I recently became chair of the board of Hospitality Ulster, taking up that position at an exciting time when the organisation was in the middle of evolving from Pubs of Ulster.
Being part of the team that launched Hospitality Ulster last week was a proud moment and a career highlight for me. I am just one of a growing number of women who are taking up prominent roles in the industry and before Hospitality Ulster was unveiled last week, I served on the board of Pubs of Ulster for eight years.
The hospitality industry in Northern Ireland has undergone a radical transformation in recent years and the service we offer to both home-grown customers and visitors from further afield is renowned throughout the world. Since our creation in 1872 as the voice of the retail licensed trade, we have witnessed significant change across the industry as our members' pubs, hotels and restaurants have evolved and grown in response to changing consumer trends and the shifting economic climate. These changes have become more profound in the last decade and licensees like me have had to adapt and diversify to meet demand.
In my own business, not only do we run a pub but we also operate a guest house, coffee shop and even open our premises up for yoga classes. I have had to diversify to strengthen my business and recognising that change is constant is one way of keeping ahead of the curve.
Working as a woman in this industry is challenging, working very long hours with little time off. Seeing customers leave my premises with a smile on their face gives me a great sense of satisfaction that I have chosen the right career path. My role chairing the board of Hospitality Ulster also allows me to be heavily involved in promoting an industry that is responsible for sustaining 60,000 jobs and contributing £1.1bn to the Northern Ireland economy, and indeed that is one that I am proud to be a part of.
Olga Walls is chair of Hospitality Ulster and owner of The Derg Arms in Castlederg