Speakers

We've a great line-up of speakers for 2019. From top chef, Theo Randall and TV commentator, Chris Bavin to Cornell professor, Rob Kwortnik and economist, Neil Gibson. There's also Sarah Duignan on forecasting, Ian Taylor on hotels, Paula Ellis on recruitment and Pól Ó Congaile on great food experiences.
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Theo Randall

Michelin Star chef, Theo Randall's eponymous restaurant is located in the Intercontinental Hotel a NO 1 Park Lane and has been open since November 2006. Theo’s passion for food was ignited on regular family holidays across Europe and he began his career as a waiter at Chez Max in London. In 1989, Theo joined the up-and-coming River Café and it was under his patronage that the restaurant received its first Michelin star in 1997.
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Chris Bavin

TV regular, Chris hosts the ever popular “How to Eat well for Less”. Starting out as a flower trader, moving onto fresh produce and then a retail operation outlet, he uses his unrivalled experience to advice innumerable food businesses. Culinary trends, diets and the future will feature in his presentation and there’ll be an opportunity to tap into his wealth of knowledge with a Q&A session.
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Prof Rob Kwortnik

A seasoned academic with over twenty years, Rob couples his excellent knowledge of hospitality operations with marketing prowess. Customer service, people and product and the skills required to enhance your brand are central themes of his bespoke masterclass. Rob will draw on international case studies augmenting these with local examples of best in class.
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Ian Taylor

Seen as an innovative force in the hotel world and instrumental in creating the definite boutique country house hotel experience, Ian Taylor is very much homegrown talent. Originally from Garvagh, Ian will join Mark Simpson in conversation about his stellar career, owning three hotels in Bath with his wife Christa and how they’ve earned the accolade of Market Marvels from an admiring industry audience.
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Sam Wilson-Croft

Sam embodies what hospitality is all about. She is HR Manager at The Retreats Group and has made it her mission to improve the image of industry, taking on the challenge of recruiting staff head-on. Committed to a code of conduct, Sam will speak about her journey, highlighting commercial success and building a strong team along the way.
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Neil Gibson

One of the Ireland’s leading economists, Neil has had an illustrious career building forecast models, supporting businesses and developing policy models on a global basis. A regular media commentator and presenter, Neil will give an economic update with a tourism twist and an update on the Brexit effect.
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Sarah Duignan

Sarah departed Irish shores in May 2005 after seven years in Hotel operations and has used this experience to create a unique perspective on hotel performance, benchmarking and forecasting with STR , the world’s leading benchmarking company. As Director of Client Relationships, Sarah regularly attends and presents at industry events and will give an insight into hotel performance in 2019 with a forecast on what the coming year will bring.
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Michael Williamson

A stalwart of Northern Ireland’s hospitality Industry, Michael’s extensive knowledge of the sector is called upon by government, financial institutions and businesses. He’s special advisor to Tourism NI and a regular contributor to news and current affairs programmes with a tourism theme. A board member of VisitBelfast and the author of the annual ASM Hotel Industry Survey, the only detailed study into the performance of the hotel sector in Northern Ireland.
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Pól Ó Conghaile

An award winning travel journalist who insights into destinations and their quirks have earned him international recognition. Pol gives an experiential feel to his travels, delving into the stories that make a memorable trip and bring a destination to life. As a regular contributor to National Geographic and travel editor of the Irish independent, Pol uses food and drink to set out an attractive a la carte menu for the modern traveller.
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Jack McDermott

From international brand to boutique operation, Jack’s experienced the full spectrum of the hotel industry. Aglobal role with IHG, a short-lived retirement and today running a small rural hotel. Now based in Spain, he’ll speak about the importance of people, community involvement and focusing on tourism development whilstsustaining a beautiful part of the world.
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Wendy Duncan

Food waste expert Wendy Duncan has over twenty years experience with Unilever, in a variety of technical, nutritional and sustainability roles. Currently responsible for the sustainability program at Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland, she will give an insight into trends with a practical guide on how to adapt your business.
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John McGrillen

John McGrillen, took up his post as CEO of Tourism NI on 1 July 2015. His interest in developing the local ecomony has been central to a career spanning nearly four decades holding senior roles with Belfast city Council and heading up Down District Council. In conversation, John will give an insight into the new branding for Northern Ireland, the challenges of the coming year and building on the success of The Open.
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Niall Gibbons

