A major tourism conference, complete with guest speakers, Late Late Show host Patrick Kielty, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, UN Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta and Minister for Tourism, Deputy Catherine Martin, will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone on Monday, September 18.
The conference, entitled “Tourism: Big Impact, Small Footprint”, was launched on the new cycleway bridge which spans the River Shannon in the heart of Athlone. Organised by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC ), the conference will feature the unveiling of a fresh report, which details a shortage of 11,500 hotel rooms in Ireland to adequately address the anticipated demand within the upcoming decade.
Conducted by economist Jim Power, the report underscores the absence of a hotel development pipeline in various regions across the country. Notably, the Midlands stands out as the area facing the most severe deficiency, accounting for just five percent of the total national hotel room capacity.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser prior to the hosting of the conference, Elaina Fitzgerald-Kane, ITIC chairperson, warned that the EU Just Transition tourism funding of €68 million for the Midlands region would be seriously undermined if there is not a complementary uplift in tourism accommodation.
“The Midlands will remain a transit zone rather than a touring zone to the severe detriment of local economies throughout the region. We are delighted to bring our annual conference to Athlone to highlight these topics and hope many of the local hospitality business in the region will join us,” Ms Fitzgerald-Keane stated.
Referencing the September showcase conference, Mayor of the Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Cllr Louise Heavin, noted that a thriving tourism industry is essential to growing the Midlands region as a destination.
“I am delighted to welcome the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation conference to Athlone and showcase this vibrant, central destination to delegates. A thriving tourism industry is essential to growing our potential as a key hub for visitors exploring Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and beyond. The Municipal District here in Athlone and Westmeath County Council are glad to support this vital event,” Cllr Heavin remarked.
Recent data from the CSO confirms tourism as the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer.
Tickets to the tourism conference, sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, AIB and Westmeath County Council cost €125 plus VAT. The conference will be hosted by broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald and opened by Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, Chair of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation.
Additional guest speakers and panellists include economist Jim Power, Failte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly, Sean O’Driscoll of iNua hotel group, Director of the Cliffs of Moher Geraldine Enright, and interim CEO of Tourism Ireland Siobhan McManamy, while a special recognition award will also be presented to a tourism hero.
Patrick Kielty will speak about tourism as a force for good and Bertie Ahern will be in conversation with Dearbhail McDonald about 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and how tourism was chosen at the time as an all-island sector.
All who are working or simply have an interest in the hospitality industry are encouraged to book a ticket. Registration starts at 9.15am and event runs until 4pm with lunch and light refreshments included.
To make a reservation at the conference visit https://www.itic.ie/.