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Chairman’s Welcome

The board of AVEA are delighted to announce the details of our inaugural conference programme for March 21st 2018. We have tailored the conference to meeting the interests and learnings that members outlined as being of primary interest to their business at our Kilkenny Forum Meeting. We have a terriffic line-up of speakers that will make for a really interesting and engaging event. The conference is Free to AVEA members and we can accommodate two representatives from each organisation. Spaces will be allocated on a first come first serve basis and booking will be open to members exclusively until February 26th. Thereafter any remaining spaces will be made available to non-AVEA members at a cost of €100.00 per delegate. Our networking evening provides a really great opportunity for members to do just that – meet and share experiences on all aspects of the business. There is a charge of €30 to cover the cost of dinner and drinks for this evening. This is exclusively for AVEA members only. So, don’t miss your opportunity to attend and participate in Ireland’s only visitor experience & attractions national conference.

Paul Carty
Chairman, AVEA



AVEA Members Only - €30.00 Per person
Date: March 20th
Where: Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar
18.30 – 19.00 PM Registration & Welcome
19.00 – 21.00 PM Networking evening

Meet with colleagues, fellow AVEA members and AVEA partners. Casual dining & drinks included with stunning views of the capital city and the venue for tomorrows conference in the distance, Croke Park Stadium and GAA Museum. A great opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another.

Location Map

CONFERENCE - Ireland Progressive Visitor Attractions Industry, Planning for Future Success

Date: March 21st
Where: Croke Park Stadium
9.30 - 5.00 PM
Non Members rate - €100

We have designed the programme to deliver interesting insights, practical implementable solutions for key areas of members businesses and global thinking and trends that will enable our sector to plan for the future and continue to deliver world class authentic experiences to our visitors. We are delighted to have such a terrific line up of speakers and panelists and we are very grateful for their time and expertise in making our inaugural AVEA Conference an inspiring and valuable day.

Location Map

Session One: Introduction and Welcome

9.30 AM
Registration & Arrival Refreshments

10.00 AM
Welcome & Introduction by Chairman Paul Carty

Session Two: Setting the Context

10.20 AM
Charles Coyle, General Manager of Tayto Park will provide us with the fascinating story of creating Ireland’s most successful theme park. Charles will outline the decision making process in the development of the business, the future plans and the ingredients for success as well as sharing some of the lessons learned along the journey of creating Tayto Park.

11.05 AM
Tourism Agencies – Supporting & Promoting the visitor experience & attractions sector
Mark Henry, Director of Marketing, Tourism Ireland will provide us with an overview of Tourism Ireland’s activities in promoting visitor attractions globally, particularly in the digital space and the importance of our sector engaging in the digital marketing space.
Paddy Mathews, Manager, Visitor Attractions Unit, Failte Ireland
Paddy has recently been appointed head of the visitor attractions unit and will provide an overview on how his department and colleagues work to support the development of our sector nationally.

11.40 AM
Comfort Break

11.45 AM
Esther Dugdale, Creative Director, Event Communications
Event is the leading experience design agency in Europe, recognised internationally for its consistent ingenuity, design and storytelling excellence and exemplary project management. Esther will illuminate us with emerging trends in the visitor experience sector that influence their approach to creating innovative and excellent design solutions for the sector.

12.30 PM

Session Three: The Global Picture

1.30 PM
Keynote Speaker Nick Varney – CEO Merlin Entertainments
Nick has more than 25 years of experience in the attractions industry and has led United Kingdom-based Merlin Entertainments since the company was formed in 1999. Merlin Entertainments is a global leader in location-based family entertainment, operating more than 100 attractions in 24 countries across four continents, including amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, observation wheels and towers, hotels, and holiday villages. The company entertains more than 60 million guests annually worldwide and employs approximately 27,000 people. Nick leads a company with a diverse portfolio, and we can all learn from his unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges ahead for the global attractions industry.

Session Four: Panel Sessions – Moderated by Pól Ó Conghaile, Travel Editor The Irish Independent, Independent.ie

2.15 PM
Food for Thought & Revenue
The importance of the food experience in the Visitor Attractions business is often key to generating revenue. Our panel of food professionals will provide interesting insights and ideas.

Jacinta Dalton, GMIT
Eveleen Coyle, Fab Food Trails
Gráinne Kelliher, Airfield

3.00 PM
International Group & FIT Visitors – The Tour Operators Role & Requirements
Understanding the distribution channel of the Irish & global Tour Operator is key to delivering to their customers. Our panel will discuss and provide key insights into working with the travel trade, global and local trends and feedback from the international escorted group tour consumer.

