Emyr Griffith – A Tribute
I recently learnt with great sadness of the passing of Emyr Griffith of Wales in early January. Emyr was a vibrant person with a truly unique Welsh personality,not forgetting his wonderful Welsh singing voice. He started his career in hospitality with the British Tourist Authority where he travelled the world promoting tourism to the UK.
He was a man of vision so it was no surprise when he took the plunge and established a unique country house hotel marketing association for his beloved Wales – The Welsh Rarebits – where the aim was far more than offering bland accommodation. He saw a niche where heritage properties, some of which were in danger of falling into dereliction, would be restored to previous grandeur by their owners. This presented an opportunity to promote them as stylish country house hotels and showcase local tradition so guests could enjoy a more experiential holiday. This was so successful that he expanded his company to include another association called ‘Great Little Places’ catering for more intimate holidays, similar to Bed & Breakfast style accommodation.
Emyr excelled at marketing all his life. His personality was relaxed, likeable and knowledgeable; he also brought a fun element to marketing as against the laboured efforts by many in this sector. He painted a vibrant vision of colour and everyone bought into it. Tour operators across the globe realised quickly that there were growing numbers of tourists who desired a more immersive experience and that Wales offered this in abundance.
Emyr also saw the bigger picture of co-operative marketing very early and Ireland’s Blue Book was extremely happy to join with the Welsh Rarebits in joint marketing efforts. This saw the promotion of Wales and Ireland together at top international events, luxury travel and lifestyle shows such as the Country Living Fairs. A bond developed between the Welsh and Irish hoteliers with each learning from the other by way of ‘Busman’s holidays’, ie. exchange visits which were organised by Emyr. Of course every evening always ended in a sing song with Emyr leading the posse for the Welsh and our own Johnny Fitz from Aherne’s in Youghal leading the charge for the Irish.
The Welsh Rarebits also joined the Historic Hotels of Europe where Emyr was a valuable and important member of the Executive. Wales had now grown from being a provincial region of the UK to having its own voice on the global stage of tourism. Emyr, not being one to stand still, subsequently started his own boutique tour operation, Eurowales. He saw growth in niches such as the eco and geo tourist sector where overseas tourists gained more tactile experiences. One such group was his US American knitters where his tour was not only a huge success but also created a desire for keeping alive traditional crafts.
His fun side saw him directing somewhat stuffy European castle owners in renditions of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, complete with actions; one location being a very historic, and rather damp castle over 150km north of Madrid. I also remember a visit by Emyr back in 2012/2013 when I received a call from him to meet up in Doheny & Nesbitt’s pub on Baggot Street. He had arrived with 11 other Welshmen (ticketless) for a Heineken Cup match between Scarlets and Leinster. There wasn’t a sniff of a ticket. After a couple of hours Emyr had blagged 10 tickets for his mates and was content to stay in situ to watch the match from the pub!
Emyr will be sadly missed by his devoted family and in particular his soulmate Alex. He has left many happy memories for all of us who knew and respected him. Emyr’s funeral takes place on 5 February in Wales and a website has been set up www.emyrgriffith.muchloved.com.
‘lechyd da’ Emyr from all your good friends in Ireland.
www.hilaryfinlay.com (former Managing Director of Ireland’s Blue Book)