Panel of Speakers at Tourism Launch:
Back Row: Gerry Finn (Western Development Commission), Brian King (BACD), Paddy Mathews (Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands) & Seamus Duffy (BACD)
Front Row: Steve Dolan (Galway Rural Development) Ruth Mulhern (Galway County Council Tourism Officer) Colm Croffy (IFEA Europe) & Eanna Rowe (Waterways Ireland)
Encompassing from the Beara Breifne Way on the West of the town and the Shannon Erne Waters system on the East; a new Community Tourism network was established at a launch meeting in the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe recently.
The launch night saw the Ballinasloe Area Community Development Company (BACD) outline how Tourism Development for the town and its hinterland is one of the three key pillars of the new Strategic Development Plan.
BACD had commissioned a GRD Funded Feasibility Study on the potential of a new Tourism Development which was presented to the invited audience of some 80 delegates from the trade and sector.
The Feasibility outlined how the scoping exercise identified almost 170 visitor related experiences / firms and services in a 25 km radius of the town Centre from Meelick Weir to Ballyforan and from Dartfield to Clonmacnoise.
A preliminary Map of O’ Kelly Country was circulated with some 27 points of notable interest on it and the plan outlined where the current level of evolution the network location is at, between Involvement and Development among the 3 Hotels, 21 Accommodation providers, 20 Services, 14 Live Music Pubs, 12 Restaurant / Cafes , 23 attractions, 12 Community Development groups, 7 heritage groups, 10 leisure groups, 17 Cultural and Events activities, 15 Crafters and 3 Artisan Food and Distillery firms.
The plan went on to identify how the new network could compliment the Strategic Direction of both the Beara Breifne Way Development Plan and Shannon Erne Masterplan in delivering the targeted visitor numbers that Hidden Heartlands has for the region.
The Plan used many of the benchmarks from the Destination Town Toolkit and the Community Network Guide researched by Failte Ireland to outline what actions are required to make the area more visitor friendly when the Greenway spur and Blueway of the Suck are completed over the coming years.
A strong panel of industry leaders contributed their perspectives on how places in undiscovered Ireland need to establish an experience and offer as well as just identifying assets.
Paddy Mathews CEO of Hidden Heartlands presented an overview on what his organisation were doing to maximise the potential of the region that had 80 % of the Wild Atlantic Way passing through it but only managed to keep less than 5% of the total visitor numbers to the island. He explained their target markets for season stressing the Northern Ireland and Domestic Visitor. He believed that some three years on, having first attending a briefing in the town – the group were on the right direction of travel and that he and his team from Hidden Heartlands would be engaging and supporting them.
“It's no longer enough to say come visit us and discover our assets, we need to bundle them into experiences that encourages people to play here when they stay here, this network will be significant part of getting that new message out there “, stated Paddy.
Ruth Mulhern the Galway County Council Tourism Officer was pleased that the Study referenced the Lough Derg Visitor Plan which she was involved in and outlined that the new County Tourism Plan she was currently drafting, would utilise some of the scoping work undertaken by the Feasibility - developing lesser known parts of the County.
Gerry Finn the Chair of the Western Development Commission referred to role of his organisation towards reaching out for new families and businesses to establish west and that a new look tourism feel to the Just Transition Zone of the Midlands with its emphasis on Sustainability and Eco Tourism was the way forward. He also offered many practical insights in how the King House Project and establishment of the Una Bhain Tourism Network that he personally worked on, is still showing success 25 years later.
Eanna Rowe, Regional Manager of Waterways Ireland was very enthusiastic about the plan and gave references to projects that he worked on in Killaloe and Boyle that had key learnings for the Collective. “The 7,000 boat owners are a very networked community and you must try with the launch of this network keep reaching out to a variety of groups and segments that will in time become ambassadors for this part of the country. The start-up if a new Local IWA Club on the Suck will be a huge building block in this “ he stated.
Steve Dolan the CEO of GRD Leader – who had funded the Study which has some 47 recommendations – the key to which is to form from a Working Party and new Collective – welcomed the Plan and the large, renewed interest in tourism. “From listening to the presentations from looking at the larger numbers of hinterland communities and key private investment support, we can see here tonight how much part of the Hidden Heartlands that Ballinasloe and its hinterland want to be”. He referenced the difficulties with Leader Funding in transition and spoke candidly about some of the projects he was involved in, in the past with Portumna Castle, Courthouse and Workhouse.
Many Oireachtas Reps and local Councillors spoke in strong support that the Collective was the progressive route to go in chasing new business and employment for the area.
There was a robust question and answers session with the panelists before the Moderator Brian King Vice Chair of BACD wound down the evening stating that the Collective would be establishing new working relationships with all the agencies on the stage in creating an innovative and dynamic Tourism Collective for East Galway South Roscommon and North Offaly.
The emerging Map and Summary of the Plan will be available on the BACD Enterprise Page and on this website over the coming days. For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 090 9646516
Local Tourism Working Group alongside Failte Ireland Representatives
Back Row: Lyn Donnelly (BACD) Tony Dawson (Fáilte Ireland) Brian King (BACD) Gareth McAllister (Ahascragh Distillery) Alan Harney (Town Hall Theatre) Billy Reynolds (Féile Cheoil Larry Reynolds) Matthew Hughes (Ballinasloe & District Vintage Club) Seamus Duffy (BACD)
Front Row: Paddy Mathews (Fáilte Ireland) Valerie Dolan (Ballinasloe Walks and Trails) Frances Leahy (Town Hall Theatre) Michelle McAllister (Ahascragh Distillery ) & Colm Croffy (IFEA)
Missing from Photo Graham Bartlett (Inland Waterways Association Ireland - River Suck Branch) & Ruth O'Brien (Shearwater Hotel)
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