If you visit southwest Ireland’s lakes, beaches and mountains of County Kerry you easily might find yourself staying at The Malton, a four-star hotel in the center of Killarney. There also is a 90 percent or so chance that you’ll run into Paul O’Sullivan, the 33-year old deputy general manager keeping an eye on your stay.
O’Sullivan is a product of how the Irish educational system exposes teenagers to the Travel & Tourism industry and also of a thorough training by the Irish hotel industry.
“I tend to spend a little more time than I should in the hotel,” said O’Sullivan, who has worked at the hotel for almost two years. “Normally we are off mid-week when the hotel is at its quietest.”
As the deputy GM O’Sullivan is involved in managing and coordinating the activities of between 60 and 100 people, depending on the time of year, with summer being the busiest time. The hotel’s customers range from individuals coming to enjoy Kerry, to groups of more than 600 people. The groups include people coming for business conferences, and for weddings, which are a major part of the hotel’s business.
An important current project for O’Sullivan is working with individual hotel department heads to establish a “Standards of Performance” manual for each department. The manual is a useful management tool based on the well-established concept that “if you can count it then you can measure it; and if you can measure it, you can improve it.”
O’Sullivan’s career interest was prompted by the two-year course in Travel & Tourism topics he took beginning when he was age 16 while a student at Killarney’s venerable St. Brendan’s Academy. Hotel management was perhaps a natural choice since his family at one time also operated a Bed and Breakfast catering to tourists. His formal training began at 18 when he started a four-and-half year management trainee course with a hotel company, and most of it was hands-on, practical training in each of the hotel’s 15 departments.
“You might spend 9 months in the kitchen department, 6 months in the accounts department, “said O’Sullivan, whereas you might spend 4 months in the bar and maybe 6 months in the restaurant. It varied, and it was certainly enjoyable.”
O’Sullivan broadened his experience by working at a big-city hotel in Dublin and by working at a hotel that specialized in catering to people on vacation. They included Ireland’s Taoiseach or Prime Minister, who likes to spend two weeks there each year. Along the way O’Sullivan decided he also needed to see what the world was like outside Ireland, and he spent a year in Australia, and traveled.
Like most career managers in the hospitality industry O’Sullivan has to work hard to balance the demands of job and family life, and he will soon be a father. Finding the balance is not easy. Conference organizers making decisions about where to hold their meeting want to have their calls returned quickly, and other hotels are only to glad to step in and offer their services if the organizer is not happy. Weddings require extra attention to detail.
O’Sullivan likes his work and also the segment of the hotel industry that he is in. “I more enjoy the smaller type of hotel. You can have a bigger impact. In a big hotel—you can get lost in them,” he said.
And you don’t have as much contact with guests, said O’Sullivan, something he enjoys.
“I’d like to remain in the four star (category of hotel), and maybe hit the five star product at some point in my career and stay at the level of management I am at the moment, and hopefully move on up to the general manager role.”
At some point he may contemplate going into business for himself, but that is a long way in the future, and it would have to be in Kerry, preferably in Killarney.
“I’m happy to stay in Kerry, actually. This is where I’m based. I’m happy to stay here now in Killarney for the rest of my days. That’s my plan at the moment.