Tourism experts and leaders gathered in Westport this week to discuss the future of the industry in Mayo.
Tourism Ireland chiefs told a conference at the Wyatt Hotel that they are promoting Mayo and the west of Ireland to millions of people around the globe, and the sector looks set to record a hugely positive year of growth in 2014.
The latest tourism figures from the Central Statistics Office show a 10 per cent increase in visitors to Ireland in the first six months of the year.
Tourism Ireland said the launch earlier this year of the Wild Atlantic Way driving route along the western seaboard has been a particularly successful initiative in bringing tourists to Mayo and the western region.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of the tourism body, said they are placing a major focus on the scenic driving route in their promotions around the world.
“We are highlighting the spectacular scenery of Mayo and the west of Ireland through TV, print, and online advertising; on Ireland.com and through social media channels; at major international consumer and trade fairs; through familiarisation visits for influential travel agents, tour operators, as well as international travel and lifestyle journalists and bloggers; and through our promotional material,” he said.
“Our aim is to spark peoples’ curiosity about the dramatic beauty of Mayo and the Wild Atlantic Way, the wonderful towns and villages and the many activities on offer here - encouraging them to come and discover this part of Ireland for themselves.”
This week, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring welcomed the increased visitor numbers to Ireland so far this year.
“Visitor numbers for the first half of the year are up 10 per cent and these figures do not include the typical holiday season of July and August. There is great optimism among the tourism industry that 2014 will be record year and I am sure Mayo and the west will certainly see the benefit of this.”
However, Minister Ring cautioned against becoming complacent, stressing the need for the tourism industry to continue to offer good value for money.
“The industry’s hard work, along with the supports provided by Government and the tourism agencies, has resulted in a remarkable turnaround, but we need to continue to offer a quality product for a competitive rate.”
Minister Ring said Mayo is playing its part in growing the sector.
“Mayo has already hosted some wonderful festivals. I was delighted to attend In Humbert's Footsteps and I am sure many visitors will enjoy the upcoming Westport Food Festival,” he said.
“These festivals are contributing to the increased numbers and I look forward to continued growth for tourism in 2014.
“In Mayo, there were 373,000 domestic trips in 2013, which represented an increase of 9 per cent on 2012.
“The average length of stay in Mayo in 2013 for domestic visits was 3.8 nights and this was an increase on the 2012 figure, while the average national figure was 2.9 nights,” he added.