Conference Speakers


Check back soon to see this year’s list of speakers.

Feel free to check out last year’s speakers below while you wait




Forum MC

Olivia O’Leary

TV and Radio Broadcast Journalist

Olivia O’Leary has presented television programmes for the last three decades for the British Channels, BBC and ITV and also for the Irish state broadcasting service RTE. She has presented BBC television’s ‘Newsnight’, Yorkshire Television’s ‘First Tuesday’, Thames Television’s ‘This Week’ as well as RTE ‘s ‘Today Tonight’, ‘Questions and Answers’, and ‘Prime Time’. She has won three Jacob’s Awards and a Cross Pen Award for her work in Ireland and a Sony Award for BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Between Ourselves’. As a print journalist, she has written about politics for ‘The Irish Times’, ‘The Sunday Tribune’ and the ‘Sunday Business Post’. She does a political column for RTE’s Drivetime radio programme and two collections of her radio columns, ‘POLITICIANS AND OTHER ANIMALS’ and ‘PARTY ANIMALS’, have been published by O’Brien Press. She co-wrote, with Helen Bourke, the authorized biography of President Mary Robinson, published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Forum Speakers

  • Peter Bellew
    CEO of Malaysia Airlines
    Peter has extensive experience in the aviation and tourism industries working across start-ups and multinationals. Prior to joining Malaysia Airlines, Peter was the Director of Flight Operations with Ryanair.
  • John Brennan
    Managing Director at Park Hotel Kenmare and Dromquinna Manor
    John grew up in the hospitality business. In 1993, he joined his brother Francis in the Park Hotel Kenmare and commenced a development programme that has seen the property double its workforce and extend its season by 3 months. The addition of SÁMAS in 2003, the hotels Deluxe Destination Spa, was a turning point for the hotel and has since seen the hotel listed in the world’s best spas on an annual basis. John has also advised on numerous tourism related projects. He was the creator of D4 Hotels implementing an innovate management and operational platform which returned profits within three months. He is co presenter, with his brother Francis on the highly successful RTE Series ‘At Your Service’. In 2011 together with his wife, Gwen, he bought and refurbished Dromquinna Manor outside Kenmare. In 2012 he opened the estate with a multi mix hospitality business including a Wedding Venue, Boathouse Bistro, Luxury Camping, Self-Catering, Casual Banqueting Room and Marina.
  • Liam Browne
    Co-director of DoranBrowne – specialists in arts and literary tourism
    Liam Browne was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. For many years he worked primarily in the field of literature; he is a former Literature Officer at the South Bank Centre in London, Literature Director of the Brighton Festival and Programme Director of the International Literature Festival Dublin. With Sean Doran, he is the co-director of the multi-arts festivals Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival (2012 onwards), Comment C’est: Paris Beckett (2016) and Frielfest in Derry & Donegal (2015 and 2017). Under their new arts consultancy, DoranBrowne, he co-curated with Sean, Sgt. Pepper at 50 Heading for Home (Liverpool, May 25 - June 16 2017) and the first year of the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace, 12 months 12 books (Bellaghy 2016/2017). His novel, The Emigrant’s Farewell, was published by Bloomsbury. Photo© Cordula Tremi
  • Paul Carty
    Managing Director of Guinness Storehouse
    Paul Carty is the Managing Director at Guinness Storehouse, Irelands No. 1 Visitor attraction, welcoming over 1,750,000 million visitors per annum. Paul began his career at the Storehouse in 1999 when he was headhunted to return to Dublin after 25 years of being a General Manager of hotels for the Forte Group and Le Meridien in London, Bahrain, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Now 18 years into his role as Managing Director, Paul is particularly proud of the positioning of the Guinness Storehouse as a world class experiential brand experience whilst being fully aligned to tourism and became a must-see in Dublin. Paul continuously plays a role in the Tourism Industry, he completed a two-year tenure as Chairman of ITIC, he has been instrumental in the creation of the new association AVEA (Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions) and more recently has been appointed to the Board of Fáilte Ireland.
  • Eoghan Corry
    Travel Industry commentator, author and broadcaster
    Eoghan Corry is a lead commentator on the travel industry on Irish television and radio and editor of Ireland’s largest circulation specialist travel publication, Travel Extra. He has won awards for travel writing on four continents including life time contribution to the industry at the Irish Travel Industry Awards and the Business Travel Journalism Award in London. He is author of more than 40 books on travel, history and biography.
