Although still busy with football and other stuff, I did a travel piece last week for top English language Spanish comment and news website Iberosphere, advising people that the best time to learn about Semana Santa in Sevilla is when it’s not Easter. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but given the crowds and hassle of holy week in the city, and the way Sevillanos spend the rest of the year preparing for Easter, it does kinda make sense. Here’s a taster…
El Señor del Gran Poder, carved in 1620 by Holy Week master Juan de Mesa, now resides in a purpose-built basilica on Plaza de San Lorenzo. The deep-purple, cloaked, dark wooden figure dominates the building from his post over the altar, with a mix of intense agony and weary acceptance carved deep into his face. Such sublime pain can be difficult for modern non-believers to fathom, but was presumably deeply resonant when the Spanish Inquisition was burning heretics. Steps beside the altar bring you right up close to the Great Power, for female visitors to kiss his shiny wooden heel.
The rest of the piece is through here on the Iberosphere site. Enjoy. Hopefully.
The excellent European Football Weekends blog ran a report what I wrote about my trip last Sunday evening to see Rayo Vallecano v Real Betis in a top of the table Liga Adelante clash.
As well as pitting first against second in the division, it was also a meeting of two of the worst run clubs in Spain. I’ve written about Betis’ boardroom problems previously for WSC, but had not been fully aware of how screwed up things also were at Rayo before I started reading online before the game.
Once I got close to the ground the fans anger at the club’s owners was clear from stickers and posters in bars and bus shelters, as well as mounted police keeping an eye on things. And then…
Inside, the stadium rang with chants of ‘Rayo si, Rumasa no’ both before kick off and during the game, while banners displayed around the compact 15,000 seater ground included the easily translatable ‘Rayo Vallecano Solución Ya’. My Spanish didn’t stretch to understanding the longer anti-Rivero songs, but the word ‘puta’ was regularly audible. Then at the 15 minute mark the home fans all round the ground simultaneously held up red and white cards, and chanted ‘Rumasa vende ya’, or ‘Rumasa sell now’ . This refrain would have been very familiar to Betis fans. Their version – ‘Lopera vete ya’ or ‘Lopera go now’ – had the same tune and stresses.
There’s an article in this week’s Leinster Leader (P.10 of the Living in Kildare section if you have a copy to hand), about the trip I made to Tanzania this summer to visit a school set up by an Irish priest who was a friend of our family growing up. It was really, really deadly to see some of the stuff donated by my parents years ago. I also saw that there’s still plenty of more work that could be done to help out.
It’s not on the Leader’s website , so for those of you not living in places where the print version is readily available…
Kilcullen-man Dermot Corrigan visits the site of a school established by Kildare people in the 1980s, and sent us this report.
I recognised those worn spanners and socket sets, the grimy engines and gearboxes and even the battered Datsun Cherry and Opel Astra lying outside in the burning African sun. All were familiar from a long, long time back. I was deep in central Tanzania, visiting the Nangwa Technical School and gaping open-mouthed at the tools and cars donated by my parents to family friend, Brownstown native and Palatine missionary Fr Dan Noud almost 25 years ago.
This August, before leaving for Tanzania, I had looked again at the old photos and newspaper clippings from the 1980s. There was Fr Dan with my Dad, hefting boxes of medical supplies and blankets into one of the 40’ containers organised by Kildare organisation TOIL. There was seven-year-old me in school uniform, smiling gap-toothed at one of Dan’s jokes. There was Dan pleading for help in a yellowing page cut from the Sunday World. There were letters written by my Mam to businesses all over Ireland looking for clothes, food, furniture and medicines. There was Miontini Akko, a smiling young student who had come with Dan to Ireland to study electrical engineering at Kevin Street College of Technology.
A slightly older, but still smiling Miontini met us off the rickety bus from Arusha and brought us to the school, which Dan established in the early 1980s. TOIL containers arriving regularly, along with support from other organisations including Concern and CHES, quickly made Nangwa Technical School the most important educational establishment for hundreds of miles around. When Miontini was headmaster in the early 1990s, over 450 students were there learning trades such as electrician, mechanic, tailor and welder. Thousands of Tanzanians have been through its gates, gaining the skills and experience required to return to their villages, set up businesses and support their families.
