Athlone Institute of Technology was delighted to host the 15th Tourism and Hospitality Research in Ireland conference (THRIC) on June 17-18. Opened by Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, the conference provided a platform for disseminating thought-provoking and cutting-edge tourism and hospitality research.
Over the course of the two-day event, a range of international keynote speakers drawn from academia, industry and tourism policy addressed this year’s conference theme ‘Tourism at the Heart of It’ and discussed the impact of tourism on the Irish economy and the importance of keeping it at the forefront of the minds of policy makers and regional planners.
“Tourism plays a crucial role in the success of Ireland’s economy, supporting around 1 in 10 jobs and contributing billions to the economy. Despite this, as a country, we are still lacking tourism policy insights, particularly the statistical data needed to drive the industry forward.
“Likewise, there is a lack of funding available for postgraduate research. At present, there is no national funding to support postgraduate tourism or hospitality research, in striking contrast to the volume of research funded in agriculture, STEM, foreign investment and the humanities.
“THRIC provided an opportunity to showcase the depth and breadth of tourism research being conducted in Athlone Institute of Technology, including tourism and adventure activities, tourism and environmental protection and scenario planning for Brexit,” Dr Anthony Johnston, Head of Department of Tourism and Leisure Studies, explained.
Several key note speakers addressed these issues, including Professor Caroline Scarles and Professor Richard Sharpley from the University of Surrey and the University of Central Lancashire respectively, world famous entrepreneur Pat McDonagh who is the owner of Supermacs, the Só Group and the Plaza Group, Aileesh Carew, Director of Sales and Marketing at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and Mark McGovern, Manager of Fáilte Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand.
In advance of the conference, students, staff and the wider community were invited to capture the essence of ‘Tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ and submit their photography to be displayed in the foyer of the Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure building. Later in the evening, attendees were treated to a barbecue and Jazz music, as well as a showcase of the best epicurean delights and regional produce.
An educational powerhouse defined by a commitment to academic excellence, rigour and applied education, Athlone Institute of Technology has enjoyed considerable successes in the academic arena this year, most notably being named ‘best in class’ for research across the technological higher education sector. Further solidifying its reputational prowess, the institute was recently awarded ‘Best Academic Partnership’ at the prestigious national Education Awards for its part in developing SURE, Ireland’s first academic network dedicated to promoting undergraduate STEM research across the technological higher education sector. These accolades build upon the institute’s success in winning the Sunday Times Good University Guide ‘Institute of Technology of the Year’ award in 2018.