  • Adrian Cummins
    CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland
    Appointed Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland in 2009, Adrian has significantly increased RAI membership as well as established a National Restaurants Awards programme. With a keen interest in politics and current affairs, Adrian has played a dominant role in lobbying for the reduction of VAT in Ireland to 9% for food bills in restaurants. Adrian is currently lobbying for the re-introduction of CERT and sits on the National Hospitality Skills Forum and the Steering Group for the development of a National Commis Chef Apprenticeship Programme. Through his work in the RAI, Adrian has also founded the annual Foodie Destinations Award - a competition highlighting and recognizing the excellent produce, restaurants, talents and foodie destinations that the island of Ireland has to offer. At European level, Adrian represents Ireland at HOTREC, the hospitality industry lobby group in the EU.
  • Seán Doran
    Co-director of DoranBrowne – specialists in arts and literary tourism
    Seán Doran is a former Artistic Director & Chief Executive of English National Opera and Director of four international arts festivals in Australia and UK (1992-2003). He co-founded Happy Days Beckett Festival in Enniskillen (2012), the Brian Friel Festival in Derry-Donegal (2015), the Paris Beckett Festival (2016) with Liam Browne as well as programming the Opening Year for the Seamus Heaney HomePlace (Bellaghy) and the Sgt. Pepper at 50 Festival in Liverpool (2017). Artists he has presented include Valery Gergiev, Alfred Brendel, Yoko Ono, Ian Bostridge, Willem Dafoe, Merce Cunningham, Kylie Minogue, Anthony Minghella, Steve McQueen, Mark Morris, Robert Wilson, Bono, Nick Cave, Philip Glass and former US President Jimmy Carter. For his services to the arts he was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government (2001) and most recently an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Ulster University (2017). DoranBrowne specialises in destination arts tourism consultancy and programming. photo © Bobbie Hanvey 2017
  • John Edwards
    Owner of Wild Waters Adventures
    John is new to the tourism sector. Prior to starting Wild Water Adventures John worked in a family business for 25 years in the service industry. Our recent recession left John unemployed and ready for a change in his career path. With over 30 years’ experience in and on the water of the Kerry coastline and as a lover of his native North Kerry, John qualified as a leader in several outdoor pursuits. In 2015 John and his wife Michaela founded Wild Water Adventures, catering to niche markets providing Wild Swimming and Open Water Swim tours, coasteering and sea kayaking. They have grown the business with an emphasis on excellent customer service. In 2016, they won The Kerryman ‘Best New Business Award’, were featured in an Irish coastal book "At Swim", and in the Irish Independent, "Top 20 Bucket List 2017".
  • Bernadette Enright
    Centre Manager of Hospitality Education and Training Centre
    Bernadette joined the Limerick/Clare Education Training Board in 2014. She set up the first Hospitality Skills based training centre in Limerick training in Culinary, Bar and Restaurant under the Education Training Boards structure. The centre trains 195 graduates annually. Along with several Industry Awards the centre boasts the achievement of the most coveted and prestigious Award “The European Centre of Excellence”. The centre remains the only training and education provider in the country to receive this award from Europe. Bernadette started her work career in management with the P.V.Doyle Hotel Group. She gained extensive experience working internationally in the UK, Istanbul and America in management for Best Western, Trump Plaza and Westin. She then joined Fáilte Ireland where she spent 20 years in various roles as Trainer, Advisor & SME to all sectors in hospitality both in Ireland and Internationally. Bernadette sits on many boards and has worked as the SME for the National Traineeship with SOLAS and sits on the Working Group of the Apprenticeship Commis Chef.
  • Tim Fenn
    Chief Executive of the Irish Hotels Federation
    Tim has over 30 years’ experience in senior executive and consulting roles in the private sector. A native of Cork, he previously held the positions of Chief Executive and Finance Director of FM104. Prior to this, Tim was Corporate Finance Manager with Farrell Grant Sparks, a leading financial advisory firm where he worked across many industries in all aspects of corporate finance and business consulting. He spent part of his early career in the hotel industry working in the family business.
  • Brendan Griffin T.D.
    Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport with special responsibility for Tourism and Sport
    Brendan is a TD in the 32nd Dáil having been previously elected to the Dáil in February 2011 from the Kerry South constituency. He is a member of a number of Oireachtas Committees, including: Transport, Tourism and Sport (Chair) and Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands. Brendan has previously served as a member of Kerry County Council since June 2009, when he was elected from the Dingle Electoral Area. He also contested the 2004 local election in the same area, after which he worked as Parliamentary Assistant to Jimmy Deenihan TD, until 2007, when he established his own business. Brendan believes in striking a healthy balance between his constituency and legislative duties. When in Kerry, Brendan makes a special effort to provide an efficient and accessible service to his constituents and works hard to ensure that everyone has a chance to have their voice heard. In Leinster House, Brendan is a very active participant in Dáil and Committee work and is a frequent contributor at internal Fine Gael policy discussions.
  • Nick Hall
    Founder of the Digital Tourism Think Tank
    With a background in destination marketing of more than a decade, Nick is one of the tourism industry’s leading experts on destination marketing. As founder of the Digital Tourism Think Tank (#DTTT), the leading platform connecting destinations worldwide on topics around digital trends and transformation, Nick has worked with hundreds of destinations helping to navigate the complexities of an increasingly digital visitor experience. Nick has led the industry to think about ‘Destination Transformation’ and the impact the ‘always on’ visitor, the multi-touchpoint path to purchase and the need for organisations to think differently about their approach. At the core of Nick’s message and expertise is the need to stay current, on par with consumer trends, and foster a culture of innovation to remain competitive. Nick and his team connect thousands of tourism professionals each year, through the flagship #DTTT Global, #DTTT Content Campus and leading industry sessions at WTM London, ITB Berlin, ATM Dubai and WTM Africa.
  • Tom Haughey
    Former Executive Director of the DAA and a former Chairman of ITIC
    Tom is an articulate and highly experienced senior manager with over 40 years wide-ranging experience in the aviation and tourism industries. He has worked in public policy, aviation strategy, regulation, forecasting, and industry affairs. He has held senior executive positions in Aer Rianta Head Office, DAA plc, ART Cork and the Shannon Development Company, as well as senior influencing roles in key organisations over the years e.g. IIEA (Treasurer, Director and currently VP), ITIC (Chairman), ACI Europe (Chairman Policy Committee and Liberalisation Task Force), IBEC (Transport Council), and OTMI (Director) among others. Tom has extensive expertise in: Formulation and execution of External Affairs strategy to achieve commercial objectives; Negotiation and implementation of agreed strategies at executive and representative organisation levels; Representing company/ industry interests in Ireland and overseas; Managing regulation and regulatory submissions; Public policy at national and EU levels; and developing commercial/ marketing strategies to achieve financial objectives.
  • Helena Healy
    CEO of B&B Ireland
    Helena Healy is the CEO of B&B Ireland, a marketing and promotional company for the Irish B&B sector. B&B Ireland is a membership based organisation set up to service the business and promotional needs of its members. Helena had almost 20 years’ experience working in Irish tourism. She is responsible for the strategic direction and business development of B&B Ireland. An experienced tourism professional with a demonstrated history of working in the leisure, travel & tourism industry. Helena is skilled in Online Advertising, Management, Business Development, Marketing Strategy, and Online Marketing. Helena holds a Master’s in Business from The University of Huddersfield and various qualifications in the areas of digital marketing and training.
  • Mark Henry
    Central Marketing Director of Tourism Ireland
    Mark is an insight-driven, strategic marketer and is an established leader in deploying new media marketing. He leads the Central Marketing Division of Tourism Ireland and has responsibility for the organisation’s marketing functions on the island of Ireland, with teams based in both Dublin and Coleraine. His remit covers strategy development, research, brand, content, marketing communications, e-marketing, customer service, and cooperative marketing activity with the tourism industry. He has previously led the promotion of national tourism initiatives such as “The Gathering 2013” and “Northern Ireland 2012” overseas. Mark is currently Vice President of the European Travel Commission which unites 32 of Europe’s national tourist boards. Before joining Tourism Ireland Mark was Strategic Development Manager with the Internet arm of Horizon Technology Group plc. Before that again he was Head of Research & Planning for the e-business subsidiary of eircom. Mark possesses Masters degrees in both Psychology and Business Administration.
  • Paul Kelly
    Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland
    Paul was appointed Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland at the beginning of 2017. Paul is leading the tourism agency to build on the great work it has already achieved, including past successes such as the Wild Atlantic Way, The Gathering and Ireland’s Ancient East. He is particularly keen that, as Fáilte Ireland seeks to significantly shape the future development of the sector, that Irish tourism is best positioned to generate the jobs, revenue and increased economic contribution it is capable of delivering for the whole country. A native of Wexford and a Commerce graduate from University College Dublin, Paul is a highly experienced marketing professional and manager. He started his career in Procter & Gamble UK and went on hold senior executive positions with Diageo Ireland, Aviva and the UCD Smurfit Business School. During his career he developed many iconic Irish and international marketing campaigns.
