“A day in the life of interview” featuring Keith Mc Donnell Group Managing Director of EI Travel Group

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Q 1- How does your normal day begin?

Probably the worst thing to do but I grab my phone and see what emails and messages I have received from the night before. Our clients are from all over the world so they could be contacting us at any time. I try to go to the gym or have a swim before work, note the word “try”. I find giving your time in the morning to yourself is always better as inevitably something will come up and you will have an excuse not to go to the gym after work.

Q 2- What are your biggest daily challenges?

The challenges come from all angles in my business. We have over 40 coaches moving on the road during the summer months, we have a lot of staff so keeping everyone happy can be challenging across all the companies. Our core focus is the customer and we need to keep reminding ourselves that our job is to ensure they have a good, fun and professional time while we are looking after their time. They are after saving up to come to Ireland and it is our job to make sure that their money is well spent. They deserve it.

Q3- What do you love most about your job?

I love the opportunity to come up with new ideas and tours, of which we are blessed in Ireland to have so many beautiful sites and people. I love meeting the tourists and educating them about Ireland. Tourism is a happy industry and it is a wonderful industry to work in. To enjoy it you need to be enthusiastic, you need to want to teach people, you need to have passion for nature, culture, history. It is so varied, it never gets boring.

Q 4- What do you do to relax?

Swimming is one of my favourite sports for relaxing as you can go as hard or as easy as you want. I’m an international mountain leader so the obvious place for me is the mountains. I am lucky to live at the foot of a mountain so I regularly go up there with my dog to clear the head. I’m not averse to the odd glass of vino either!

Q 5-Favourite staycation destination in Ireland and why?

It changes. I love so many places but North Mayo, Sligo and Wexford always appeal to me. It also depends on what activities I will be doing. Kerry and Connemara for climbing, Sligo for water sports, Wexford for coasteering and Donegal for beaches. If I want a relaxing holiday I will go to the midlands and enjoy the rolling hills of the Slieve Blooms or go canoeing down the Barrow river.

Q 6-Favourite holiday destination worldwide?

It is a between Sao Tome/Principe and Palestine. I have been to both of them in the last couple years and I was just amazed at the countries, the people, the food. Both very different experiences and history but I would go back at the drop of a hat. The beaches, mountains and food in Sao Tome was out of this world. The walking, countryside and people in Palestine is something I will never forget.

Q 7-Favourite Business motto?

I think it would have to be Steve Jobs: “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Q 8. Advice for young business entrepreneurs

Don’t hold grudges. Create memorable experiences for your customer and always remember you don’t pay the wages, the customers do. Treat your staff well, they are a reflection of you.