Parts of Offaly included in Ireland's 'Hidden Heartlands' tourism brand
Parts of East Offaly have been included in a new tourism brand launched on Thursday by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross.
The new tourism brand has been designed similarly to the famed Wild Atlantic Way and Ancient East to boost tourism and drive visitor growth across the Midlands region. It covers parts of Offaly and North Tipperary, Longford, East Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim and East Clare.
The initiative will include development tourism master plans for the River Shannon and Beara Breifne Way, together with promotion of local attractions and activities.
The brand elements including the name, logo and what the brand stands for were developed following extensive research with consumers in Ireland, US, UK, Germany and France.
The new branding aims to highlight the Midlands' rich natural assets including its many lakes, walkways and blueways. It will also leverage a growing tourism trend for soft activities by encouraging visitors to be ‘active in nature’ and to explore the region off the beaten tracks through a range of activities including walking, food, cycling, fishing, and boating routes.
The River Shannon will be a central focus of the brand with a Shannon Master Plan currently being developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with Waterways Ireland to drive tourism opportunities both on and off the water, and in the towns surrounding it.
Another asset for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will be the Beara Breifne Way, which spans the whole region, and where a compelling walking and trail experience will be developed to international standards. The Activation Master Plan will see a number of towns along the route identified as walking hubs to support this ambition and drive visitors into nearby areas.
A series of food networks and trails will also be developed as part of the new brand.
Launching Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in Athlone today, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, said:
“I’m delighted to launch Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – a new brand which will significantly enhance the Midlands as a tourism experience and bring growth and jobs to the whole region."
"We have always been committed to ensuring that Ireland’s success as a world-class tourist destination is shared among the regions. Some of the country’s finest natural assets are in the Midlands, including spectacular lakes, walkways and blueways. Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will bring these gems to life, offering a unique experience to both domestic and international visitors.”
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran TD, added:
“Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will transform the Midlands and how it is positioned to tourists. I’ve heard first-hand from people and businesses across the region about the major potential this area has to attract visitors and the willingness there is to grow tourism."
“It is fantastic at last to have a tailored brand for the Midlands as this is just what we needed to develop local tourism and unite our visitor experiences behind an offering of scale. I look forward to welcoming more visitors to the area in the coming years and I would encourage all tourism businesses and interested parties in the Midlands to work with Fáilte Ireland and to get behind the new brand.”
The new brand will complement Fáilte Ireland’s other key brands - the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.
Speaking about how the new brand will help to drive growth across the region, Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said:
“Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has been developed after months of extensive market testing both here and overseas. The overwhelming feedback is that visitors from key markets want the opportunity to explore Ireland’s natural gems and rural communities. There is also a huge appetite out there for tourists to be active in nature through activities like walking, cycling, angling and boating routes – all of which the Midlands can offer in abundance."
“We believe that sustainable growth in tourism will depend on greater regional and seasonal activity and this new brand will go a long way in driving that - as well as economic and employment growth - across the Midlands. While it will take a number of years for the region to realise its full potential, our focus now will be on working closely with key partners and communities across the region to develop the top-class visitor experiences that will be central to the success of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.”
Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Commercial Development, Paul Keeley, said that significant economic activity can be generated by the new Midlands brand as well as additional tourism revenue and employment if the brand realises its full potential.
Mr Keeley added:
“We believe that Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has the potential to attract more visitors to the region each year - transforming the local and regional tourist industry, which to date has underperformed the rest of the country.”
Mr Keeley pointed to parts of the region east of the Shannon and stressed that Fáilte Ireland was building in an overlap here with Ireland’s Ancient East to allow local operators to decide to leverage one or both of the visitor brands, whatever best suits their businesses. Mr Keeley explained:
“It’s important to note that we have not defined the boundaries of our various brand territories based on county boundary lines. Instead, we have looked at clusters of product and the distinctive experience they might offer. There is an area along the east of the Shannon river that is strongly rooted in the new brand’s appeal but also has many historical attractions which are already benefiting significantly from being part of our Ireland’s Ancient East brand. Therefore, we’ve built in some flexibility in this overlapping area to allow local businesses to make the most appropriate decisions for themselves.
“From our experience, the visitor is not concerned with our local county boundaries. Instead, they are more interested in the things to see and do and how easy these are to access as part of their itinerary. This is what makes a holiday special. The overlapping area offers the tourism businesses the opportunity to align their own visitor experience with the brand it fits best into and which gives them the best potential to grow.”
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will now become a tourism development zone with Fáilte Ireland allocating investment and resources across the region.
An initial €2m has been allocated to start the development stage of the brand, with further funding to follow. This first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences, support industry development and develop marketing campaigns for the region.
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