  • David McCarthy
    Head of Hospitality & Tourism, AIB Retail & Business Banking
    David has a wide ranging background. He qualified from the National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM) with an Arts Degree and a Masters Degree in Computer Music. He holds a Masters Degree in Digital Technology from Dublin Institute of Technology. He has experience working in the hospitality industry and has previously held the role of Head Chef in Edinburgh and New York restaurants. David has worked for AIB Bank for 12 years. He was a lender in Business Banking Dublin Central and has extensive experience lending to the hospitality sector through this role. David was appointed into his current role in August 2017. The purpose of this role is to provide specialist industry knowledge as a support tool to front line lenders and to design strategies on how best the Bank can support this important sector.
  • John McGrillen
    CEO of Tourism Northern Ireland
    John took up his post as CEO of Tourism Northern Ireland on 1 July 2015. Tourism NI is responsible for the development of tourism and the marketing of Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to domestic tourists, from within Northern Ireland, and to visitors from the Republic of Ireland. John also sits on the Tourism Ireland Board. John was previously Director of Development at Belfast City Council where his responsibilities included urban development, tourism, economic and international development. Previously he was Chief Executive of Down District Council. During his early career John worked for Short Brothers and the Industrial Development Board, the forerunner to Invest NI, before being appointed Chief Executive of NI-CO, a Belfast based international development consultancy. John is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast. He also holds an MSc in Engineering Computation and an MBA in International Business.
  • Fiona Monaghan
    Head of Wild Atlantic Way at Fáilte Ireland
    Fiona is a tourism strategy and development professional with over 20 years’ experience working in the tourism industry having previously worked with Tourism Ireland, Bord Fáilte and the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group in the US and in Ireland. Fiona currently heads up the Wild Atlantic Way Experience Brand, one a number of experience brands developed by Fáilte Ireland to make Ireland more compelling to international visitors. The essence of the project is rooted in the landscape and seascapes of the West of Ireland. Community engagement and sustainable development are at the heart of the project. Launched in 2014, the project has captured the minds of the Irish tourism sector and the Irish public and has won a number of prestigious accolades including the President’s Prize in the 2015 Irish Landscape Institute awards, the 2016 National Planning Institute Award for Tourism & Economic Development and more recently one of The Lonely Planet’s “Epic Drives of the World”.
  • Moira Murrell
    Chief Executive of Kerry County Council
    A native of Kerry, Moira Murrell was appointed Chief Executive of Kerry County Council in 2014. Prior to this, Moira Murrell served from 2010 to 2014 as Divisional Manager in Cork County Council with responsibility for Roads and Transportation, Water Services, Organisational Development and Economic Development and in the North Cork Division from 2007 to 2010 as a Director of Service for the West Cork Division including Town Manager in Skibbereen and Clonakilty. Moira Murrell worked with Kerry County Council from 1993 and was responsible for Budgetary Management and the introduction of the new Financial Management system to the Local Government Sector. During this period she was the assigned European Officer for Kerry County Council and studied in the EU over a three-month period. Moira Murrell completed her primary degree in the University of Limerick and completed her MA in Public Management while in the employment of Kerry County Council in 1996.
  • Cáit Noone
    Vice President for International Engagement and Head of the Galway International Hotel School at GMIT
    Prior to returning to Ireland in 2005 Cáit was the Dean of the first International Hotel Management School in China – Les Roches Jin Jiang International and has worked in higher education in the UK and Switzerland. Cáit is a member of Irish Hospitality Institute and works with various industry partners in Ireland and overseas. She is the education spokesperson for, and member of, the Taste Council of Ireland. She was a member of the Galway 2020 Steering Committee who supported the Galway bid for designation as a European Capital of Culture and she represents GMIT on the Executive Committee of Galway European Region of Gastronomy designation. She is also a member of the IGCAT (International Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) expert panel. Cáit represents THEA – Technological Higher Education Association on the National Hospitality Skills Oversight Group. In her free time, she is a board member for the Galway charity COPE Galway and chairs the Developing Revenue Committee for the organisation.