The school is now run by the local diocese, and currently has 270 students, boys and girls aged between 15 and 21, studying traditional trades as well as newer subjects like nursing and computers. There are ten long low block buildings laid out around well-tended grass squares. We met students and staff, and saw the current classrooms, dormitories, kitchen, computer room and TV room. The facilities were basic, with simple wooden benches, bare brick walls and corrugated iron roofs, but all really solid and clean and cared for. It’s a beautiful site, with lush green trees, burnt brown clay, clear blue sky and the white cloud-swathed Mount Hanang in the distance.
We then visited the hostel for twenty teenage girls which Miontini and his wife Priscilla have built in Nangwa, funding it themselves, with help from friends and supporters. It’s an impressive operation, with a dorm, study room, TV room, toilets and showers. We saw light fittings donated by Intel, desks from Educate Together and a tractor from McLoughlins in Newbridge. The hostel gives girls from the region a place to stay when they come to Nangwa to study, ensuring they don’t get distracted or worse when they move from home to the town. Again, the set-up is basic, with all students sleeping on bunks in one dorm, but they all seemed very happy with the support from Priscilla and the roof over their heads.
Miontini then drove us off down a dirt track through corn and bean fields, to the bare, scrubby land he called the bush. A few years earlier we might have seen giraffes or antelope, but they’ve been scared off by modernity’s slow expansion. We did see semi-nomadic Barabaig tribesmen herding skinny cows and goats, mud and wattle dwellings called bomas and women walking along carrying water jars on their heads. The people in Nangwa, a small town with a couple of streets, a few shops, and the school, dispensary and church built by Dan and friends, are relatively better off, but Miontini said that, without education, job prospects and a decent standard of living are still very hard to come by.
That evening Priscilla and daughter Leonarda – who lives with Miontini in Suncroft while studying nursing in Dublin – served up a superb feast of roasted meat, rice and ugali with sweet tea and custard for dessert. The family talked of frustration at the layers of administration within most big aid agencies and NGOs, and how Irish people were more generous during the simpler time of the 1980s than the boom years of the Celtic Tiger. There were also happier stories of Fr Dan befriending Tanzania’s first president Julius Nyerere and motorbiking around the bush to say Sunday masses in people’s homes or village squares, returning after dark, merry on altar wine.
Dan is now in his 70s and has moved further off the beaten track to Mogitu, where he has established another school, clinic and church. We would have liked to have met him, but had to be back on the Arusha bus early next morning. I was only in Nangwa for 24 hours, but I won’t forget the visit in a hurry. The experience definitely made me feel awkward when I returned to Ireland and heard all the talk of recession and cuts. Miontini’s main priority at the moment is to improve kitchen facilities at the hostel, where the girls currently cook their food on an open fire, using fuel they gather themselves by hand. A fuel efficient stove made locally would cost €1,250 and mean the girls could spend less time out collecting sticks and more time hitting the books and preparing for their futures.
If you’d like to support Miontini’s work in Nangwa, or just want to learn more about what’s being done there, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogging the Seville European Film Festival for Filmandfestivals.com wasn’t easy, but I really enjoyed it. Taking in 28 films over nine days was challenging enough, but obviously well worth it.
Highlights included British / Chinese feature ‘She, a Chinese’, a kind of melancholy road movie where a young Chinese girl travels man by man from her small village in rural China to London, intelligent Corsican-set prison movie ‘Un Prophete’ from French director Jacques Audiard and ‘Brothers’ – a Swiss film about internal strife in Israeli society. Two documentaries also stood out – ‘Kill the Referee’, a fly on the wall insight into refereeing at the 2008 European football championship and ‘The Matador’, a fairly balanced look at bullfighting, that most Spanish form of sport / artistic endeavour / animal cruelty .
Not so much fun were Colin Farrell as a 1980′s Dublin war-photographer in Triage, the ludicrous Wild Grass from Alain Resnais and the just frankly bad L’ultimo Pulcinella from Italian director Maurizio Scaparro.
