Despite recent upbeat reports regarding an increase in overseas visitors to Ireland in 2011, Fáilte Ireland warned against any complacency in the tourism sector this year, during its annual tourism industry briefing for the Lakelands & Inland Waterways region which was held in the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone last week.
The national tourism development authority stressed that the hard lessons and good work of the last few years will need to continue and will be central to maintaining a momentum towards a full recovery in tourism. To assist that momentum, Fáilte Ireland will be working hand in glove with local tourism businesses in the Lakelands and Inland Waterways.
Shaun Quinn, CEO Fáilte Ireland, stressed, “although 2011 was an encouraging year, there is no room for complacency. We must all remain focussed on doing all we can to maintain a momentum towards recovery. Fáilte Ireland, through a mixture of marketing, supporting tourism businesses and developing attractive tourism destinations, will work closely to boost the full potential of the Lakelands & Inland Waterways in 2012.”
Speaking at the launch Fiona Monaghan Head of Operations, Fáilte Ireland commented, “Lakelands & Inland Waterways is a unique partnership between Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland and the Local Authorities and over the past five years has worked collaborately to bring to both the domestic and overseas markets the proposition that the centre of Ireland with the majestic Shannon and its associated waters is a wonderful place to holiday. Together with the accommodation providers, visitor attractions and amenities, Lakelands & Inland Waterways improved its 2011 year round business, helping to sustain the investment made to date.”
Looking to 2012 Ms Monaghan said among the priorities would be the redevelopment of Athlone Castle, the development of themed itineraries designed to appeal to overseas Tour Operators and further development of outdoor activities on such as canoeing, kayaking and sailing on Lough Derg, Lough Ree and the other lakes of the catchment.
Highlighting the key enterprise support role that Fáilte Ireland plays Ms Monaghan added, “we will also be running a number of programmes aimed at helping the trade to develop their businesses. Programmes like customer care courses, packaging and bundling and Networking will run throughout the year through our destination hub teams, who work closely with the trade in the three zones of the destination namely Lough Derg, Athlone, Lough Ree & Environs & Carrick and the upper Shannon.”
She continued, “Fáilte Ireland, through its Sales Connect initiative, will continue to work with businesses in the region to maximise the opportunities of a strategic approach to overseas marketing, while also delivering a wide variety of practical business supports to ensure tourism enterprises are market ready to welcome and cater to overseas visitors.
“Fáilte Ireland will also continue to support a wide variety of festivals and events which have the capability to deliver bednights and incremental tourist revenue to the destination,” Ms Monaghan concluded.
To bolster tourism growth in Ireland this year, some of Fáilte Ireland’s key projects in 2012 will include developing a new national Tourism Towns Award to motivate Irish communities to get behind their local industry and do their part to lure visitors.
The organisation will also work with the dedicated Project Board and Implementation Group to ensure all the necessary preparations are in place for The Gathering in 2013 while consolidating the home holiday market – through a mixture of innovative marketing, exploitation of social media and an exciting mix of festivals, events and offers.
In particular, Fáilte Ireland will be devoting considerable resources and energy throughout this year towards the preparation for The Gathering in 2013. Designed as a year-long festival of festivals to give Irish tourism and Ireland’s economy a major shot in the arm, it is estimated that the event will attract up to an additional 325,000 visitors to Ireland during the course of the year and generate an additional €223 million in tourism-related revenue for the island.