The message came across loud and clear: “Kerry is safe, ready, and open for business.”
That was the main takeaway from the latest event in the Prosper Series, developed by the Guinness Enterprise Centre to bring the Kerry diaspora together to enhance prosperity in the county. The online event was organised to provide information on how attendees can become ambassadors for Kerry as it deals with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prosper Kerry’s Eamonn Sayers presented the panel, which featured Moira Murrell, Chief Executive of Kerry County Council; Breda O’Dwyer, Research and Engagement Project Lead for Munster Technological University (MTU); and Pat O’Leary, Chairman of the Kerry Tourism Industry Federation.
Moira spoke about #KerryOpenForBusiness, a new campaign launched by Kerry County Council to promote Kerry businesses. She outlined the Safe Destination Programme, which has four key planks:
- Safe Destination Badge: In partnership with the Kerry ETB, Kerry Hotel Federation, and Kerry’s Business Chamber Network, the Safe Destination Badge initiative distinguishes businesses in hospitality, giving them a “stamp of approval.” Almost 4,000 people have already signed up for training in best practice protocols for cleanliness, hygiene, and infection prevention. The training and badge registration are free, and the badge can be used on premises, in marketing material, and on digital platforms. It has been so successful it is being extended to the retail sector.
- Safe Shopping: The Business Advisory Board has been promoting #KerryOpenForBusiness, an initiative incorporating a support helpline for businesses, a restart grant, and research into the best ways to get Kerry open for business. Hundreds of businesses have already registered with the online Open for Business portal. Moira encouraged everyone to think about buying hospitality vouchers and the Kerry “One for All” gift card as Christmas gifts.
- Safe Community: To underline the message that Kerry is open, it is important to highlight that Kerry is safe:
- Media campaigns have been designed to reassure visitors of public safety measures and to support local businesses.
- Information webinars are being provided via the Business Chamber Alliances and Public Participation Network.
- A public information campaign is highlighting the importance of personal responsibility in visitor behaviour.
- A mobility plan is in place to ensure public safety.
- Safe County: Safe streets and spaces are key. Town centre mobility plans have been guided by public safety concerns, the need for economic recovery, and preparation for a phased reopening of the county as per the government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.
As Moira spoke, it became clear just how determined the Kerry business community and their partners are to restoring Kerry’s economy and creating a road map for a bright, prosperous future.
“We’re opening our doors, but in a different way to the way we closed down,” concluded Moira.
MTU: The Power of Stakeholder Collaboration
Breda O’Dwyer opened by asking a very valid question: “Where else but Kerry would have produced a university during a crisis like Covid?” She went on to explain just why Kerry was able to launch the MTU during such a difficult time. “Collaboration is what makes us different in Kerry, and that’s what brought the technological university to the county.”
Cork and Kerry may be committed rivals on the pitch, but they were able to accommodate their different mindsets and come together to think globally by establishing the university. Both counties had developed wonderfully successful educational institutions in their own right, but they were able to create something massively powerful by working together.
Breda highlighted the level of global success that had been achieved by indigenous companies in Kerry, noting that this success can be further advanced by the presence of the university. The combined numbers attending the Institute of Technology Tralee and the Cork Institute of Technology are in themselves significant, but “the intellectual capital of both institutions is phenomenal.”
She acknowledged that the journey to becoming a university was extraordinarily complex, but that complexity is what leads to innovation. By internally motivating each other and encouraging innovation and real-time growth for the South West region, the university has produced a cultural change and a mindset shift, helping to counter the social and economic pull of other regions and retaining and building Kerry’s rich social and cultural life.
Holiday in Kerry
Former managing director of Liebherr Ireland Container Cranes Pat O’Leary became the chairperson of the Kerry Tourism Industry Federation in January 2020. The entity was set up to create an open forum between employers and businesspeople with a vested interest in Kerry tourism, and it established five strategic pillars. However, these had to be abandoned once Covid-19 struck, and the focus now is the financial and economic recovery of the industry. This is a massive challenge, and Pat presented some sobering figures:
- Employment is down 81.7%.
- Revenue is down 76.1%.
- The predicted loss to the Kerry economy is likely to be €1 billion.
Pat presented a series of measures the KTIF believes can act as a template for the survival of the tourism industry nationally. Key among these measures is a brochure being distributed to households across the county, which includes €100 worth of vouchers for use in Kerry hotels, B&Bs, and other accommodation. Other measures include a series of videos presenting lesser known sights in Kerry and featuring well-known personalities talking about Kerry, as well as profiles of people who work in hospitality.
Other creative initiatives include a Kerry Tourism Day, which would involve an open day along the lines of the annual Culture Night, as well as a Kerry Clean Up and a Calendar of Events from Autumn 2020. A new website is also on the way.
Pat ended with a video narrated by Kerry legend Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh that gave a tantalising flavour of just why Kerry is the perfect place for all of us to explore—especially now that our county needs us must. Mícheál puts it best, “The world might have seemed small in the last while but there is still a Kingdom to explore.”
And that Kingdom is very much open for business.