Radical tourism initiative plans to make Athlone the new Westport

A radical initiative is underway to boost tourism, increase revenues, and enhance community spirit to make Athlone as successful a destination as Westport, Co Mayo.

The best and brightest in Athlone’s hospitality, retail, vintner, and manufacturing arenas are to form part of a tight committee to pool their wisdom and experience to boost the town.

Their aim will be to create a framework for Athlone’s future, and it’s hoped all the town’s major stakeholders, including AIT and the Tidy Towns will be involved.

It follows a recent workshop, led by Fáilte Ireland’s Helen McDaid and organised by the local authority which was attended by more than 150 hoteliers, retailers, and leaders in business, industry and tourism from Athlone.

Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran said that he, Cllr Sheila Buckley Byrne and Cllr Gabrielle McFadden approached the town council about doing something meaningful for tourism in Athlone and that town clerk Pat Keating ran with the idea.

He said that at their own expense, the three councillors, Mr Keating, and 20 business people went to Westport to hear from business people there and how they made the town a tourist success.

Cllr Moran said that Ms McDaid, who has worked in Westport and on other tourist projects, will put together a plan, and then a team will fall into place.

“The commitment is there, and I really think it will work,” he said, adding that everyone from hoteliers to taxi-drivers will have an input.

Town clerk Pat Keating referred to the initiative at this week’s meeting of the Athlone Area committee after Cllr Frankie Keena asked for an initiative to bring the “thriving beehive of activity” of the Left Bank further up Main Street and Connaught Street.

Mr Keating said there will be another workshop soon, and there are plans to establish a working group with an “overarching perspective”.

“The message is that the council can do a lot to facilitate coming together, but we need all the various sectors to come together so that vibrancy can continue,” he said.

Cllr Keena, who wanted the town council to work in conjunction with Athlone Chamber of Commerce and the local business community to extend the Left Bank’s thriving success was supportive of the new framework initiative.

He said his proposed extension of the Left Bank enhancement must be an important cog in that initiative.

Athlone’s mayor Gabrielle Mc Fadden told the meeting that as a follow-up to the workshops, the town’s hoteliers are meeting this week.

“If we sell our town and talk our town up, we can achieve,” she said, adding that everyone should come together on the plan.

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