Lough Derg has the potential to become “a world class tourism product” if the right strategy is put in place.
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Cathal Crowe at their July sitting proposed the local authority “strategise for the development of a world class tourism product that centers on Lough Derg and encompasses the towns, villages and other water courses of East Clare” and for a joint marketing campaign between the Council and Shannon Group to “energetically promote the Lough Derg and East Clare region”.
Director of Service, Leonard Cleary reminded the Mayor that the local authority in conjunction with Team Tourism are already undertaking a tourism strategy for the county. Referring to the Inis Cealtra Visitor Management and Sustainable Tourism Development Plan, Cleary said “once implemented will be of a world class tourism experience”.
He pointed to the Lough Derg Canoe Trail, Lough Derg Signage, Killaloe to Ballycuggeran amenity walk, the Lough Derg Blueway Marketing and Promotion Programme as examples of the work being carried out in the area plus The Lough Derg Amenity Trail costing €600,000 which is being funded under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and Clare County Council.
Fáilte Ireland’s new Platforms for Growth initiative can “transform the tourism landscape across the country,” the Director felt. In relation to Cllr Crowe’s call for a joint marketing campaign, he mentioned the already existing Lough Derg Marketing Group chaired by the Chief Executive of Tipperary County Council and includes representatives from Clare, Tipperary and Galway that are in the midst of finalising a 2019-2024 destination strategy.
“We need to emphasise between the Wild Atlantic Way brand which is just 5 years old and Hidden Heartlands which is only 6 months old, we need to get behind the Hidden Heartlands brand. We need for transport connectivity to allow visitors be distributed and investment in hotels. We have the visitors in the county, retention of the spend is important,” Cleary concluded.
“In the west of the county we have the Cliffs of Moher, we’ve our county town which looks quite vibrant in terms of footfall, the south of the county has Bunratty with the Burren Geopark very popular in the North. I think Lough Derg has much to offer, it is a niche market. I ope we can avail of Government funding,” Cllr Crowe replied. His Fianna Fáil colleague, Cllr Pat Hayes seconded the motion, “It is very important that we have a focus for the whole county, we’ve huge potential. The Director’s reply is quite helpful”.
Fine Gael’s councillor Pat Burke added to the discussion, “I haven’t seen in my time here too many Mayors of the day putting down motions, you’ve taken the opportunity and good luck to you. I’m in constant contact with Leonard and Joan Tarmey on Inis Cealtra. I thought it was more of a local issue but if you can hone in on them, fair play to you,” to which the Chair answered back, “I don’t intend to relinquish my speaking duties”.
Further support was voiced from Cllr Pat McMahon, “the more activity you have on a strategy the better” and Cllr Johnny Flynn, “In my own review of tourism, focus on the tractions can be detrimental to tourism spend in the county. Tourism strategy needs to focus on 6,000 additional bed nights”.