There were also plenty of most interesting and exciting side events to attend. There were press conferences with the likes of Nicolas Roeg, Ben Kingsley and John Hurt at the top table, an enthralling masterclass on indie cinema in a globalised world with ‘She, a Chinese’ director and force of nature Xiaolu Guo and a number of nice free drink / networking opportunities throughout the week.
So, all in all, I can’t complain. To read all eight (read ‘em) blog posts – click here to access the filmandfestivals.com festivals blog. Or you can wait until I get them all nicely arranged into a suitable section of this website. Hmm, I should do that soon.
For the record the SEFF’s top award – the Giraldillo de Oro Seccion Oficial – went to Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s ‘Lourdes’, a thought provoker of a film about a miracle which I saw and liked, but was not blown away by. The runner up was Connemara set and Stephen Rea starring ‘Nothing Personal’, which I unfortunately was unable to attend, while third came British director Malcolm Venville’s cockney noir ’44″ Chest’, which I thought was very very good. ‘Un Prophete’ picked up the audience award, while Hungarian director Roland Vranik won best director for the dystopic ‘Transmission’ and Spanish documentary ‘Garbo, the man who saved the world’ won the Eurodocs section. A full list of prizes / winners etc is through here on the SEFF official site.
As hinted at in the post title I’m blogging the Seville European Film Festival, which started yesterday and runs until 14th of the month.
The blog is for UK film website www.filmandfestivals.com, and should be running daily between now and Sunday week. The first post went up yesterday – it’s a preview of the event and taster of what’s to come.
As it’s the Seville European Film Festival there’s a huge variety of films being screened in and out of competition from all over the continent, and just outside. The Official Selection competition features, among many others, a Czech World War II film, Danish/Spanish romance set in Seville and a Hebrew language film set among intermingled Israeli and Palestinian families. There’s also a heavy British flavour to this year’s festival, including a selection of Nicolas Roeg’s finest work and a ‘Treasures of the British Institute’ presentation. The lastest offerings from top Euro-directors Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon), Ken Loach (Looking for Eric), Alain Resnais (Wild Grass), Pedro Almodóvar (Los Abrazos Rotos) and Andrzej Wajda (Sweet Rush) are also all lined up.
Some of the other stand-out films I’m hoping to see (and then blog about) over the course of the next nine days include the interestingly titled new Shane Meadows pic Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee, a Dutch-Irish co-production with my favourite Irish actor Stephen Rea (Nothing Personal from Urszula Antoniak), a bullfighting double-bill, Men on the Bridge (a German / Turkish co-production telling the story of three men working on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, starring real-life protagonists) and documentaries about Italian democracy (Videocracy from Erik Gandini) and the loneliness of being an international football referee (Kill the Referee by Yves Hinant). I am definitely looking forward to the week’s work.
To read the full post, follow the following link to the filmandfestivals festival blog. And keep an eye there, as daily posts will follow.
I’ve a piece on the Irish Film & Television network (IFTN.ie) today, previewing the Seville European Film Festival which starts on Friday, and bigging up the quite considerable Irish presence.
As the piece says:
‘Triage’, produced by Alan Moloney’s Parallel Films, supported by the Irish Film Board, and starring Colin Farrell as a war photographer trying to overcome his recent experiences in Kurdistan, opens the festival and is included in the festival’s Official Selection competition. Triage is written and directed by acclaimed Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic, and also stars Seville born actress Paz Vega alongside Sandra Ni Bhroin, Ian McElhinney and Eileen Walsh.
Also competing for the Offical Selection award is the Dutch / Irish feature Nothing Personal, which is directed by Urszula Antoniak and stars Lotte Verbeek as a rebellious Dutch youngster who moves to Connemara where she befriends a wise and ironic Stephen Rea.
Lance Daly’s low-budget Dublin fable ‘Kisses’ is included in the European Film Academy Selection, alongside the latest offerings by such notables as Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon), Ken Loach (Looking for Eric) and Andrzej Wajda (Sweet Rush). Daly will be hoping to follow his ‘best director’ award at the 2009 Irish Film & Television Awards with another prize.
