Michael Skehan (50) is the very proud General Manager of the Waterford Marina Hotel. Michael, originally from Thomastown, fell in love with his adopted city in 1997 and after years of travel, Waterford has now firmly become home. Michael’s hotel management career began when he opened the Talbot Hotel in Carlow, which ultimately led to him moving to the UK in 2010 where he managed the Leopold Hotel in Sheffield and Jury’s Inn Cardiff. However, Waterford was never far from Michael’s mind and amidst the upheaval of 2020, Michael followed his yearning and moved back to Suirside where he manages the Waterford Marina Hotel.
Life in a Day
I am definitely more of a morning person and like to be at the hotel between 7 and 7:30 am. I normally begin with a review of the handover from the night’s team and yesterday’s events, followed by a walk around the building checking everything is as it should be. I am a bit of a stickler for things being right.
Most mornings I spend time in and around breakfast service and chat with the guests that are checking out to ensure they are happy. This is also a good time to get feedback from people which is always really beneficial. Sometimes you need to hear the things that are not quite right so you can do something about them.
My day then can take lots of directions. For example, there are HR aspects that need attention ensuring training is being completed. I would review the business revenues daily for the coming three months and approve any adjustments to rates in the hotel. There is always maintenance and building issues to address to ensure we maintain and improve these standards. I look after the Waterford Marina Hotel’s social media presence – this involves responding to reviews, attending any local meetings that may impact the business (still over Zoom currently). Additionally, ensuring Covid practices are correct and in place daily is an important part of the day at present. Lunch is usually on the go or at the desk which is not always good! Luckily, we have our outdoor area right by the river which is always a nice spot to take five minutes. On a normal day, I would aim to finish at 5:30pm/6pm but not too many days are typical in the hotel business.
What school did you go to?
I went to Grennan College in Thomastown, I enjoyed school for the most part and was a diligent student. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school though, so when I got my offers I had to decide between hotel management and estate agency, the rest is history.
What teacher do you remember most vividly?
Honestly, no single teacher genuinely stood out for me, that’s not saying I had bad teachers but when I was in school in the late 80s, school was quite regimental, I feel. It was all about the grades, focusing on the main subjects and there was no time trying to develop or inspire students. It was all about study and not much about creativeness. I do feel this has changed now, which is definitely for the better.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I would probably advise myself to travel more when I was young. I think travel and working in a different country broadens your horizons so much and teaches you things that you would never learn in school or college. I had the opportunity to go to Switzerland on a summer placement when I was 18 and decided not to go, instead, I went to Wexford! I did travel to Australia when I was in my mid-twenties and that was an incredible experience.
How do you relax?
I’m a wannabe golfer but over the years have let that slip but it’s on my ‘to do’ list again for this year. Like many over the past year or so, walking has been a big part of life and I like nothing more than heading off on the Waterford Greenway or just around the People’s Park for a walk while listening to music. I also have a slight Netflix addiction!
What is your favourite film and piece of music?
My favourite movie is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. It’s just one of those movies that are timeless – I love the story and message from it. My go-to music when I just want to listen to switch off would be anything from REM – luckily, I got to see them in concert before they split. There is something haunting about Michael Stipe’s voice.
When was the last time you cried?
A proper cry? Probably when my Grandad passed away 12 years ago. I’ve also definitely had some moments over the past year or so when I felt very emotional. I remember the first images coming from Italy in the early days of the pandemic and seeing those hospital videos was quite distressing.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
I think coming home to Ireland after being away for nine years. I knew it was the right time and right move, despite coming home without a job lined up I just knew I would be happier. Despite all the upheaval of the last 15 months for me, it has got me to where I’ve always wanted to be, which was back in Waterford.
Do you pray?
I don’t kneel and pray as such – there are always things in life you hope and wish for and I certainly do sometimes ask for some divine intervention.
What is your biggest fear?
I am not a fan of rats, just even seeing one from a distance sends me into a state of fear. I can’t even watch them on TV programmes, so when ‘I’m a Celebrity’ has anything to do with rats on it I’m gone.
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t think I have a treasured possession that’s valuable as such. What I do have, and as I’ve gotten a bit older, I really enjoy looking back at old pictures from places I worked in over the years, reminiscing about the people I’ve met, my time in Australia and places I have been on my travels. There was life before social media and the internet and I just love looking at my old photographs.
What is your favourite thing about Waterford?
Having moved away for nine years, coming back to the city many things have changed but, in some ways, the city is still the same, which I like. The city is generally a very safe place and the people are very friendly. We now have the Greenway which wasn’t there when I moved away. I now have a greater appreciation of what we have so close to the city and perhaps took for granted. Waterford has great beaches for walking all year round, mountain trails and easy access to Dublin or Cork. One of my favourite things about Waterford was always the Spraoi weekend, the atmosphere and vibe around the whole city was always electric. I think when things like Spraoi happen again in ‘normal’ times we might just appreciate them that bit more.
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
Difficult question but I would like to see the city centre come alive again. Investment in areas such as the Viking Triangle have been great and future plans for the North Quays are also to be supported but the city centre is the heart of Waterford and I feel that an ambitious plan to revitalise this area would be really beneficial. Some buildings in the city centre aren’t in great shape and in my opinion, this doesn’t reflect well. We need to encourage people back to the city centre and make Waterford stand out from the other cities in Ireland.
In conversation with Dermot Keyes