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Niall Rochford | General Manager | Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle: A Legacy of Absolute Excellence in Hospitality

In your long travels satiating your wanderlust, finding the right hotel to let off some steam is an absolute necessity. A hotel that strives to provide you a memorable experience, promotes leisure, and makes you want to visit again fits the description perfectly.

When you opt to stay at such a hotel, you are able to escape the monotony of regular life. You just want to change the environment and hence, are searching for a refreshing atmosphere. Sometimes inclining towards the likes of an environment encompassing lush greenery, woodlands, and a river-side luxury hotel would be the healing experience for anyone.

With the aim to provide such a mesmerizing experience, Ashford Castle is all available at your service. As the first and only Forbes Five Star Hotel in Ireland, and former residence of the Guinness family, Ashford Castle is indeed a holiday destination that provides a comprehensive experience.

In the following interview, Niall Rochford, the General Manager of Ashford Castle sheds light on his hotel, its unique services, and the future of hotel industry post pandemic. Below are the highlights of the interview:

Please brief our audience about Ashford Castle, its USPs, and how it is currently positioned as a leading name in the hotels and hospitality industry.

Ashford Castle is set on 350 acres in County Mayo, on the shores of Lough Corrib and the River Cong, with a spectacular backdrop of woodlands, lake, river, and mountains. This 800-year-old castle features 83 guestrooms, suites, and a Lakeside Cottage. Several dining rooms and bars, along with a gracious afternoon tea service are among the amenities. Formerly owned by the famous Guinness family, it is regularly named among the best hotels in Ireland and Europe. It is a member of Leading Hotels of the World.

Tell us more about Ashford Castle’s offerings, through which you have ascertained your stronghold within the hospitality space.

In addition to its amazing staff and service, Ashford Castle is renowned for a range of country sports including an equestrian centre, fly fishing, an exclusive nine-hole golf course and Ireland’s first school of falconry.

Being an experienced leader, share your opinion on why adopting modern technologies is necessary for the hospitality industry and how you have leveraged these technologies to deliver your offerings?

As a 13th century Castle which opened as an hotel in 1939, ever changing technology over that time have been incorporated. More so when the Tollman family of Red Carnation Hotels purchased the hotel in 2013 and invested $100 million to restore the property and new technology was sensitively integrated to enhance the guest experience. Smart TV’s, in room lighting and air-conditioning technology, world quality Wi-Fi were some of the new technologies installed.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, what challenges did you face, and how are you currently sustaining operations while ensuring the safety of your employees?

Ashford Castle follows all the health protocols of the Irish government, including limited occupancy, deep cleaning of rooms between guest arrivals, mask wearing among staff, and social distancing. When necessary, the hotel can arrange PCR testing.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the hospitality space?

Some of the best advice has come from the people I work with. One piece of advice that always stuck with me was given by Mr Tollman, the late owner of Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford: “Forget about what others are doing, focus on what you can do best for your customers.” Simple, but very effective and something I remind my staff of on a regular basis.

How do you envision scaling Ashford Castle’s operations and offerings in 2022 and further?

As Ireland’s only Forbes 5-star hotel, we continue to operate the hotel to the highest 5-star standards possible in 2021 and beyond. We have just completed our budgets for 2022 and our projections would suggest we are poised to have the most successful year in the Castle’s history. But we are also aware – nothing is guaranteed with the ever-changing landscape of the world today!

About the Leader

Niall Rochford is the General Manager at Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle. Beginning his career working in The Royal Hotel, Tipperary Town at just 16, Rochford never left the hospitality industry. The hotel was voted one of the first five-star properties in Ireland on the Forbes list.