Conference Speakers


Forum Moderator

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

  • Ines Batz
    Director of Northern Europe at DER Touristik
    Ines Batz is heading the Northern Europe Division of DER Touristik Central Europe. DER Touristik is a leading company in the travel and tourism industry in the German-speaking countries. Every year, more than 6 million guests travel with the tour operators of the group. The brand DERTOUR is the German market leader for outbound tourism to Ireland. Ines has almost 20 years of experience working in tourism and started her career at Thomas Cook. Previously she was Head of Procurement at Private Safaris, a Kuoni Destination Management Company based in Cape Town, South Africa. Moving back to Frankfurt in 2014 she was Director Indian Ocean before being appointed into her current role in 2017. Ines is part of the steering group hosted by Tourism Ireland Germany with the aim of developing strategies for the German market to drive growth to Ireland.
  • Peter Bellew
    Chief Operations Officer at Ryanair
    Peter is a veteran in the tourism and aviation industry with over 30 years of experience in related fields. In his early career he worked at CIE Tours as a manager in charge of its London operations. He subsequently founded Drive Ireland, Irish Cottage Club and ventured into online travel management with Vbnets/ Wapprofit in 2001. Bellew's first venture into the aviation industry in a management capacity was in 1993 with Kerry Airport. Under his tenure as Director and General Manager, he was credited with being able to substantially increase passenger volume. In 2006, Bellew joined Irish low-cost airline Ryanair as Deputy Director of Flight Operations, and subsequently held various roles, including Head of Sales and Marketing, Director of Flight Operations and Director of Training and Recruitment. In 2015, Bellew joined Malaysia Airlines from Ryanair as Chief Operations Officer and he took up the CEO position in 2016. Peter returned to Ryanair as Chief Operations Officer in 2017.
  • Elizabeth Crabill
    CEO of CIE Tours International
    Elizabeth is CEO of CIE Tours International, the largest Irish-owned tour operator in North America. With more than 15 years’ experience leading sales, marketing and strategy for some of the travel industry’s best brands, she is one of the leading travel and tourism executives in the United States. She took the reins of the 85-year old highly established tour operator in 2016, with a mission to expand the digital footprint of the brand, raise the visibility of Irish tourism expertise and introduce a new generation of travellers to the tour experience. CIE Tours currently sends 50,000 travellers into Ireland and Britain each year. Elizabeth is on the United States Tour Operators Association Board of Directors. A graduate of Smith College with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Crabill is actively involved with the promotion of international tourism and development of new travel experiences throughout Ireland and Britain, for all ages and interests.
  • Brendan Griffin T.D.
    Minister of State for Tourism and Sport
    Brendan is 36 years old and is a former Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. He was appointed Minister of State for Tourism and Sport in June 2017 by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. He is a TD since 2011 and previously served on Kerry County Council, representing the Dingle Electoral Area, and is a former Parliamentary Assistant to Jimmy Deenihan TD. Brendan comes from Keel, Castlemaine, where he is married to Róisín with their two sons, aged 5 and 3. He is a graduate of History, Sociology and Politics from NUI Galway and spent many summers working in the hospitality sector in Kerry before running his own bar for three years, where he also wrote a number of novels, two of which are for younger readers and were published in 2013 and 2014. Brendan is a keen sports fan, having played Gaelic football and soccer throughout his life.
  • 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.
  • Yvonne Holmes
    Head of Business Performance & Analytics at AIB
    Yvonne is currently is Head of Business Performance & Analytics in AIB leading a team of over 80 Data Scientists and Information Analysts, and is responsible for the generation of leading edge insight to drive accelerated business performance. She is a member of the National Analytics Advisory council and speaks at many industry events on the importance of Analytics. Yvonne has led a number of key programmes across AIB Group, including Retail Transformation, Core Systems Replacement, Digital Customer Experience and Enhanced Analytics.
  • Paul Kelly
    CEO 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.
  • James Kenny
    China Country Manager at Tourism Ireland
    James worked in the bar trade in Dublin for over 10 years before he realised he completely forgot to go to college. In 2005 he went to China to rectify the situation. After completing his BA and MA he returned to Ireland and worked in The Confucius Institute in UCD, before going on to start a consultancy and a small tour operator business. He is now combining these experiences with his passion for travel, languages, tech, social media and above all, the Emerald Isle, to grow Ireland’s share of the largest outbound travel market in the world.
  • 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.
  • Eoghan O'Mara Walsh
    CEO of Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC)
    Eoghan is the CEO of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), the representative body for Irish tourism and hospitality interests. ITIC is the umbrella group representing the leading tourism interests throughout the country including airlines, ferry companies, the hotels federation, tour operators, B&Bs, and visitor attractions. ITIC lobbies Government, carries out independent tourism research and insights, and aims to raise the profile of tourism as a key business sector of the national economy. Eoghan has been CEO of ITIC since September 2015. He previously owned and managed O’Mara Travel Ltd, a leading tour operator; Heritage Island Ltd, a marketing company for visitor attractions; and O’Mara Consultancy Ltd, a tourism consultancy business. In his earlier career he was Procurement Executive with Diageo in London and Dublin.
  • Judith Owens
    CEO of TBL International (Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic, Titanic Exhibition Centre)
    Judith is CEO at TBL International Ltd, parent company to the award- winning Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and the Titanic Exhibition Centre. With experience spanning nearly three decades, Judith is one of UK’s the most experienced and established operations management professionals. Judith has an exceptional track record in the tourism, events and media industries. Titanic Belfast has gone from strength to strength under her leadership, welcoming close to 5 million visitors from over 145 countries and winning World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the prestigious 2016 World Travel Awards. Judith has also played a fundamental role in the business’ commercial development to include the operation of SS Nomadic (April 2015) and the Titanic Exhibition Centre (September 2015). Judith currently serves as a board member of Visit Belfast, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, and the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance.
  • C. Noel Sweeney
    Tourism & Transport Consult (TTC)
    Noel has extensive is professional experience in the travel and tourism industry worldwide. Since establishing TTC in 1984, he has been providing strategic insights to public and private sector clients, including the European Commission, the World Bank, national governments, airlines, airports, tourism service providers and travel industry associations. His professional experience includes directing projects for a number of tourism and aviation clients in Europe, the US, the Caribbean and Africa. A UCD psychology graduate, he is a past President and Chairman of the International Travel & Tourism Research Association (TTRA). Noel currently describes himself as a ‘failed retiree’ and is a keen global traveller who divides his time between Vermont and Skerries.
  • Deirdre Wells OBE
    CEO of Visit Kent and Go to Places
    Deirdre was appointed as CEO of Visit Kent in September 2018. Deirdre is also CEO of Go to Places, an organisation created by the company, to deliver services to partners outside of, and in partnership with, Kent. Prior to her appointment to Visit Kent, Deirdre was Chief Executive of UKinbound, representing nearly 400 UK inbound tourism businesses. Deirdre joined UKinbound following 20 years in Government at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She was awarded an OBE in 2007 in recognition of her work in leading the team behind the national memorial services for the UK victims of the 9/11 attacks, the Bali bombings, the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the London 7/7 attacks. A passionate advocate for tourism, Deirdre is a member of the UK Government’s Tourism Industry Council, Chair of the Tourism Alliance, and sits on the Board of the Tourism Society. Deirdre lives in Kent with her husband and two sons.


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