County mayor slams Fáilte Ireland’s ‘lazy’ criteria for Tourism Towns Awards

Fáilte Ireland’s method of selecting the top towns and villages for the 2013 Tourism Towns Awards has been described as “lazy” by County Mayor Tom Welby as the criteria for entering does allow inclusion of hugely popular tourist towns such as Clifden, Oughterard, Spiddal, and others.

Mayor Welby made the comments this week following the publication by Fáilte Ireland of the 45 towns and villages that will take part in the competition. The competition, which is in its second year, is aimed at supporting towns and villages to develop their tourism potential and eligibility is based on the results of last year’s Tidy Towns competition. However, there has been much criticism during the past few days over the fact that many of the countries most popular tourism hotspots, including the many major tourism destinations scattered throughout Galway, were not included in the final list.

According to a Fáilte Ireland spokesperson, there had been no mention of a Galway town or village because none, who were eligible, entered. Head of communications, Alex Connolly further explained: “There is an eligibility bar set by the performance of the Tidy Towns competition, and there would have been a number of Galway towns and villages eligible as a result but none of them applied. It was a pity, we had expected a number of them to apply. We’re hoping that this would be rectified next year.” Under this criteria Milltown, Abbey, Monivea, and Clarinbridge all did exceptionally well in last year’s Tidy Towns but there was no application made.

“Perhaps the towns that did qualify didn’t feel like entering because they knew it wasn’t suitable,” said Mayor Welby who maintained that although towns like Abbey and Milltown are top towns for Tidy Towns but they are not necessarily tourist towns.

“It’s a lazy system, to be piggy-backing on Tidy Towns. For the county as a whole last year’s Tidy Towns was the most successful with both Milltown and Abbey both receiving bronze medals. It was historic to get one, nevermind two. However, tourist destinations and the Tidy Towns competition are totally unrelated. Abbey and Milltown are doing substantial work but they are not tourist towns, you can’t link it. If they’re looking for a tourist destination Fáilte Ireland should be using different criteria. The county was successful in the Pride of Place competition, Clifden did particularly well and it’s a tourist town.

“With major tourist destinations such as Roundstone, Oughterard, Spiddal, they need different criteria. The towns that do well in the Tidy Towns are not necessarily tourist towns. It should be a competition standing on its own feet, for tourist destinations but under the criteria for this competition the likes of Oughterard, Spiddal, and Clifden didn’t meet the requirements. Fáilte Ireland should be doing something themselves, specifically for tourist destinations.”

Out of the 45 towns selected the top 10 ‘Highly Commended Tourism Towns’ will be selected and announced at the National Tidy Towns Awards later in the year with the overall winner being announced in November. Portmagee in County Kerry was the winning town of the inaugural award in 2012. The award focuses on how the participating town have developed their local area in the key tourism areas of: sense of place - how the town tells its own unique story to visitors; local involvement - how the local community works together to provide an authentic visitor experience; tourism products available - what the town has to offer visitors; and development and promotion of the town - how the town takes a unified approach to marketing and developing into a ‘tourism town’.

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