As the county weltered in the sunshine of the past few days, business representatives behind the newly launched Letterkenny Tourism initiative have offered an illuminating ray of hope for the hard pressed industry.
With a new promotional website going ‘live’ yesterday, the town is, with the full backing of the Town Council, bidding to secure a significant slice of the national tourist cake through a brand building plan designed to incorporate the entire business community in the locality.
Pointing to the “common gains” that can be accrued through a never relenting marketing campaign, Letterkenny Tourism chairperson, Gerard McGinley revealed that the initial focus would be on the Northern Ireland market. To this end, half page advertising slots and editorials are featuring in twelve newspapers across the North covering seventeen areas with the main target audience for this year based within a one or two hour drive from Letterkenny.
“We looked at other towns throughout the county, including Blarney, Westport and Killarney and realised one thing, that we had far more to offer,” Mr. McGinley told Tuesday’s launch in the Arena 7 complex. This, he said, included the theatre, the Regional Cultural Centre, tennis courts, a Museum, the Aura Leisure Centre, two town parks and a revamped Main Street along with top quality accomodation facilities.
Letterkenny Tourism had met up with the local Town Council to discuss the initiative with the chairperson praising the “excellent” Local Authority for its commitment to the project.
Figures released this week by the Central Statistics Office revealed that the total number of trips to Ireland from overseas had increased by 2.7% in the three months up to February.
At the launch in Letterkenny, however, Mr. McGinley said that despite the fact that Donegal was the cheapest destination, just 6% of visitors had travelled to the North-West last year.
Urging the involvement of all local businesses in the venture, he insisted tourism represented a real industry and not a fairytale industry and they were perfectly positioned to take advantage.
Vice-chairman of Letterkenny Town Council, councillor Jimmy Kavanagh said most things happened in Ireland because a small number of people had sat down and set about doing it, pointing to the Letterkenny Reunion as an example of how such initiatives had helped attract people to the town. “To be successful is not, therefore, about having a huge financial investment in a project or about having endless buckets of money to throw at a project; it’s more about having a quality idea and having the right people in the right place, with the necessary determination to make it happen.
“Letterkenny Tourism is I believe a quality idea. It’s about a group of business people getting together and deciding to do something about their situation, rather than sitting around bemoaning their bad luck, and for that I applaud you all.”
What they needed to do now as a Town, as a tourist destination and as a council, was to set about making the most of what they had. “Whether that means getting more big gigs to the Aura Centre, getting more lawn bowling teams to the Bernard McGlinchey park, getting a stopover in the town for motor homes, or having a flagship tourist attraction at Rockhill house, from the smallest to the biggest project the idea of making the most of what we have is central, and that idea is central also to what Letterkenny Tourism is hoping to achieve,” said cllr. Kavanagh who pledged the Council’s 100% backing.
Joanne Sweeney-Burke of Mediabox, who are involved in the establishment of the logo and the website, said the collective branding concept had worked and this was an opportunity showcase all that Letterkenny had to offer .
Commenting on the website, due to go ‘live’ yesterday, she said they had needed something vibrant reflecting the fact that Letterkenny itself was a vibrant town.
They would be putting together a series of pod casts which, along with the social media outlets, would help direct visitors to the website. “Content is king. We need the content to drive the traffic,” she indicated.
Former Tourism Minister, Dr. Jimmy McDaid described the initiative as “very innovative” which could be of huge benefit to the community of Letterkenny.
It was, he said, “exceptionally difficult” to keep a brand going because the oxygen of money was always required. “If you’re not branded, you’re not at the races. This is the future and the way to go,” he said, pointing to the pride they should have in the facilities within the town.
Dr. McDaid remarked on the “terrific website” which had been set up to promote the town.
“People in business are finding it very difficult at the moment. I hope that this will be successful and I’m quite sure that it will probably will be.”
P.R.O. for Letterkenny Tourism, Tracy McKeague, who is Sales and Marketing Manager for the Silver Tassie, said they wanted to focus on the possibility of all businesses working together for the benefit of everybody.
Reflecting on the current spell of weather, she maintained: “If we had evenings like this all the time we might not have to worry about tourism.”
“A Great Holiday Starts Here’, the logo for Letterkenny Tourism proclaims and now it’s officially up and running, it’s over to the business community and those involved in all aspects of the industry to make it work.