Appreciation: Robert Travers focused on social and cultural tourism

His genealogical inheritance stemmed from the nephew of the poet Edmund Spenser

Robert Roland Eaton Travers

Robert Roland Eaton Travers


Robert Roland Eaton Travers of Timoleague in Co Cork, who died on May 3rd, was not merely a man of his times, but a man of the best of his times.

While his career was in international tourism, his domestic life centred on his wife Laura and children Lydia, Henry and Alice and the lovely garden acres surrounding their home in Timoleague.

Here Robert’s genealogical inheritance stemmed from the 16th century Sir Robert Travers, a nephew of the poet Edmund Spenser, and more recently from his own great, great, great grandfather, Col Robert Travers of the 22nd Light Dragoons returning to Timoleague in 1817.

His surname meant that visits to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork city brought Robert into the memorial company of gilded relatives, while the small estate Church of the Ascension beside his garden is gorgeously decorated with family tributes, its mosaic patterns blending European and Islamic motifs like a prophesy.

Beyond all this is a curriculum ranging from projects with Ireland’s Tourism Development International (TDI) to assessments for Unesco or the World Bank. He was lead author of UNWTO’s report on the 21st century maritime silk road which aims to connect China with the rest of Asia, Africa and Europe. Other reports included strategies for carbon- neutral tourism for Montenegro, destination management for the Mekong Delta, the development of medical tourism in Egypt and opportunities for water through tourism in Africa.

Reared between Crosshaven and Timoleague by his parents Dawn and the late Neil Travers, Robert and his siblings Olivia (Howe) Philip and Jeremy spent holidays with their grandparents Eaton and Dorothy Travers at Timoleague House.

Prompted by an inspiring teacher at Midleton College, he read English at TCD; his colleague Ciaran Tuite at TDI remembers that Robert never came unprepared to a proposal but brought “a remarkably deep and invaluable understanding of the local environment”. But if he brought, he also took away, notably, and to his family’s delight, a passion for scuba diving, acquired at Aqaba in Jordan and surely influencing his examination of the potential of scuba diving for the Greek ministry of tourism.

His consistent emphasis on social and cultural aspects of tourism asserted an intellectual integrity which was disguised by charm and humour in personal life.

He met landscape designer Laura Lynch at Powerscourt where he was tourism manager; they married in 1988 and after several years with the Northern Irish Tourist Board, Robert took an MSc in responsible tourism management from Leeds Metropolitan University and embarked on his consultancy practice.

At his thronged funeral the friends and neighbours who gathered to mourn his loss and applaud his life gathered also the strands of the ardent thread which connected Timoleague to his broader geography.

His profound faith was worn lightly, although wherever he worked he sought a place of worship, preferably Anglican. His final Easter was celebrated at Canterbury in a journey managed by Laura and enabled by his children, his siblings and by Jane and Patrick Annesley.

His plan for his funeral at home was followed with the calm austerity of the Book of Common Prayer, but in the May sunshine of this exquisite church the fringes of Solomon’s Seal on every window seemed to hint at his early paper on Shangri La as an image of a destination.