Dear Hospitality Industry; Stop Building Hotels and Start Building a Team of Trailblazers

It contributes 6.3% to our GDP and provides an estimate of 265,000 jobs. It generates a sense of local pride and identity, while also stimulating growth in infrastructure, local amenities and culture. It helps to strengthen communities and creates a cultural exchange between locals and the rest of the world. The tourism industry brings so much to Ireland and yet ‘the land of a thousand welcomes’ doesn’t always live up to its name. For every comment made on the spellbinding beauty of the Irish landscape and its warm hosts, there are an increasing number of comments being made on the affordability of Irish holidays, and if the quality matches up to the often-exorbitant prices. The harsh truth is that the industry is simply understaffed, often due to a revolving door of movement between employees who shift from hotel to hotel in search of some semblance of job satisfaction. It’s impossible to provide our guests with the service that they deserve when there aren’t enough hands to go around. The topic of inflation and the cost of running a profitable business is a complex one and often falls outside of a business owner’s control. However, there are things that are within our control, things that will help to bring the tourism industry back from the brink. With an estimated 160,000 jobs and €6 billion worth of revenue lost during the pandemic, the industry has suffered enough, so we want to use this time of reckoning to help bring tourism back even better than before. How? By urging the industry to use this valuable time to re-emerge with a new focus and a new-found commitment to its partners; Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland. We can’t help but feel that this time should be treated as an opportunity to commit to attracting, training and developing people who strive for more than just a temporary job. Before we go on to build these trailblazing teams of passionate workers, let’s first examine and try to rectify the reasons that staff don’t want to stick around.

People in Tourism; why is turnover so high?

Engage your most valuable asset

Employee engagement is hugely important in any industry, but especially in tourism. Since the tourism industry is so inherently customer-centric, we need to make sure that the staff are satisfied, motivated and trained to the highest standard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US announced that turnover in the hospitality industry remains at roughly 70% annually. Though no such figure could be found for Irish specific turnover rates, we know that the staff retention in Irish hospitality is in a similar crisis. What are the main causes for this?

Low Morale- the problem becomes cyclical; staff see their friends and co-workers hand in their notice and it impacts the overall morale and culture of the company. These same staff members are also faced with the frustration of witnessing their peers, who are employed by other industries, receive ongoing training and development with international opportunities. The contrast is often too stark for staff to stick around.

Low Prospects- staff feel hemmed in and limited to a narrow role with little room for progression and career growth, and in most cases, even if progress is possible, there is often no clear path for how to take the appropriate steps forward.

Poor Management- the conveyor belt of staff are often treated as expendable, with a lack of engagement from managers. Staff need to be given feedback, appraisals and support, no matter how transient the contract may seem or no matter how senior or junior the position may be. All staff members should feel valued, no matter where they fall on the organisational structure.

Staff Burn-Out- the working hours in hospitality can often be quite antisocial, but combine this with back-to-back shifts & a lack of career progress, and staff burn-out will always lurk on the horizon.

How Workaway can tackle the industry’s greatest threat

Workaway is the tourism industry’s best kept secret when it should be its most highly sought after resource. Every year we read of the struggles facing the tourism industry in Ireland and every year we are astounded at the lack of enthusiasm for the programme. The process is simple and the rewards are infinite. Simply choose your most promising staff members, those who have that passion and drive, put them forward for the role and we’ll take it from there. Your lucky employee/ employees will get a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in the US with some of the most highly regarded private member country clubs in America. Often when we speak about the perks of Workaway, we tend to focus on how it benefits the individual, overlooking the many game-changing benefits that Workaway offers the organisations who send their staff to the US.

Though it seems counterintuitive to send your most promising staff to work for another organisation (one with far more pleasant weather), we see this as exactly the kind of investment we need to make if we are to bring this industry to the next-level standard and reach its full potential. So, why exactly is the Workaway programme so valuable for organisations looking to level up? Let’s take a look at the points below:

Train & Retain; give them a reason to stay

A recent survey carried out by LinkedIn found that 94% of respondents would stay longer at a company who invested in their training. This statistic is a huge eye-opener in terms of what we might have assumed would be the real motivator for staff. It’s not big bonuses and days off, it’s feeling as though you’ve been invested in and your personal growth is a main priority. Workaway offers training that is absolutely second to none, with an emphasis on classroom style development before beginning the practical work. The on-the-job training is exceptional, providing staff with the knowledge & expertise that they can bring back to your organisation once they return to Ireland. In Ireland, 2019 was the year of the hotel, with 100 new hotels under plans for construction for Dublin alone! Yet, the construction is only half the picture. We think it’s time to lower the focus on building new accommodation and instead spend time building the teams that work within them.

A culture of the best

A recent study by Failte Ireland explored the different features that guests prioritise when staying at a hotel. The higher the star rating, the more the emphasis was on customer service and the warmth with which you are greeted. Guests see personality in how they’re greeted, but we believe that this personality and attitude touches on every aspect of the experience; from how your coffee is poured, to the way your bed is made. If we want to create a culture of perfectionism in Ireland, then we need to create a culture of perfectionism in our staff, and this is exactly the kind of mind-set that Workaway ingrains in its people.


Workaway is a fantastic way to recruit the most premium people for your team. Once our Workaway graduates return from the States, they will want to step up the ladder and embrace new opportunities. So, you know exactly where to look for the team that will raise the bar.

We’ve made the argument for why Workaway could be a huge gamechanger for the Irish hospitality industry. Now, we want to discuss how we can give it the platform it deserves.

Get into Colleges

We hear again and again that young people are crying out for jobs, yet Workaway can create 400 jobs annually and long-term prospects for its recruits. We feel that Workaway needs to be hitting people at the right time, becoming more of a household name amongst colleges. Achieving this will take more than our team showing up at college Open Days. Colleges need to fully engage with us to secure overseas placements for their students, who I’m sure would jump at this opportunity if they were made fully aware of the details by their colleges.

Educate Staff

10.3% of the Irish workforce is employed in the hospitality industry, yet awareness for Workaway is mind-bogglingly low considering the transformative power it can offer the industry. It is the responsibility of managers to make their staff aware of this opportunity and take advantage of this life-changing experience, rather than having them find out through social media or work colleagues. Often, unhappy staff will leave to find more promising opportunities overseas either way, so it can be with your backing, or behind your back; you decide.

In conclusion, we need to play the long game in hospitality

Though tempting to focus on quick wins, especially after the pandemic-battering the industry has taken, we think it’s time to think and act more responsibly. We want to help build a more sustainable hospitality industry fuelled by an attitude that always strives for improvement, with each knock inspiring us to come back even better than before. Responsible tourism is tourism that works in partnership with the local people and this will be something that is felt by guests, international and domestic. We want to start playing the long game when it comes to hospitality, invest in long term goals, build the correct staff retention strategies, dream big and put the correct structures in place to create an industry worthy of our ‘1000 welcomes’ reputation.

Ireland has all the raw materials to make us a top player in hospitality, now we just need to hone our skills and invest in our people and create an industry that the locals are proud ambassadors of. So, if you’re in a position to engage with Workaway and all that it has to offer, ask yourself this; why the hell wouldn’t you?

If you have any questions about Workaway and how you can build the team that raises the bar, get in contact with John Fingleton at [email protected]