Children playing at Garrykennedy village, Lough Derg
A new plan to deliver and elevate Destination Lough Derg has been launched by Minister of State Anne Rabbitte TD setting out a marketing plan for drawing in tourists to Lough Derg over the next five years.
The Lough Derg Visitor Experience Development Plan, produced by the Lough Derg Marketing Group, sets out the overall approach to destination planning in the scenic area for the next five years, illustrating the unique attractions of Lough Derg and how best to develop visitor experiences across the region to place Lough Derg as a holiday destination of choice both nationally and when appropriate internationally.
It was developed in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland and Waterways Ireland, Tipperary, Clare and Galway Councils, Inland Fisheries, the Leader Programme and Coillte.
Talking about the Plan, Ms Rabbitte described it as a strong roadmap to deliver Destination Lough Derg. Ms Rabbitte said: “The Plan, developed in collaboration with key stakeholders, shines a light on the work already underway to develop visitor experience, aligns it with the wider ambition for the Shannon Masterplan and identifies the actions required to meet the needs of current and future visitors.
"This structured approach to building sustainability across the area is a really welcome move for our community. When you live and work in a rural area that is very much dependent on the tourism industry, you can see and feel the impact of well-thought-out, long-term investment that helps support our businesses and our communities.
"There is no doubt that a massive challenge lies ahead for tourism.
"What is evident is that doing more of the same will not be enough; it’s crucial that we look at new ways of selling, delivering and sustaining tourism; making what we offer more accessible in a variety of ways, and something visitors will want to experience again and again.
"The strong framework and aims of the Visitor Experience Development Plan means we are well on our way to delivering Destination Lough Derg," added Deputy Rabbitte.
Chairman of the Lough Derg Marketing Group Joe MacGrath said: “A key element of the plan is its focus on industry and the delivery of a balance of both sustainable and economic drivers. We want to see increased spend and increased footfall, and we want to ensure that businesses and communities have the right tools, support and skills to ensure sustainability.
"The consolidated approach to the businesses and services on offer means a balanced and sustainable revenue, and jobs growth with greater geographic and seasonal spread. This is all about supporting business to work better and to work together.”
Talking about the Plan’s bigger picture, Eanna Rowe of Waterways Ireland added: “The plan is not just about attracting visitors; it’s about improving the region for everyone who lives, works and plays there, and helping it be a better place to live.
"What is crucial in any development plan is to ensure the community is front and centre of all decisions; particularly given that the community is undoubtedly one of our best assets.
"Well planned and organised community and business stakeholder engagement meant that we were able to harness the collective ambition of those living and working around Lough Derg. This meant that the local community was able to shape the future of the region and ensure that they continue to have buy into sustainable local industry.”
Paddy Mathews, Head of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands at Fáilte Ireland said: “This Visitor Experience Development Plan, which captures the unique themes central to Lough Derg, is about looking to the future recovery of tourism in the region. It provides a framework for tourism businesses and stakeholders to work in partnership over the next five years to create new and improved existing visitor experiences which will make it easier for visitors to explore the area’s historic towns, villages, waterways and inland trails.
Local consultation and input was central to this plan and this collaborative approach to the visitor experience will offer visitors connected, multi day trips and more creative ways to experience the region. When it is safe to do so this plan will motivate both international and domestic tourists to visit Lough Derg and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.”