A Day in the Life . . . Aine Kearney, director of Business Support and Events at Tourism Northern Ireland
This month HRNI speaks to Aine Kearney, director of Business Support and Events at Tourism Northern Ireland.
Aine Kearney, director of Business Support
and Events at Tourism Northern Ireland
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
As director of Business Support and Events at Tourism Northern Ireland, I am responsible for three key areas of development work centred around enhancing the Northern Ireland tourism experience and driving competitiveness of businesses and the destination. The first key area is events organisation and support, including major events such as this year’s Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink programme, which are key to driving a new positive perception of Northern Ireland. The second area is industry development and business support which delivers programmes to support development in our local businesses and lastly helping drive the quality of the visitor experience through certification and grading schemes which include advisory services.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
My career in hospitality started from an early age; my first job was baking buns for a local café and I have had a passion for the industry ever since. I worked as a waitress and in various customer facing retail positions whilst studying at university for a BA Hons in Business Studies. Since then I have progressed through various sales, marketing and business development management and consultancy roles across a variety of sectors including hospitality, construction, manufacturing and tourism in the USA, Australia and Northern Ireland. Since joining Tourism NI, I’ve had the chance to manage and direct signature projects including the Titanic Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway; and supporting the development of local destinations and the Northern Ireland brand.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
Working with such a diverse and talented industry and seeing it grow year on year is the best part of my role. Long hours are part and parcel of the job and the hospitality industry but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
The hospitality industry is like a mini ecosystem. Unlike other sectors where businesses are very much focused on what they do themselves, for Northern Ireland to deliver an amazing visitor experience we need to join up the dots and work together – from the taxi driver picking up the tourist to the hotel receptionist, local pub and eatery to the everyday person on the street – tourism is everyone’s business and we all have a part to play.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
There is no such thing as a typical day for me, every day is different. From supporting or engaging with our local politicians, to being out with or at development events with our many micro businesses, to being part of an opening of one of our amazing local and international events. Major events such as the Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink also mean I get the opportunity to lead on partnership groups to support delivery of the programme’s objectives.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
There have been so many it’s hard to define just one. But if I have to, it’s been the development and success of our signature projects. These were highly aspirational projects with tight timeframes and each experiencing their own set of challenges. It is amazing to now see their successes in terms of visitor numbers and the quality of the experience, including being instrumental in delivering amazing major events such as NI2012, Derry~Londonderry City of Culture and Giro d’Italia not least as spectacular iconic back drops.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE LOCAL SECTOR
The best thing about being involved in the tourism sector is the people you meet and get to work with. There is no shortage of commitment, passion or enthusiasm, and it’s contagious. It’s also fantastic to work on such an important sector that gives back to Northern Ireland in many ways, not least reminding people from Northern Ireland we have so much to be proud of.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
Getting out and experiencing Northern Ireland’s amazing sights, attractions and food with my two children and husband is how I like to unwind away from work. A real passion of ours is walking in the Mournes or swimming in the sea.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I’m an advanced open water Professional Association of Diving Instructors diver and have dived in many places across the world.
“The best thing about being involved in the tourism sector is the people you meet and get to work with.”
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