Darren Byrne, President, ITOA
Stephen Cotter, CIE Tours
Christine Upton, Tracoin London
Ann Kilcoyne, Glasnevin Trust
David McCoy, The House of Waterford Crystal

3.45 PM
Coffee/Tea Break

Retail Sales

3.55 PM
Jennifer Kennedy, Managing Director JK Consulting will provide some key insights on making the most of retail in your business – the do’s and don’ts to success in managing your retail space and getting your customers spending.

Closing Session

4.35 PM
Paul Carty – Chairman – Conference Close


Session Two - Setting The Context

Charles Coyle
General Manager, Tayto Park

Charles joined the team prior to opening in 2010 after completing an Honours Degree in Business and Management in DIT. Charles’ first role was as Purchasing Manager when he joined in 2010. Since then he moved to Operations Manager and finally in 2014 General Manager. Tayto Park recently had their most successful year ever and plans for the future include a themed hotel and many new exciting rides.

Mark Henry
Central Marketing Director, Tourism Ireland

Mark is an insight-driven, strategic marketer and an established leader in deploying new media marketing. He leads the Central Marketing Division of Tourism Ireland – the public body responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas. Mark 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.

Paddy Mathews
Head of Attractions, Failte Ireland

Paddy Mathews is Head of Fáilte Ireland’s newly established Attractions Division. He was previously Head of Investment & Innovation and is responsible for the implementation of Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Investment Strategy 2016-2022. He joined Fáilte Ireland in 2006 and recently worked on the development of the Wild Atlantic Way. Paddy is a qualified town planner and also holds a masters in Irish Heritage Management. Prior to joining the Heritage Council, Paddy was a Director with John Cronin & Associates, a consultancy specialising in heritage conservation and planning. He also previously worked with the Heritage Council, based in Kilkenny.

Esther Dugdale
Creative Director, Event Communications

Esther joined Event’s design team in 1994 and was appointed Creative Director of Event in April 2008 to lead the creative outputs of the design studio. Esther’s particular strengths lie in her creative vision and clear-minded, holistic approach, working with clients and their curatorial and education teams to develop innovative, well planned, articulate and engaging collections-based exhibitions. The many award-winning projects that Esther has delivered include the Riverside Museum and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, both in Glasgow, M-Shed in Bristol, London’s Royal Institution, Clore Interactive Gallery at Manchester City Art Gallery, the Commandery in Worcester and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.

Session Three - The Global Picture

Keynote Speaker

Nick Varney
CEO, Merlin Entertainments

Nick has over 25 years’ experience in the visitor attractions industry and was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments in 1999. Prior to Merlin, Nick was Managing Director of Vardon Attractions and a main board Director of Vardon plc. In 1999 Nick led the management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments. In 2005 he initiated the process which led to its acquisition by Blackstone and subsequent rapid expansion, taking the Company to its 2013 listing on the London Stock Exchange. Before joining Vardon Attractions, Nick held senior positions within The Tussauds Group (then a part of Pearson plc), including Marketing Director of Alton Towers and Head of Group Marketing. He started his career in FMCG marketing first with Rowntree and then Reckitt & Colman.

Session Four - Panel Discussions

Moderator Pól Ó Conghaile
Travel Editor, The Irish Independent, Independent.ie

Pól Ó Conghaile is Travel Editor of The Irish Independent & Independent.ie, a regular contributor to National Geographic Traveller and the author of several books including "Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide." He has been reporting on food and travel trends in Ireland and overseas for more than a decade, and is a widely-travelled speaker, host and contributor to national TV and radio. Find him on Twitter at: @poloconghaile.

Session Four - Panel I. Food for Thought & Revenue

Jacinta Dalton
Head of Department for Culinary Arts & Service Industries, GMIT

Jacinta was a member of faculty in GMIT for the past seven years lecturing in Management, Marketing Principles and Food & Beverage Skills & Service. Prior to joining GMIT, Jacinta worked as a freelance mentor & trainer to the food and hospitality sectors and has had direct operational experience at senior management level over the past 20 years. Jacinta is one of Fáilte Ireland’s appointed food champions for The Wild Atlantic Way. In this role, Jacinta takes every opportunity to promote Galway, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland as a food tourism destination and is a strong advocate of food education for young children. Jacinta continues to have close links with industry, and in a voluntary capacity consults with a number of food festivals and events in the region. Jacinta is a member of the steering committee for Galway’s candidacy for European Region of Gastronomy 2018 and has been appointed to the Executive Board of IGCAT, the International, Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts & Tourism.

Eveleen Coyle
Founder and lead guide, Fab Food Trails

Founder and lead guide for Fab Food Trails, Eveleen Coyle was born and raised in Dublin. She lives in the city and is an experienced family cook and cookbook author. Eveleen devises and plans tasting trails along with the great Fab Food Trails guides in order to showcase both the traditional and contemporary Irish table to visitors and locals alike. Eveleen keeps abreast of all the new and exciting food developments in her native city and is proud of the fantastic produce of this island nation.

