The Canal greenways are an amazing attraction in Offaly
Tourism supports many pillars of our economy and the Covid -19 crisis and all the resultant ramifications has ensured that the past year has been an arduous one for Offaly Tourism.
However, as we come to close the chapter on 2020 there’s a beacon of light beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel and the recent progress with regard to vaccines will allow the industry to enter the recovery phase and begin to grow again in 2021.
There’s no denying that in these highly uncertain times for our country the tourism sector has been hit the hardest. The Offaly Tourism team team have been working closely with Fáilte Ireland and our counterparts from Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands to assist and support our stakeholders.
In May, the Government established a Tourism Recovery Taskforce to prepare a Recovery Plan for the industry. The Taskforce was tasked with coming up with recommendations that can help the tourism sector to survive the crisis and recover in a stable manner.
As part of its work, the Taskforce undertook a widespread stakeholder consultation process and the report was submitted to the Government in October.
The final report makes a number of recommendations, both to help the survival of tourism business and jobs and also to help the sector stabilise and recover in the years to come.
A Tourism oversight recovery group Chaired by former Tullamore Tribune reporter Nóirín Hegarty, VP Lonely Planet and member of the Board of Tourism Ireland, has now been established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the Taskforce report and monitor the sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
The Group’s membership consists of tourism industry practitioners, a transport policy expert, along with the CEOs of the tourism agencies and a Departmental representative. The Group will keep the Minister apprised of progress on the implementation of the Recovery Plan and the recovery of the sector.
Already plans are in place for a major Tourism Ireland marketing campaign to kick-start the resumption of tourism back into the country next year.
St Patrick’s week in March has been earmarked by Tourism Ireland as the time to launch its three-phase plan to restart and rebuild the Irish tourism sector next year.
Great Britain and mainland Europe are set to be the “priority markets” to attract tourists from in 2021, along with the United States.
And as part of the build up to the resumption of inbound tourism, Tourism Ireland ran a digital campaign over Christmas called "Let's get back to Ireland". It ran in 12 different markets including Britain, the US, France and Germany.
During the initial stages of the pandemic we unfortunately had to close our tourist office in O’Connor Square in March for ten weeks. However, the Tourism Offaly team were busy behind the scenes assisting with enquiries and working with our stakeholders.
Offaly Tourism had a strong representation at the Fáilte Ireland organised ‘Meitheal' an event that enables representatives of the Irish tourism industry to meet directly with influential overseas buyers from around the world.
Fáilte Ireland’s largest in-Ireland event was cancelled in March due to COVID and for the first time ever was held on a virtual platform in July. We attended 23 meetings with suppliers and gained valuable contacts in the tourist trade both nationally and internationally. The follow up contact includes a presentation showcasing Offaly as a destination to specific markets.
Thanks to our wonderful volunteers who give up their time selflessly, our Visit Offaly office in Tullamore opened again in June and with all non-essential foreign travel discouraged, ‘Staycations’ were very much in vogue and we launched our summer marketing campaign to coincide with the lifting of travel restrictions throughout the country. The national radio campaign ran for a period of four weeks on Newstalk and Today FM.
It included a week-long promotion on Today FM’s flagship Fergal D’Arcy afternoon show. Both the adverts and the promotion has been very well received and has definitely boosted Offaly’s profile nationwide.
For the first time ever, Offaly tourism was delighted to collaborate with its neighbours in the midland counties to jointly promote the area on local radio. The ‘Magical Midlands’ adverts began broadcasting in June for a period of four weeks. The campaign consisted of three county specific adverts for Offaly, Laois and Westmeath.
The common message at the beginning and ending of the adverts is to enjoy the ‘Magical Midlands’. The adverts encourage the midlanders to get out and explore the wonders and beauty within the region.
Anne Cassin and a Nationwide crew visited for two days in July for a programme focussing solely on tourism in Offaly and the attractions the county has to offer including Clonmacnoise, Lough Boora Discovery Park, the Slieve Blooms and the River Shannon.
The programme aired on 27th July on RTÉ One and was broadcast to a national audience of up to 250,000 viewers. The programme was very well received and wonderfully showcased Offaly’s sites and attractions as the sun shone! It is still available to watch on RTE Player.
Tourism in the county had gained great traction from the exposure gained nationally from our marketing activities, with local tourism providers reporting significant increase in bookings. Unfortunately, Offaly went into another two week lockdown from 7th August, which impacted the sector significantly.
The €1m promotion campaign announced by the government in the package of measures to support businesses impacted by the regional restrictions was most welcome. Offaly, along with Laois and Kildare received an equal share.
This campaign focussed on increasing the appeal of Offaly to visitors and drive bookings under the banner of ‘ Make A Break For It’.
The ‘Make A Break For It’ campaign encouraged the domestic audience to pack their bags and get out to explore all that Ireland has to offer by communicating the anticipation, excitement and joy of a home holiday by leveraging our regional experience brands.
The campaign reached 97% of Irish adults and Fáilte Ireland published the first adverts in this campaign at the end of August.
This campaign ran for 16 weeks in press, radio, online audio and social media. The content in these adverts changed on a weekly basis focusing on different sites and attractions each week.
These Offaly specific ads were in addition to the adverts running for the regional brands Ireland’s Ancient East and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in which Offaly continues to feature.
We’re under no illusions that there’s great uncertainty in the tourism industry and challenging times ahead but we should seek solace in that old latin adage *Post Nubila, Phoebus.
*After the clouds, the sun).
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