Irish director Ken Wardrop’s short ‘The Herd’ is one of 13 films competing for the Best European Short Film of the Year award, presented by the European Film Academy, in the festival’s Short Matters! ’09 selection.
Read the whole article at the IFTN.ie website here.
The Seville European Film Festival starts on Friday. It’s got over 150 films from all 29 countries over nine days. Guests lined up to attend include John Hurt, Nicolas Roeg, Jeremy Thomas, Armando Ianucci, Sören Staermose, Vittorio Storaro and (hopefully) Seville’s own Paz Vega.
It’s even more exciting for me as I plan to blog daily from the festival – giving my thoughts and impressions from as many different films and events as I can manage, as well as hopefully grabbing some of the directors and organisers for quick comments here and there. The blog should be appearing on www.filmandfestivals.com and I’m also hopefully filing reports and features for various other publications in Spain, Ireland and further afield (TBC).
Should be fun. Check back soon.
For more on the Seville European Film Festival festival, including full film schedule and guests and events lined up – try its official website.
I made the trip to Lisbon last week to see Everton get thumped 5-0 by Benfica in the Europa League.
It’s a nice city and all, and I’d never been before, but the football made for a bit of a downer.
I wrote up the few days for excellent Everton fansite ToffeeWeb.com. I’d have called my piece Stadium of Darkness, but they got their first with their own report. Here’s a taste of my story:
As an Irish Everton fan who lives in Seville, I was only delighted when Benfica came out of the draw giving the chance to take a trip to Lisbon and the Stadium of Light. During our last UEFA campaign I got to see the 2-0 win in Nuremburg, and despite this season’s irregular results and injury pileup, I was hopeful of a similar game and positive experience this time around. I was, of course, wrong.
Besides spending €200 each way on direct flights, the handiest way to get to Lisbon from Seville is by overnight bus. Arriving at 6AM when it’s still dark did give me a good chance to have a look around the city before the game. Lonely Planet suggested a climb up the hills over the city, and the view is pretty spectacular with the dotted red roofs, craggy castle, sparkling river et cetera. Also, the streets around by the castle, with windy cobbled lanes, rickety rusty trams and colouredy clothes flapping from windows, were picturesque enough. Down in the stone cathedral someone’s mobile went off with the Z-cars theme, presumably some fans in saying a prayer for the quick return of Mikel, Jags, Peanuts, Phil etc etc.
After lunch I got the metro out to the ground. I had booked my ticket from the Benfica website, and the collection all worked very easily. There was plenty of beer available from a bar built into the ground – right next to the electronics superstore, just down from the swimming pool and car dealership – so I got me plastic pint and soaked in some of the atmosphere, with some funny banter between locals and Blues outside.
To find out exactly how badly things went for the team once the game kicked off, you can read the rest of the report through here to the ToffeeWeb site.
Sunday Business Post – Recruitment section – September 13 2009
Read the article on the Sunday Business Post website by clicking here.
By part-funding gap year style working trips around the world, the government could help recent graduates through the economic downturn and boost exchequer funds, according to the organiser of this year’s Working Abroad Expo.
Stephen McLarnon, managing director of expo organiser SGMC Group, which takes place later this month, called on the government to consider implementing a part-funded ‘pay-cation’ scheme to support younger job candidates with limited opportunities in the domestic labour market. Such a scheme would benefit the economy by building on the professional experience and skill-sets of younger candidates, and boosting the government’s coffers.
‘‘We are not advocating that the government completely fund a gap year, but offer a fund-matching system for those considering taking a gap year,” said McLarnon. ‘‘A gap-year matching scheme for under-25s, offering up to €5,000 per person within a 12-month period, would offer immediate savings to the growing social welfare bill, while also assisting young unemployed people to gain new experiences and return to Ireland with something to offer.
‘‘It would keep people active, which is crucial, and it would give people a taste of life in less-well-off countries.”
A similar government scheme, under consideration in Britain, is proposing to fund up to 500 participants in overseas development projects. Under the scheme, participants would be required to raise funding of stg£1,000 (€1,140) and pay for their own flights and vaccinations.
