Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin Boxer Moran, together with his fellow Athlone elected representative, Senator Gabrielle McFadden were in attendance at a recent Fáilte Ireland Oireachtas information clinic which detailed the nature of work being undertaken by the national tourism development authority in county Westmeath.
The National Tourism Development Authority provided the members of the Oireachtas with a direct and comprehensive update on Westmeath, detailing the work that Fáilte Ireland does on the ground and the many social and economic benefits that this work brings to their respective area and region.
County specific details on Fáilte Ireland’s grant programmes, business supports, festival plans, training initiatives and future investments in visitor attractions and tourism businesses across Westmeath and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands were provided.
The River Shannon, its lakes and inland waterways are an integral part of the tourism offering in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. Fáilte Ireland has provided funding to Waterways Ireland to lead on the preparation of a tourism masterplan for the Shannon River, including the Shannon-Erne Waterway. The tourism masterplan will assess the strengths and weaknesses of this key tourism asset in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, and will bring forward proposals on how to grow a sustainable international tourism destination in the Shannon corridor which respects the nature and diversity of the environment and its people. Westmeath County Council is part of the steering group to help guide the process. This tourism masterplan is expected to be completed by the end of June 2019 and will include product development and investment recommendation.
Through Fáilte Ireland’s Destination Towns initiative, Westmeath County Council will be able to bid for funding of between €250,000 and €500,000 to develop to two towns in their area that have the potential to become a tourism hub. The new scheme, which is now open for applications, will provide funding for the local authority to enhance public spaces and attract more overseas visitors. Ireland’s Hidden Heartland’s teams are working closely with the council on its funding submission, with the closing date for applications being September.
Fáilte Ireland wants Westmeath to benefit as much as possible from tourism across the county and has looked at the natural assets and the distinctive experiences they might offer in each area.
The western part of Westmeath, with its proximity to the Shannon, fits the new Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand very well and Fáilte Ireland is using this regional experience brand to leverage further tourism growth in the area, while the eastern side of Westmeath is particularly rich in heritage and cultural experiences and, with key assets including Belvedere House, Hill of Uisneach and Tullnally Castle, the Ireland’s Ancient East brand offers this area the best opportunity to grow its economic return from tourism.