Longford-Westmeath TD Nicky McFadden has said that Westmeath can benefit directly from the increase in tourist visits to Ireland, and the county should do all it can to attract more visitors. Deputy McFadden was speaking following the publication of new figures showing strong growth in visitor numbers of 3.9 per cent at the end of 2012.
Despite a slow start to the year, Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar expects the end of year figures for 2012 to show an overall increase in visitor numbers, building on the substantial recovery in 2011. The CSO figures for September to November 2012 showed strong growth of 5.8 per cent from mainland Europe, a 7.9 per cent increase in visitors from long-haul markets, and a 19.7 per cent increase in visitor numbers from the US.
Deputy McFadden says she believes Westmeath can benefit greatly from the growth in tourist numbers.
“Westmeath has wonderful scenery, lakelands, cultural and historical amenities, and water activities on offer to tourists, not to mention an impressive selection of hotels and guesthouses. We have also become much more accessible from the main airports and cities. It is important that with these positive tourism figures, Westmeath continues to market itself and to attract foreign visitors,” Deputy McFadden said.
“It is also important that we invest in projects that will benefit local tourism. For example, in June of last year funding was allocated to Westmeath County Council for an upgrade of the Royal Canal Route to upgrade 11.3km of canal towpath. There is tremendous further potential to develop the entire canal towpath within the county. This would be a huge attraction to tourists interested in a cycling holiday.”
She added that 47 events have already been registered to take place in Westmeath on The Gathering website www.gatheringireland.com
“These events vary from school reunions to triathlons, from heritage weekends to opera evenings. 2013 could prove to be an historic year for tourism in Westmeath.
“Marketing efforts as part of The Gathering 2013 have moved up a level and Ireland received a further boost with Ireland’s inclusion in Fodors Travel Go List of top destinations to visit in 2013. USA Today has included The Gathering Ireland 2013 in its five buzz-worthy destinations for 2013, while Rick Steves, America’s leading authority on European travel, has included a hurling match as one of the eight magical experiences in Europe.”