‘‘The fact that Britain is looking at something similar gives the concept credibility,” said McLarnon. ‘‘Similar precedents exist here in Ireland, with the ESB earlier this year taking on approximately 300 apprentice electricians to help them qualify. PwC has offered graduates €5,000 to defer their entry into the firm until 2010.”
If properly managed, McLarnon believes such a scheme could raise vital funds for the exchequer.
‘‘An unemployed person, under 30 years of age and currently receiving unemployment benefit, gets approximately €10,000 per annum,” he said. ‘‘A fund-matching system, capped at €5,000,would immediately save the exchequer €5,000 per person. The government could include a 12-month exclusion from receiving any further social welfare benefits for participants in the scheme.”
The British government is piloting a gap-year programme in association with Raleigh International, a charity specialising in voluntary overseas placements. An Irish equivalent could target Irish organisations with overseas connections, McLarnon said.
‘‘The Niall Mellon Township Trust has done a fantastic job in South Africa, but is now suffering with less available funds from volunteers,” he said. ‘‘The trust, the government and Fás could come together and use the project for training apprentice plumbers, electricians and brick-layers. It would get nearly qualified trades people off the dole, qualified under the instruction of qualified trades people who have also lost their job, while also doing something worthwhile.”
‘‘NGOs such as Concern and Goal are being badly affected by cuts to their overseas aid budget,” McLarnon said. ‘‘Many of these organisations are laying off staff and closing centres in much needed areas. The government could again part-fund professionals to work with these organisations while diverting them from the ever-growing dole queues.”
McLarnon said that there had been a significant increase in the number of Irish people looking abroad for work in recent months.
‘‘The number of young people travelling overseas has seen a substantial jump over the last 12 months, with a 33 per cent increase – an extra 5,500 people – in those going to Australia on working holiday visas,” he said. ‘‘This takes the number currently in Australia on annual working holiday visas to a record high of over 22,000. Figures for Canada, New Zealand and other countries are not available, but the total number could easily exceed a further 20,000.”
Other destinations also offer employment opportunities, McLarnon said.
‘‘Opportunities exist all over the world. There is an aging population in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so they have to import a huge amount of labour,” he said. ‘‘The US is experiencing its own unemployment issues, but parts of Latin America such as Brazil are enjoying some growth.
‘‘Canada has avoided much of the financial crises and is very much open for business. Britain is largely expected to come out of recession in the coming weeks, joining Germany and France.”
McLarnon said that the healthcare sector, in particular, offered global opportunities for skilled Irish candidates.
‘‘Health recruitment has bucked the trend globally, except in Ireland, where the HSE is not renewing contracts and a recruitment freeze largely remains in place,” he said. ‘‘With this in mind, we have 11 British NHS trusts exhibiting at our show in Dublin in our dedicated medical and nursing zone. It is widely known that there is a surplus of nurses in Ireland, with overseas employers queuing up to recruit them.”
There is also overseas demand for qualified Irish engineering and technology professionals, said McLarnon.
‘‘Fisher & Paykel, the big home-appliance manufacturers, are exhibiting at our Dublin show, looking for all the various different types of engineers, including automotive and quality assurance people, for New Zealand. People are starting to get back into R&D as the global economy revives,” he said.
Some candidates, who would otherwise head overseas in search of work, have unavoidable commitments in Ireland, McLarnon said.
‘‘Generally, individuals with a mortgage or young family will be less mobile. Those with mortgages in negative equity will be reluctant or unable to sell their properties,” he said. ‘‘Renting their property out is difficult, creating an economic trap for those that want or need to work abroad.”
McLarnon said candidates who had only just graduated had a tough time securing working visas for other countries.
‘‘Workplace experience is very important in getting working visas for Canada, Australia or New Zealand. People with a couple of years’ working experience are generally better placed to secure a visa,” he said.
Candidates with foreign language skills and travel experience are best placed to secure work overseas.
‘‘Huge opportunities exist in continental Europe for people with a second language. Having travelled before is not a biggie, but employers like to see people who have lived or worked abroad previously as, chances are, they will settle quicker,” said McLarnon.
