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*Lough Derg.

Clare councillors are leading the call for an equivalent of ‘The Gathering’ to be prepared to aid the promotion of Shannon Airport and tourism post COVID-19.

Following the passing of a motion by Clare County Council, a request has been issued for the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin (GP) to liaise with Fáilte Ireland and other suitable bodies to launch a new tourism promotion strategy.

One suggestion from Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) was ‘Trace your Irish Roots’ which would encourage persons to travel to the country to explore their Irish heritage. Any scheme must “replicate the success of The Gathering”, he said. “It is now time under the current climate to come up with a new initiative which will aid the promotion of Shannon Airport and tourism in Ireland”.

Aimed at the Irish Diaspora, The Gathering in 2013 was an umbrella framework which encouraged communities to host events in their localities and for the Irish abroad to return to the country for these events.

“It is no big secret that tourism is at an all-time low. We need to put something in place and be ready. The Gathering was a massive success in this county and Ireland, we should be thinking of something like that to attract tourists to this country and county,” Cllr Ryan stated. The references of US President Joe Biden to his Irish roots should serve as inspiration for the strategy, he said.

Ryan added, “Tourism is an industry no corporate body can take away from us, it is natural to this county and will always be there, we need to keep it growing as best we can”. He also praised the recent performance of Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine for the return of Ryanair to Shannon Airport.

Ample time is available to plan such a series, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) believed. “A load of people in Ireland will get the jab and go on holidays, we need to take advantage of that in reverse”. He pointed out that Shannon Airport’s revenue was down €1.3m as a result of COVID-19 and was one of the hardest hit regional airports, “I have no doubt Dublin Airport will be fine bouncing back”.

New ideas are also required from tourism experts in Clare, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) felt. “Clare is so dependent on tourism. The Gathering was a great success for Shannon Airport and the entire county. A new initiative is wanted”. Measures that could help the county in enticing additional tourists were welcome, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) and Cllr Mary Howard (FG) agreed.

Another difficult year for the tourism sector is highly likely, Chief Executive of the Council, Pat Dowling flagged.

A shovel ready approach is essential for the strategy, Cllr Ryan concluded. “After the dark comes the dawn, at the end of the day we need to be ready”.

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