Corrs Corner

Editor Frank Corr gives his views on the hospitality and tourism industries, shares anecdotes and gossip and welcomes your contributions.

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Back to Basics

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar told the RAI Conference this week about a 'very productive' meeting he had with Paul O'Toole, ceo of the new Solas training agency, regarding the future training of hospitality staff.

Both men are aware of the yawning gap which now exists in the training area with Failte Ireland abandoning craft training and nobody around to do it. As a result restaurants have great difficulty in finding skilled chefs and, to a lesser extent, servers.

Minister Varadkar talked about the need to find 'the right space' for chef qualifications, so that trainees entering the industry can perform without being over-qualified. He is on the button in this. Young chefs hardly need to learn about the history and culture of gastronomy or the finer points of the culinary arts. They need to know hygiene practices, have basic preparation and cooking skills and the stamina for long hours of work on basic pay.

The former CERT did this training exceptionally well in a 13 week course which saw thousands of young people find jobs in the industry during the 'Good Old Days' of the 1990s. All Solas needs to do is get a hold of those training manuals and start again.

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Two Ministers

Many organisations struggle to get a Minister to attend their annual dinner or conference- but the Restaurants Association of Ireland 'netted' two this week. Despite all the mayhem in the Dail Leo Varadkar found time to be at the RAI Conference where he delivered a typically brisk and informative address during which he complemented the Association on its 'Keep 9% VAT' campaign. The acknowledgement was welcome for ceo Adrian Cummins who managed the campaign but who was gazumped by IHF President Micheal Vaughan who got all the tv coverage on Budget Day.

The RAI Double was completed in the evening when Minister of State Michael Ring was guest at the President's Dinner.

Incidentally- I now have something in common with Minister Varadkar- we are both recipients of the RAI's Mike Butt Award, named after the Associations founder.

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French are 'Most Rude'


For once we can be happy that Ireland does not feature in a tourism poll. A survey conducted by an international travel search site reveals the French have taken the title as the 'rudest nation in the world'. Taking 19% of the vote, the French have been known by many of their European neighbors for their abrupt and curt nature, especially when dealing with foreign tourists, which has often been taken as rudeness by visitors.

However, surprisingly China was ranked fifth in the poll, deemed ruder than Americans.  Brits were voted third rudest nation, taking 10% of the vote. The accolade comes just months after Brits voted themselves the world's worst tourists.

At the other end of the scale, Brazilians, those from the Caribbean islands and Filipinos were voted least rude.


World's Rudest Nationalities:


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Titanic Centre is World Claass

Finally, Ireland has a world-class contemporary visitor attraction with the opening of the Titanic Centre in Belfast. A visit yesterday was a revelation in terms of the quality of the centre and the level of business it is attracting.

Even before we arrived at the centre the taxi ride from Belfast Central opened up a new vista of a modern, confident Belfast. The area around the Docks, which I remember as being semi-derelict a decade ago has been transformed into a modern urban precinct with offices, residential blocks, entertainment venues and now the iconic building that is 'Titanic'.

Rising from the flat waterside like the giant ship which it commemorates, the building creates an immediate impression of strength and beauty with its multi-angled cladding and spacious plaza. Inside is a large lobby area with a busy self-service bistro and coffee shop which was serving a constant queue of visitors. Food in the bistro is creative and appetising but service is slow because of the necessity to heat up items from the salad section.

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Tripping TripAdvisor

Not for the first time do I find myself agreeing with chef Oliver Dunne of  Malahide's Bon Appetit restaurant, who backed the Carlton Hotel Grioup over the weekend.

Carlton was in the news last week, accused of encouraging staff to post positive reviews of their hotels on TripAdvisor.

'Fair play to them', said Oliver.

'Fair play to them' say I.

Fiirst up- who knows a hotel better than the staff and if they post positive reviews they know what they are talking about. Conversely of course disgruntled employees can post negative reviews.

TripAdvisor may be hugely popular, but it is a flawed system which allows reviewers to remain anonymous without any check on their genuineness, motivation or knowledge. It is therefore wide open to abuse from rival hotel and restaurant owners or from mischief-makers. In these circumstances, I don't see why hotels cannot also use the syetem to boost their ratings.

Sorting out TripAdvisor is a job for its management- not for the hotel industry.




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