Grainne Kelliher
CEO, Airfield Estate

After 25 years in the corporate world (from Disneyland Paris to Quinlan Private to Aramark), Grainne took up the role as CEO of Airfield Estate to establish it as a place that inspires people to connect with the land and the food it produces by using Airfield’s farm, gardens and natural surroundings to deliver highly enjoyable experiences and opportunities for active learning. She is driven to preserve and sustain Airfield Estate for future generations whilst always being true of the wishes of Letitia and Naomi Overend, who set up the charitable trust in 1974. Grainne grew up on a dairy farm in Kerry and is passionate about all things food, from production, to consumption, to waste.

Session Four - Panel II. The Tour Operators Role & Requirements

With thanks to Tourism Ireland for their support of this panel.
Darren Byrne
President ITOA – Irish Tour Operators Association

Darren Byrne is Finance Director of the Abbey Group, a collection of travel companies based in Dublin, Edinburgh and London that sell the destinations of Ireland and the UK to the worldwide travel trade on a B2B basis. In 2012, Darren joined the board of the Incoming Tour Operators Association, the representative association of Ireland’s premier inbound tour operators and DMC’s. In January 2018 he was appointed as its President. He is also Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in Ireland (FCCA). Darren is a graduate of University College Dublin, he spent twelve years in London, working in senior finance roles in both the music and retail industries before moving into the tourism sector upon his return to Dublin in 2008.

Ann Kilcoyne
Sales & Marketing Manager, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

Having worked in the tourism industry since 1984, Ann joined Glasnevin Trust in 2013 as sales & marketing manager of the Museum & Visitor Experience. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum is a not-for-profit organisation, whose aim is to deliver the fascinating stories of Ireland’s Necropolis and the many renowned historical figures from the worlds of politics, arts and sports that rest within the cemetery and in so doing continue the work of restoration and preserving the cemetery's monuments and historic graves. The guided tours provide an inspiring and moving account of some of the 1.5 million people buried within the walls and since opening in 2010 has welcomed 100,000 visitors PA.

Stephen Cotter
Chief Operations Officer, CIE Tours International

CIE Tours International is a wholly owned subsidiary of the CIE Group. During 2017, CIE Tours International carried 50,000 passengers, creating turnover of $120 million. Stephen joined the CIE Tours in 2001, with responsibility for both finance and technology. As Chief of Operations for Ireland and the UK. He has responsibility for all supplier contracting, quality control, daily operations and logistics across the company’s scheduled coach tour, customised group, private driver and FIT business.

David McCoy
Commercial Director, House of Waterford Crystal

David McCoy is a Sales & Marketing professional, having qualified with a Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS) and Masters in Business Administration (MBA). David is from Dublin and resides in Co. Kilkenny. Waterford Crystal is part of the Fiskars Group. David has been with Waterford Crystal since 2000 and is currently Sales & Marketing Director at the House of Waterford Crystal. David manages Fiskars Living Business in Ireland which includes the Waterford Crystal Brand, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton & Royal Albert. David takes an active role, in Tourism & Leisure Marketing, is Chair of Visit Waterford and is a Board Director of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC).

Christine Upton
Senior Supplier Relationship Manager, Tracoin Services LTD

Christine Upton is Senior Supplier Relationship Manager with Tracoin Services Ltd. She has worked with Tracoin for 7 years and her career in tourism spans over 36 years. In her role as Supplier Relationship Manager she contracts visitor attractions and experiences in Ireland and all over Europe. Tracoin is the global contracting division for The Travel Corporation which has over 40 travel brands including Trafalgar, Brendan Vacations, Insight Vacations, Contiki, U by Uniglobe, Uniworld rivers Cruise Collection. Our Philosophy is simple – to create enriching experiences for travellers by combining an unbeatable mix of exceptional service and quality at great value.

Session Five - Retail Sales

Jennifer Kennedy
Founder, JK Consulting

Jennifer Kennedy is the founder of JK Consulting, a retail consultancy specialising in tourism and heritage. Drawing upon years of direct, front-line experience and deep industry knowledge, Jennifer creates strategies for growth, new store concepts, product development, retail branding and team development. Her most recent clients include, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Slane Whiskey Distillery, Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Heritage, Blarney Woollen Mills, Christ Church Cathedral and the Medieval Mile Museum to name but a few. Prior to establishing JK Consulting, Jennifer served as the Head of Retail at the Guinness Storehouse for a 12- year term. She led a large team, providing strategic and commercial direction to deliver a hugely successful retail business. She has also worked with other leading brands including Brown Thomas, Pringle of Scotland, Habitat & Next. Jennifer has also written for the Female Career Society and has presented at conferences for Retail Excellence Ireland, The Heritage Council of Ireland, Bank of Ireland and A.C.E (Association of Cultural Enterprise)