Deputy for Longford-Westmeath, Peter Burke (FG ), secured a debate last week on the impending tourism strategy to cover Athlone and the Midlands.
Deputy Burke requested that Minister Shane Ross provide information on the process, when a decision will be made on the new strategy, and when work would begin.
“There was a commitment in the Programme for Government that a brand such as ‘Ireland’s Lakelands’ would be put forward and marketed by the State agency,” Deputy Burke said. “While I now understand from key stakeholders that the brand will not necessarily be called Ireland’s Lakelands, it may centre around outdoor pursuits such as walking, hiking, cycleways and water-based tourism.
“The success of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East has been well documented, and Fáilte Ireland has done a world-class job of developing the brand and marketing it to the right people. Over eight million tourists came to Ireland last year, with one million of them coming from North America.
“What we now need is a similar scale investment for the Midlands and the counties which don’t fit naturally in with either brand. Of course, there are Ireland’s Ancient East sites in both Longford and Westmeath, but it is not a suitable fit in some instances.”
Deputy Burke also highlighted to Minister Ross the key sites in the Midlands which need to be supported and included in any new strategy, naming The Hill of Uisneach, Athlone Castle, Cullion Fish Farm, Center Parcs and others.
Deputy Burke added that while the Midlands may not enjoy as many “naturally occurring” tourist features as some areas in the west, it does have a wealth of culture, heritage, and water sites with trails, rivers, and other resources the tourist potential of which can be maximised.
“I am satisfied from the Minister’s response that the new strategy is imminent,” he added.