AIB Corporate Banking customer David Kelly on breaking new ground in the hospitality industry

Picture of AIB Corporate Banking customer David Kelly being interviewed.

David Kelly is CEO of FBD Resorts & Leisure, who operate three hotels in Ireland and two in Spain. The jewel in the crown of the group’s Irish operations is the Castleknock Hotel & Country Club in north Dublin.

Turning guests into loyal customers

Opened in 2005, Castleknock has quickly established itself as a popular spot for visitors, with its country feel and convenience to the city centre giving it a unique character among hotels in Dublin. David says the hotel has a broad appeal. He says: “Castleknock is primarily a leisure hotel. About 70% of our guests are leisure guests, such as people attending weddings and events, so a lot of families and people like that. And then 30% of our guests would be corporate.”

Confident that hotels in Ireland can match up to the best in the world, David highlights the famous Irish hospitality as something that sets us apart.

“I think it’s an old cliché, but the Irish welcome is massive,” he explains.

“We see it in the feedback from our foreign guests. It’s the feel-good factor that people experience when they come to Ireland.”

Impeccable service is central to the ethos at Castleknock, a quality that was recognised when it won the AA Hotel of the Year in 2014. And going the extra mile pays dividends, as David explains: “We have a big loyalty factor here, and we have a return factor of about 40-50% of guests who come back, which is a very positive sign.

“We ensure we have the best staff by number one, the recruitment process being very thorough and comprehensive; and number two, remunerating them very competitively, making sure that they’re well looked after and motivated.”

Growing the Business with the help of AIB Corporate Banking

In recent years, the Castleknock Hotel and the group as a whole have, like many hotels around the country, endured some difficult times.

“The outlook for the Irish hotel industry is very positive at the moment. It was one of the first industries that crashed but thankfully it’s been one of the first to rebound,” David says. With the company now firmly focused on the future, they have unveiled ambitious expansion plans. He explains: “Here in Castleknock we have a planning application for a €5.5m project to expand the hotel, fifty plus rooms, and the outlook for our Irish and Spanish businesses are positive”

As long-time AIB customers, David attributes the success of the group’s relationship with the bank to the efforts of their relationship managers.

He says: “AIB provided the development finance for this hotel. We invested €27m in this hotel of which €20m was borrowed from AIB so it was absolutely crucial for this project to happen that they were on board.

“They're at the end of the phone at any time, they understand our business and are open to any suggestions or proposals we make to them. There is a very quick turnaround coming from them in terms of making a decision on whatever we're looking for."

Taking advantage of technology

Enthusiastic about technology, David credits the group’s forward-thinking ethos as one of the main factors in its success to date.

“We all know the internet and how it has transformed the hotel industry,” he explains.

“And so if you’re not embracing new technology there’s something wrong, and we’ve been at the forefront of investing in technology for a number of years now, especially in e-commerce.”

As for anyone considering a career in the industry, David offers: “It’s a great industry, a lot of great work goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see, so it’s a tough industry. But it’s a fantastic industry in terms of meeting people. Embrace technology, work hard, and you’ll have a great career.”

Maximise your business’s potential with the help of the AIB Corporate Banking Team

Watch David’s story and see more of the Castleknock Hotel on YouTube. Follow @AIBBiz on Twitter using the hashtag #backedbyAIB to find out more about how we are backing business in Ireland.

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