Minister for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar experienced two sides of Donegal when he visited the county over the past two days. He was greeted by protesters when he addressed Fine Gael members at the Station House Hotel in Letterkenny on Friday night. He did however meet their representsatives, John McLaughlin and Ryan Stewart about a variety of issues concernig the the county.
Then speaking at the Colmcille Winter School in Gartanon, Saturday, Minister Varadkar urged Donegal’s tourism industry to take full advantage of all the opportunities provided by the Irish Open being held in the Royal Portrush Golf club at the end of June.
“For my part, I have asked the tourism agencies to ensure that Donegal enjoys the full benefits of the event. As we speak, the golf team in Fáilte Ireland is sourcing a number of top golfing journalists to bring into Donegal to sample the local golf. It’s vital that as the cream of golfing journalism descends on Antrim to cover the event, that we take advantage of the publicity.”
Fáilte Ireland will be organising a number of familiarisation trips for overseas media in Donegal before and after the Open event. The minister also added that Fáilte Ireland would be using the Open to promote Donegal within Ireland, and internationally. A special eight-page supplement promoting Northwest golf tourism is also being planned for early April in advance of the Open, which will further promote Donegal as a top-class destination for those interested in all things golf.
“I have asked the tourism authorities to promote Donegal both before and during the event. With large crowds from Northern Ireland in attendance, it’s the perfect opportunity to market the northwest as a region. I’m determined that Donegal will get a generous slice of the Irish Open pie this Summer and we will be pushing all the best buttons to ensure that happens.”
The Minister encouraged Donegal tourism businesses to take full advantage of having a major sporting event taking place on their doorstep. This could include web marketing initiatives, food or accommodation promotions designed around the event, or entertainment outside of the golfing hours.
Fáilte Ireland’s Golf website will have a dedicated Irish Open page where it will promote golf and other tourism offers available in the northwest during the event. Tourism businesses should get in touch with their local Fáilte Ireland team to ensure that any offers are included.
It is expected that this year’s Colmcille Winter School in Gartan will generate huge interest and finance into the local economy with this year’s annual theme being ‘Can the Tourism Industry Lead Economic Recovery in Ireland’.
The two day annual event which is now in its twenty third year was opened by Máire Áine Gardiner, of Fáilte Ireland on Friday night. This was followed by an informative address from Gearóid Ó’Smoláin of Údarás na Gaeltachta entitled ‘Tá an Deis Ann’. The Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland, Shaun Quinn then give an informative address titled ‘Tourism in Perspective’, followed by an address from the Destination Manager of the Northern Ireland Tourism Board, Martin Graham titled ‘Northern Ireland - The Tourism Opportunity’.” The discussion which was chaired by Fianna Fáil county councillor, Dessie Larkin, came to a close with an inspiring talk ‘Growing the Island’s Economy from the Outside In’ by the Director of Central Marketing, Tourism Ireland, Mark Henry.
Yesterday included a guided scenic walk and a visit to local tourism facilities. At 6pm, Dr. Seán Duffy, the Head of Tourism in Killybegs, LYIT gave an address to those present entitled ‘The Role of Education in Securing the Future of the Irish Tourism Industry’.
Sunday’s agenda was to inspire and inform people from across the country in relation to the blossoming tourism industry in the county. The Manager of Fáile Ireland North West, Ms. Joan Crawford gave an address on ‘Donegal Tourism - What the Future Holds’. This event was chaired by the Visitor Centre Supervisor of Glenveagh National Park, Ms. Tres Conaghan.
Martin Egan, who has been to the forefront of organising the event, which will soon mark quarter a century, said the event generated much needed funds into the local economy and much interest into the region. Over eighty delegates from outside the county had registered for the annual event.
“A huge number of hoteliers attended. It generated good business for the county. Every year people from all around the country attend the winter school and you often hear of them returning time and time again. It gives a huge boost to the holiday trade. Because the event takes place at the beginning of the year, it is fresh in people’s minds and they come back, ” he said.