Maureen Ledwith, Director, Business Exhibitions
How’s business? I suppose we’re treading a middle path at present. Of course the recession has made an impact on the exhibitions sector, and the travel industry has not had its sorrows to seek but, while we are known in Northern Ireland for our Holiday World show, ours is a broadly based business.
We also stage a range of major trade and public shows based in Dublin, yet attracting all-Ireland audiences. That diverse portfolio, coupled with hard work and strategic planning, has kept our business strong and profitable. We’re in it for the long term and our approach to business reflects that.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
As you can imagine, we’re pretty excited about the Belfast Telegraph Holiday World Show which kicks off at The King’s Hall in Belfast on Friday, January 16. We never forget that, with Holiday World, we’re in the entertainments business and that the show should be fun for all concerned.
The travel sector may have faced challenging times but we’re presenting a show which demonstrates its amazing adaptability and which suggests that the tide is turning for tourism.
We have a vast range of exhibitors showcasing some amazing destinations around the world and right here on our own doorsteps.
Regardless of the economic situation, I believe people will still want to make the most of their vacations. Increasingly, however, they will be shopping around for value and convenience and they will certainly take time to carefully compare the attractions of various destinations. Belfast Telegraph Holiday World allows them to do that in a single venue.
What are the long-term prospects for your |organisation?
We’re always looking at new opportunities, but with the proviso that we don’t take our eye off the ball.
I have seen too many originally great exhibitions go to the wall simply because their owners lost interest in them as they moved onto fresher projects.
Success can never be taken for granted — it needs to be constantly reinforced.
What are the biggest challenges facing your organisation?
Most of our projects are long-running and well established so our challenges lie in consolidating success and building for the future. It’s an enviable position, I know, but it can be tough to approach an exhibition in its twenty-somethingth year with the same freshness, energy and creativity which you brought to its launch!
Complacency is the big enemy of established businesses. I’m not a fan of change for change’s sake, but change and growth are essential to keep our shows, our business — and ultimately ourselves — vigorous and successful.
Could the Government help you do business better?
All help is welcome, from whatever source! I must admit I would like to see Northern destinations better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities which are opening currently for them in an all-Ireland context. Economic pressures which might militate against some of us indulging in overseas travel are making ‘stay-cations’ particularly attractive this year.
It would be great to see government channeling some investment towards the Regional Tourism Organisations and major Northern destinations to enable them swiftly to take advantage of this turn in the marketplace.
Why would someone work for your company?
At its core, ours is a family business, owned and directed by my husband Edmund Hourican and me. We’re delighted, increasingly, to be involving our grown-up children. However, we don’t have all the expertise we need sitting around the breakfast table!
We have a talented team of professionals and I hope we are as loyal to them as they are to us.
I think people would come to work for us because of our products, our reputation and our determination to go on learning.
Your views on the economy, please
This was always going to happen.
The business climate: good or bad?
Those of us who have kept our feet on the ground and haven’t over-extended are in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities which are undoubtedly out there.
What ambitions do you have at a personal level?
I have spent a large chunk of my adult life building this business and I want to continue to see it flourish. I get great pleasure out of seeing exhibitors do well and we’ve made some great friends in travel and tourism over the years. I hope I can maintain those friendships and continue to enjoy my work.
What do you get up to in your free time?
I haven’t been awfully good at relaxing I’m afraid and even travel can be something of a busman’s holiday when you’re in the business yourself.
I’m getting better at taking time out, however, and I enjoy the time spent with my family particularly on holiday. We’re also all set to have a great time while in Belfast, for we all love to eat and this is a great city for restaurants. And I might find time for a bit of shopping!