emerald Isle continues to be a massively popular destination (“I can’t argue with all polls who say it’s our people!” smiles Redmond), the tourism sector is not without its issues.
“The challenges are probably the same facing all destinations. An expanded marketplace for one; Europe hugely increased in size – and competition – with the fall of the Iron Curtain. Currency fluctuations are always a concern. Brexit – Britain is a big market for us and there is a concern that the British market might soften. However we are a resilient company in a resilient industry and will overcome whatever challenges come our way.”
The solutions, she believes, are to be both consistent and persistent.
“Continue feeding the markets with compelling reasons to visit Ireland. We have big idea brands such as the very successful Wild Atlantic Way – the longest defined coastal driving route in the world – and Ireland’s Ancient East, which holds some of the world’s finest examples of prehistoric ingenuity, including a wealth of early Christian monasteries, massive medieval castles and sprawling abbeys, and great landed estates. And we are always future-proofing the industry by investing in new attractions.”
Naturally, Redmond has her own preferred places.
“Well of course I would say Dublin, God’s own country – I love rambling the city streets and see where I end up. I adore Kerry, particularly Valentia Island, and Connemara with the sun shining after rain stuns me with its kaleidoscope of colours. The rainbows around Horn Head in Co. Donegal are jaw-dropping. And Wicklow, with the gorse and heather blooming, is always a treat to take in. Any small island pub at night will transport you back centuries with music and singing, stories and dance. And any, and every, oyster bar. I could go on and on…”
Going forward, Redmond says that her organization will keep investing in Ireland’s many brands – particularly the country’s great capital city.
“The hope is to continue to sustain growth in Dublin by expanding to include the greater Dublin area. In Dublin city centre you are within an ass’s roar of an empty beach or a mountain walk.”
For now, she is busy preparing for a gaggle of visiting Canadian journalists.
“Time to break out the wine,” she smiles with a twinkle in her eye.