Niall Gibbons is Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, the organisation responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a holiday destination. Since his appointment in 2009, Niall has overseen the marketing of the island across the world, leading a team of 168 staff in over 20 markets. He’ll speak about the challenges and opportunities for Northern Ireland in the coming year.
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Tracey Jeffery

Tracey Jeffery is a qualified teacher, trainer and pâtissier with a passion for local produce and the landscapes of County Down. Tracey previously studied languages including French which she then put to good use working in a patisserie. Bringing this expertise home, she became a producer of macarons and fine patisserie and while building this business around her home in Killinchy, she came up with the idea of a food tour business which was launched as NI Food Tours in 2016.
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Ciarán Fitzgerald

A stalwart of the food scene in Kinsale, Ciaran has played an instrumental role in creating one of Ireland’s leading culinary destinations. His vision for the Blue Haven Group and his commitment to tourism have brought not only personal success but helped establish the region on the international visitor menu.
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Noel McMeel

Noel is a true ambassador for local produce and has dedicated his entire career to one very simple goal: finding, preparing and serving fresh food in season. As the Executive Chef at the Lough Erne Resort, Noel has introduced his own particular brand of modern Irish cooking to a new and discerning audience. A regular TV and industry commentator , Noel bring his considerable experience to the bear in panel discussions around food and our culinary future.
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Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett is a Director of Savills Ireland and Head of the Hotels & Leisure Team which he established in 2010. Savills conducts strategic reviews and valuations, advises on brands, operators & asset management and transacts hotel and leisure assets. Previously Tom was Commercial Director of Choice Hotels Ireland and Finance Director of Forte Meridien Hotels & Resorts Europe and Asia Pacific.
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Dr Joanne Stuart OBE

Joanne joined NITA in March 2019 with the aim to grow the alliance and to provide an influential voice for the Tourism industry in Northern Ireland. She’ll give an sector perspective on the current state of business as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead.
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Patrick Short

As First Trust Bank’s Head of Business & Corporate Acquisitions, Patrick Short is responsible for meeting the complex and ever-changing needs of some of Northern Ireland’s most ambitious and successful businesses. On the business panel, he’ll give an insight into his in-depth knowledge of financial services and accountancy built-up over the last 20 years whilst outlining First Trust’s innovative and tailored approach to the sector.
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Pat McCann

Pat McCann heads up the largest hotel group in the UK & Ireland with over 5,000 employees. Originally from Sligo, Pat has nearly fifty years’ experience in the hotel sector bringing an unrivalled level of knowledge of the industry.
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Catherine Toolan

From Sligo, Catherine is Chief Executive of ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall. Catherine works closely with Visit Belfast, Tourism Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and other stakeholders to create a sustainable business tourism industry sector that can compete on a global stage. Her unrivalled knowledge of business tourism will give the audience an excellent perspective of the opportunities for Northern Ireland as part of New Dimensions panel discussion.
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Richard Williams

Richard is Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, which over the last decade has taken the lead role in developing the screen industry in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership, Northern Ireland Screen developed the Paint Hall film studio at Titanic Quarter, home of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES and more recently Belfast Harbour Studios, a new purpose-built studio complex. Richard will give his thoughts on screen tourism and the positive effects it can bring to this region.
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Oliver Hughes

Oliver Hughes, Corporate Acquisitions Manager at First Trust Bank and a key manager in the bank’s Hospitality Team, helps customers navigate the challenges they face - whether that is with exchange rates, labour shortages or the National Living Wage - while also understanding the huge opportunities within the sector. In his welcoming address, he’ll speak about recent projects and the banks pivotal role in their success.
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Pamela Ballantine

Compere Extraordinaire, joins the Exchange line up again this year. Overseeing the day events on Tuesday and donning her glad rags for the 20th Birthday Ball on Wednesday.

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Mark Simpson

Mark Simpson is a journalist with over 20 years’ experience and a well-known face on BBC Northern Ireland. He has been with the BBC since 1998 and began his journalistic career for a series of Northern Irish newspapers. His interest in the local economy and curious nature makes him the ideal choice to oversee proceedings on Day 2 of Hospitality Exchange when he’ll field question, oversee debate and interview speakers.