Your Password to the World
EAMON RATTIGAN (25) dreamed of working in the great hotels of the world. Now, thanks to his course in International Hotel Management at GMIT, he’s training to be a manager at the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel in New York. He tells Sheena McGinley about life in the Big Apple
When I finished my Leaving Cert in 2010, I had no idea that I wanted to go into hospitality. I started working in a hotel in Dublin and discovered that not only did I like the business, I found connecting with people very fulfilling.
It was the prospect of travel that attracted me to the International Hotel Management course at GMIT as at the end of your second year you have to undertake an international placement. The idea of spreading my wings and working in great hotels and travel destinations around the world really appealed to me.
It’s important to get experience in the industry when you’re studying hotel management, and during college I worked weekends at Wineport Lodge in Glasson, outside Athlone, where I also did my Irish work placement. My international placement was a little different! I was sent to the Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania, which is owned by the famous Hershey chocolate company. They take students from GMIT every year and I firmly believe that it is one of the best college internships available on any course – not just in hospitality. The company operates on a global scale and when you have the opportunity to speak to the CEO and general managers on a regular basis you learn more than just hotel management; you gain an insight into how a large-scale multinational operates.
I loved working in the US and returned on a J1 after third year, spending four months working in a resort in Cape Cod. Heading back stateside when I finished my final year was an easy decision.
New York, New York
I joined the Irish-owned Fitzpatrick Hotel Group in July 2016 as a management trainee, which means I am trained as a ‘manager on duty’ in all departments of the hotel. That’s one thing I like about American hospitality, they are not afraid to throw you in at the deep end and you have to run a shift all by yourself. I have to deal with staff supervision, guest complaints and many other issues that arise. So far I have done four months in housekeeping, four months in front office and four months in the food and beverage departments.
While Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel is one of the smaller American hotels I’ve worked in, it’s one of the best as you really can’t beat Irish hospitality. Americans always comment on how warm our welcome is at the hotel and how we genuinely care about their stay. There are two hotels in the group in New York and the owner and CEO, John Fitzpatrick, is a great person to work for and learn from.
A Day in the Life
No day is ever the same in a hotel, which is why I like it so much. On an average day I will start around 7am and end at 5pm. In the morning I check the daily arrivals to make sure guests are allocated the right room types, resolve any issues that may have arisen during the night shift, and let the front desk staff know of any VIP arrivals and any special requests made by guests in advance of check-in.
At 10am we have a daily meeting with all the heads of department and Shane Cookman, the Area General Manager, to discuss the daily arrivals and any other issues. By noon most of the previous night’s guests have departed and there is a rush to get rooms ready for the next guests who start arriving at 1pm. We often have a lot of Irish guests who travel to New York on the same flights so we get small bursts of check-ins throughout the day. It’s always great meeting the Irish guests and having a quick chat and ‘the craic’ with them as they check-in.
The Good, The Bad & The Celebrities
While getting to see the world thanks to your work is amazing, there is a downside to this industry. It is, and always will be, the weekend work.
I played Gaelic football for my local club for more than 12 years until I started working in hotels. You don’t get weekends off regularly in the hospitality industry so I had to choose to put my career first. And it has paid off. There’s a feeling of immense satisfaction when a guest checks out and thanks you for their stay. You also get to meet a lot of celebrities at the hotel. I have met sports stars, TV personalities and actors, and I really enjoy looking after them. Everything must be perfect to ensure that all guests have an unforgettable stay with us here at the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel!
When you start working in tourism you’ll either love it or hate it and it’s not suited to everyone. You must be a people person first and foremost. You don’t need to be excellent academically, but if you cannot talk to people and be genuine then you won’t last a second. You also need to be very focused to succeed and progress. My advice would be to get some experience in the industry first before applying for a college course to make sure that you like it.
Tourism is definitely the right industry for me and I plan to keep learning and keep travelling as much as I can. My goal is to gain experience in the Middle Eastern and Asian markets, before returning home to Ireland where I hope to land a role as a General Manager of a hotel. The sky is the limit!’
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