Failte Ireland Outlines Cork Plans for 2013

Confidence in the Irish tourism industry about its prospects for the year ahead is at its highest levels since the current downturn began in 2007, it was revealed today at Fáilte Ireland’s annual tourism industry briefing for the South West region which was held in The Rochestown Park Hotel, Cork. This optimism is also helped by growth in some overseas markets last year, for the first time since the downturn in 2008, particularly traditional in the US, Germany and France*.* However, Fáilte Ireland today stressed that targeted changes will need to be effected in our nearest and biggest overseas market – Great Britain – and the national tourism development agency stressed that a radical change in approach to that market would be necessary this year. Fáilte Ireland’s CEO, Shaun Quinn said – *“Tourism is, by its very nature, an optimistic industry but this year there are many good reasons to expect a pick-up in overseas visitors. This is essential as historically our tourism sector has had an over-reliance on the home holiday market which is no longer in a position to guarantee increased revenues. The real action is overseas and that means capitalising on further growth from the US, maintaining our allure in Europe and finally fixing what needs to be mended in the GB market.” * *“This year in particular, the industry has been given a leg up with ‘The Gathering’ initiative developed by Fáilte Ireland.* *The local tourism industry needs to put its best foot forward in 2013 and provide those who have come to ‘gather’ with an unparalleled visitor experience and great value which will encourage visitors to recommend the South West region as a premier destination and return again and again to the region”. * *TOURISM IN CORK* Ms Fiona Buckley, Head of Operations for Fáilte Ireland in the South West region, which includes Cork and Kerry, pointed to progress in the last year, which included: *The Gathering 2013* June 2012 saw the formation of Cork Gathering Steering Group. There were four community meetings across Cork which took place in Mallow, Middleton, Rosscarbery and Cork City with approximately 500 people in attendance and subsequently local Gathering Steering Groups were set up. There are currently 274 Gatherings pledged for Cork on the Gathering Ireland website. *Wild Atlantic Way * Work continued on this significant new driving route which will run along the West Cork coast. The Wild Atlantic Way is set to be Ireland’s first long-distance driving route for tourists, featuring a 1,400km driving route from Donegal to West Cork. It is anticipated that the Wild Atlantic Way will be launched in 2014 – the current stage, identifying the route, is only the start of the process to develop a driving route to rival the best in the world. Fáilte Ireland has also undertaken significant work in the development of a brand proposition and identity for the Wild Atlantic Way. *Cultural Cork Project * Research was undertaken during the summer on visitors to Cork from both the domestic market and six international markets. The findings were presented to the Cultural Insights Group and will form the basis for future destination development work. A thorough organisational review of the current operations and remit of Cork Festivals Forum as a collective body was commissioned, in conjunction with Cork City Council, and findings will be presented in 2013. *Cork City and Harbour Story – selling City and Harbour overseas* Fáilte Ireland in association with tourism businesses across Cork City, Harbour and West Cork began a process of creating compelling stories of their area, targeted at international visitors. The aim is to*position Cork positively for growth in the overseas market. *All the Cork Stories has been translated into French and German for use in targeting the key overseas markets and into Irish for targeted use in the domestic market and is available to businesses to use in promoting Cork City, Harbour and West Cork as a tourism destination. The consistent use of this “Shared Story” by all those who market or sell Cork will result in greater impact, greater awareness and help to grow visitor numbers. *Festivals and Events* Fáilte Ireland invested €463,000 in festivals and events which took place in Cork in 2012. These included A Taste of West Cork, Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival, Kinsale Arts Week, Cork Craft Month, Masters of Tradition, Corona Fastnet Film Festival and Ocean to City *Two Capital Investment Projects: * *Youghal Boardwalk – *Fáilte Ireland invested €137, 513 towards the development of the first of a mobility-disabled access boardwalk running from Youghal Front Strand to Claycastle. This project was delivered in partnership with Youghal Town Council and was officially opened by Michael Ring, Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Sport in July 2012. *Fota House and Gardens – *Fáilte Ireland invested over €1.7 million towards the redevelopment of Fota House and Gardens which was officially opened in 2012. *Publicity* Over 62 trade from the South West were provided with the opportunity to meet with overseas tour operators and group organisers, with a view to negotiating business for the future at various workshops throughout the country There were over 140 International journalists and media that visited the Cork area in 2012 which was organized by the publicity team in Fáilte Ireland supported by the South West Enterprise and development team. These involved organizing itineraries, liaising with the trade, organizing press packs, meeting and entertaining these media who came from Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Spain, U.S.A, Germany, France, Netherlands, Britain, India, Italy, Netherlands and Nordics. As well as that there are on-going promotions of the area in the Tourism Ireland overseas websites. *Ms Buckley added:* *“As is clear from tourism’s 2012 performance, Great Britain remains challenged and the home market is levelling off. Any immediate growth for the industry is best assured by focussing on our traditional key markets in North America and Europe – the markets which show the greatest potential for bringing real recovery to the tourism sector. In the year ahead, we will be working with tourism businesses throughout the region to ensure that we identify the best prospects for growth and that we sell smarter to achieve the growth in overseas visitors which the South West region needs.”* * * *PRIORITIES FOR 2013* Anticipating developments over the next 12 months, Ms Buckley stressed that ensuring the success of The Gathering Ireland 2013 – the single most important tourism initiative ever in the history of the state – would be Fáilte Ireland’s top priority. She also emphasised that Fáilte Ireland would be working with Tourism Ireland and tourism industry leaders to revamp and reinvigorate our sales pitch to the UK market. She said: *“With 274 local Cork events already organised, The Gathering has immense potential for the South West and should be a big boost to the region in 2013. We will also spend the next year working on improving our appeal in Britain and working with individual tourism businesses to help them sell more business in our other overseas markets, particularly Europe and North America. Given the growing importance of technology, we will be pushing a major new initiative on e-business and social media with a particular emphasis on enabling individual firms to exploit digital channels for sales.”* Ms Buckley added that the national tourism development agency would be exploiting its current portfolio of festivals and attractions in the region to package them into interactive and exciting tourism experiences as well as sourcing and investing in those festivals and attractions which have the greatest potential for Irish tourism. Pointing to particular developments over the next 12 months, Ms Buckley anticipated: *“Building on the work achieved through the Cultural Cork Project, an Interpretative Framework will be developed for Cork City and Harbour, which will identify Cork’s best prospect target markets, the experiences and messaging that appeal to them and the channels to reach them”* Concluding today’s event, CEO Shaun Quinn stressed: *“Looking back to the darkest days of 2009 and 2010, it is clear as we begin 2013 that we are entering a new phase of our recovery. Moving from mere survival, tourism businesses are now consolidating and looking everywhere they can for growth opportunities.* *“The South West region has great appeal, an innovative tourism industry and a good local Fáilte Ireland team. I believe that, with the promise of The Gathering to come, this could be a pivotal year for local tourism.”*

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