  • Pól Ó Conghaile
    Travel Writer & Editor
    Pól Ó Conghaile is Travel Editor at The Irish Independent and A multi-award-wining writer, he is a regular contributor to National Geographic Traveller, where recent features have ranged from the Waterford Greenway to wilderness adventures in The Philippines. Pól is a well-recognised travel expert on national TV and radio, and the author of Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide (Jonglez). He is a regular speaker at travel, media and food events, including this September's National Geographic Traveller Festival in London. Travelling the world from his base in Ireland, he is a father of two, husband of one, and the current British Guild of Travel Writers' (BGTW) Travel Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @poloconghaile.
  • Eoghan O'Mara Walsh
    Chief Executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation
    Eoghan has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) since 2015. ITIC is the representative body of the Irish tourism industry. It works with Government Agencies, Tourist Boards, North and South, Tourism Ireland Limited, the EU, and other organisations whose activities impact on tourism. In particular, the focus is on research, case making and influencing policies, which shape the future of Ireland’s Tourism Industry. ITIC’s membership consists of almost 30 representative organisations, covering all sectors of Irish tourism – i.e. accommodation, access transport, internal transport, visitor attractions, incoming tour operators, ports and airports. Prior to his current role, Eoghan was Managing Director at O’Mara Consultancy, providers of operational and marketing services to companies in the travel and tourism sector
  • Paul O'Toole
    Chief Executive Officer of SOLAS
    Paul is the Chief Executive Officer of SOLAS (An tSeirbhísOideachaisLeanúnaighagusScileanna), the Further Education and Training Authority for Ireland. It is responsible for funding, strategic planning and co-ordinating further education and training programmes. Paul previously held the position of Director General, FÁS. He served as the first Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland from July 2001. Prior to this he worked in BordFáilte from 1990 to 2001 in tourism development, marketing and corporate affairs. An Accountant by background, he holds a Master of Business Studies degree from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business.
  • Con Quill
    CEO of the Irish Caravan and Camping Council
    Con has recently been appointed as CEO of the Irish Caravan and Camping Council (ICC). He has been chairperson of the ICC prior to this appointment. The ICC is the all-Ireland representative association for the caravan and camping sector and comprises over 100 members. Con has over 20 years of experience in the tourism sector having first opened the 4-star Blarney Caravan and Camping Park in Co. Cork in 1994. He is currently a director on the board of Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), a position he has held for the past two years. ITIC represents the Irish tourism industry and works with a number of government agencies, tourist boards both here and abroad and other organisations whose activities impact on the sector through research, case-making and influencing policy. Con also served as President of the European Federation of Camping site Organisations and Holiday Park Associations from 2010 to 2012.
  • Matthew Thomas
    CEO of Shannon Group
    Matthew was appointed CEO of Shannon Group in June 2016. Before moving to Shannon, Matthew was based in Manhattan, leading the $4bn privatisation of La Guardia Airport in his role as Chief Commercial Officer of Vantage Airport Group. He was involved in the majority of Vantage’s thirty airport projects across four continents, as well as being a director of a number of airports in the Vantage portfolio including Nassau in the Bahamas, Montego Bay in Jamaica and Santiago in Chile. Matthew has also held executive management positions at Vancouver Airport (voted the best airport in North America six years running), Liverpool John Lennon Airport (where he was CEO), Larnaca and Paphos in Cyprus, Sydney, Copenhagen and Newcastle airports.
  • Michael Vaughan
    Owner of Vaughan Lodge Hotel
    Michael Vaughan is a fourth-generation hotelier from Lahinch in County Clare. Married to Maria with two children, Daniel and CiallAnn, where they own and run Vaughan Lodge Hotel, a small boutique style property in the village of Lahinch. Michael is a past President of the Irish Hotels Federation and a graduate of GMIT. He is chair of the Hospitality Skills Oversight Group and the Education and Training Committee of the IHF and has been in the vanguard at the development of the new apprenticeships for hospitality. In 2013 he was instrumental in the re-establishing of the Roxborough Training centre in Limerick with LCETB which has had much success in craft training for that region. He is a past external examiner at GMIT and has participated in programmatic reviews at a number of IOT’s. In the past, he has served on the Shannon Regional Tourism Board and a number of development committees. In his time as chair of the Atlantic Way Tourism Pillar in Shannon he first mooted the idea of a coastal touring route from Malin Head to Mizen Head and submitted the idea to the ITIC review of Tourism in the West of Ireland in 2010. Michael is a passionate advocate for balanced Regional Tourism.

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