Host of county towns included in new tourism initiative

Portumna Forest Park (Photo: discoverloughderg.ie)

Parts of East Galway, where tourists are ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’, are now set to benefit from an initiative steered by both Fáilte Ireland and the Office of Public Works.

Parts of the county like Tuam, Headford, Ballinasloe, Loughrea and Craughwell – which are not prominent on the tourist trail – are set to reap the rewards of the new marketing plan which will be launched in a matter of weeks.

It involves a loop of the Wild Atlantic Way being extended to Loughrea, Gort and Craughwell, while other parts of the county will benefit from a new tourism brand to be established in the Midland region.

The new initiatives are to encourage tourists, who are already familiar with the 2,750 kilometre Wild Atlantic Way, to wander off the beaten track and discover some other fascinating attractions in Galway like Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary near Headford, St Mary’s Cathedral in Tuam or Athenry Castle.

Galway East TD Seán Canney has welcomed proposals by Fáilte Ireland to increase tourism potential in Galway East.

These initiatives have come to fruition following meetings and discussions which Deputy Canney instigated during his role as Minister for the Office of Public Works with Fáilte Ireland, Department of the Environment and the National Parks and Wildlife.

“Gaps were recognised in the tourism branding and it was agreed that the best approach was to combine the resources of the various departments to deliver the optimum benefit”, he explained.

It is proposed to launch the Wild Atlantic Way Region in early 2018 which will showcase areas that are not on the existing driving route in an effort to encourage visitors to come places off the beaten path and explore more attractions in East Galway.

“I am delighted to see this type of branding for areas which have to date been ignored. There is enormous potential for growth in tourism in areas like Tuam, Headford and Athenry.

“We have so many hidden gems right across Galway East and now recognition is finally being given to these areas. Portumna is a perfect example of a location which has so much to offer in terms of heritage and water amenities”, Deputy Canney added.

The new initiative has also been welcomed by Galway East Fine Gael Minister Ciarán Cannon.

“As part of our programme for government, Failte Ireland has been instructed to develop a marketing strategy for the area colloquially known as ‘Ireland’s Lakelands’, which includes Portumna and East Galway,” he said.

“This is a very important development in attracting tourists to our local towns and villages that have yet to benefit from massively increased tourism numbers over the last decade”, added Minister Cannon.

“Last year some 1,000 people were surveyed in Ireland, the UK, USA, France and Germany to share their views on two proposed midlands tourism concepts and a lot of the learning derived from that process will now feed into the development of a new brand for this region which has so much to offer,” he revealed.

Minister Cannon also outlined that significant investment has already been made in tourism across South East Galway.

“In 2017 our government invested €750,000 in Portumna’s Harbour and Amenity Park which provided for the doubling of the mooring space and the development of integrated services for camper vans,” he said.

“We also have recently invested an additional €25,000 in amenities at Portumna Forest Park. In addition to this, Portumna Castle and its Irish Workhouse Centre have seen increasing numbers of visitors in the past few years and the refurbishment of Portumna Castle`s Coach-house, to accommodate tea rooms, toilet facilities and exhibition areas, will be completed this year which coincides with the Castle`s 400th anniversary,” Minister Cannon concluded.