Now in its fourth year, this month’s Working Abroad Expo will have more than 50 exhibitors, including government bodies, migration officials and recruitment agencies. Relocation experts will offer advice and assistance on starting a new life abroad.
‘‘These are undoubtedly challenging times, but opportunities do exist, and the Working Abroad Expo is designed to give people options, separate the myths from reality and give people the full facts, information, paperwork, contacts and job options they need for starting a better life abroad,” said McLarnon.
‘‘Employers and recruitment specialists will outline job opportunities in nursing, social work, engineering and various skilled trades in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, China and the Middle East,” he said. ‘‘There will also be seminars advising Irish tradespeople about meeting the increasingly high standards of the Australian construction, engineering and hospitality industries.”
The Working Abroad Expo takes place on September 19 and 20 in Dublin’s RDS and the Europa Hotel in Belfast on September 22 and 23. Tickets for the Dublin event cost €10. For more information, or to book a place, visit www.workingabroad.ie
Sunday Business Post – Recruitment – Aug 23 2009
Read the article on the Sunday Business Post website by clicking here.
Last week, Sunway Holidays announced plans to close three outlets in Dublin, with the loss of nine jobs. The move followed 95 job losses at Budget Travel, which announced that it was to close 14 of its 31 Irish outlets earlier this month. The high-profile staff protests that followed Thomas Cook’s move to halt Irish operations, with 77 redundancies, pointed to wider unrest in a sector hit hard by the fall in consumer spending.
The numbers employed in the travel business have fallen significantly in the last year, according to Simon Nugent, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA).
‘‘The pattern this year has been about companies shedding staff, not recruiting,” said Nugent. ‘‘While the leisure travel side has dropped away a bit, the corporate travel side has dropped significantly. I would say pretty much all ITAA member firms have reduced their staff since last autumn.”
Falling employment According to the most recent available CSO figures, overseas visits to Ireland fell by 114,000, or 15 per cent, in June compared to the same month last year. Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, said further job losses were inevitable.
‘‘We reckon that, overall, jobs in the travel and tourism industry fell by about 10 per cent last year from a peak of 310,000,” he said. ‘‘Our ‘guesstimate’ is that it will reach about 250,000 this year, based on what we hear from our members. I am not aware of any sector of the travel or tourism industry, with the possible exception of family-run B&Bs or farmhouses, which has not had to let people go. The numbers are down everywhere, from hotels and restaurants to cruising companies and car rental firms.
‘‘The Dublin Airport Authority has been talking about rationalisation, as have the airlines. Every sector either has let staff go or did not take on the additional summer staff they would normally have taken on.”
Valerie Sorohan, marketing manager of Jobs.ie, said there had been a noticeable drop in the number of travel and tourism positions advertised online this year.
‘‘Jobs.ie has five different categories of travel and tourism jobs: chef jobs, hotels, pubs, bars and clubs, restaurants and catering, and travel and tourism,” said Sorohan. ‘‘This year, the number of jobs posted has decreased across all five categories by 50 to 70 per cent year-on-year.”
Study and training
Nugent said the shortfall in available positions had prompted candidates in the sector to consider new training and study options. Overseen by the ITAA, the Travel Professionals Skillnet has introduced several new courses this year, including a DIT-accredited Travel Professionals Higher Certificate and shorter training programmes focused on specific aspects of the travel business.
‘‘The Skillnet has been extremely important, as it allows us to improve staff skills and help travel companies put their best foot forward,” said Nugent. ‘‘Consumers have become more demanding, and people working in our sector now need an encyclopaedic knowledge of routes and destinations, the legalities and complexities of travel, visas and passports and insurance issues.”
McKeon said upskilling was a viable route for candidates unable to secure work in the sector.
‘‘There are lots of terrific courses available from Fás, and more directly tourism-related ones from Fáilte Ireland,” he said. ‘‘Some are distance learning, some are six weeks, others six months. There is something there for every skill. In all jobs, even craft-based professions, there is always a further level you can go to.
‘‘Courses that teach supervisor’s skills are a relatively attractive option for people. It is hoped that they can come away with a better CV and, when normal times return, they should be more employable and able to command a higher salary.”
Sorohan urged candidates to consider looking for work in a new or related sector or profession.
‘‘In these sectors, customer service is of huge importance, and people can perhaps transfer their skills Individuals could look at customer service jobs, waiting staff positions or others,” she said.
Nugent said other consumerfocused sectors, such as retailing or marketing, could offer employment opportunities to individuals with a professional background in travel or tourism.
‘‘To work in a travel environment, you have to be an extremely good ‘people person’ with a broad range of knowledge,” he said. ‘‘Having worked in the travel sector is very good training for any customerfacing role.”
Nugent said many of the candidates who have lost their jobs as a result of the downturn in travel and tourism were relatively recent arrivals to the country.
‘‘In 2006 and 2007, our members found it more or less impossible to recruit the staff they needed here,” he said. ‘‘They found very talented travel agency staff abroad, and lots of people had good experiences employing them. There is certainly then some mobility in the sector.”
Sorohan said the number of candidates applying for positions posted on Jobs.ie had fallen.
‘‘This January, employers could have expected to receive 66 applications, but in June this year that went down slightly to 45,” she said. ‘‘That would suggest that non-Irish workers unable to find a job in these industries this year have moved to seek employment elsewhere.”
Nugent said employers in the sector were keen to protect as many jobs as possible.
‘‘Companies have negotiated reductions in salaries and different part-time or other working arrangements with their staff,” he said. ‘‘Staff are entirely aware of the realities of the sector and have been quite understanding.”
Staff unhappy with the redundancy terms offered by Thomas Cook, following the closure of its Irish branches, with 77 redundancies earlier this month, staged a high-profile sit-in at the company’s Grafton Street branch.
However, Nugent said most redundancies in the sector were proving less contentious.
‘‘We provide a legal advisory service for our members that covers employment law and personnel management and doing right by your staff,” he said. ‘‘It is a difficult area, but in most cases things tend not to become confrontational.”
McKeon said that, with no end to the downturn in sight, employers in the travel and tourism sector could announce further redundancies.
‘‘Travel people tend to be optimistic and hope that a recovery will come,” he said. ‘‘The problem is that we are now entering the off-season, and companies will not have built up the strong cash flows this summer to get them through next winter.
‘‘Huge discounting has been great for the consumer, but has only kept things ticking over. The lack of availability of credit is really going to test the survival capacity of lots of good businesses this winter.”
Despite this, the number of hospitality positions advertised on Jobs.ie in the first six months of the year were up on the same period last year.
‘‘From January to June, there was actually an increase in jobs being posted across all the five travel and tourism sectors by an average of 44 per cent, which is promising,” Sorohan said. ‘‘It suggests that these areas were hit hardest by the recession last year, but this year there are signs that each of these areas are picking up.
‘‘At present, the hotels category has the most number of jobs listed, and chef positions are also quite popular.”
Last month’s Bord Snip Nua report recommended a €12 million cut to the government supported Tourism Marketing Fund and a €15 million slice off Fáilte Ireland’s budget.
McKeon cautioned the government against implementing either measure.
‘‘The only thing that will keep jobs within the tourism sector is if visitors keep coming, so governments need to keep their marketing budgets in foreign markets,” he said. ‘‘It is a viciously competitive world out there, and if Ireland disappears from websites, trade promotions, media advertisements and all of that, we will lose market share.”
McKeon said discussions were under way with the government to give tourism companies access to the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund, which was announced earlier this month.
‘‘Foreign tourism is an export business, although domestic tourism is not,” he said. ‘‘We would be anxious to have the scheme extended to the travel and tourism sector.”
Nugent said the travel industry would recover quickly, once the wider economy stabilised.
‘‘What is good for the economy at large is good for the travel sector,” he said. ‘‘If the overall economy gets righted, it will kick-start growth for travel companies.”
When it emerges from the recession, Nugent said the sector would be leaner and more technologically advanced.
‘‘Travel is a very dynamic sector, and has been long before the recent fast economic growth and then sudden economic decline,” he said. ‘‘Our members are transforming their business models all the time and investing in the online capacity of their staff. ‘‘That is the way the sector is going.”