Mayo County Council has developed a hugely ambitious five-year tourism strategy which aims to increase visitor numbers to the county by 80 per cent by 2020 and, in the long-term, increase tourism by up to 350 per cent and create 1,000 new jobs.
Such a level of tourism growth would position Mayo as one of Ireland’s top destinations, surpassing Clare and going on to rival Kerry in terms of visitor numbers.
The strategy, which has been in development for the last 12 months and is currently in draft format, was unveiled for the first time at a meeting of Mayo County Council’s toursim policy committee in Ireland West Airport Knock on Tuesday.
It includes the development of a wide range of tourism products and leisure infrastructure across every part of the county.
Some of the key projects in the strategy include increasing the county’s Greenway routes to 200 kilometres, installing a velorail attraction in east Mayo, developing a centre of excellence for angling, new blueway routes for water activites, spiritual and religious trails, enhancing beach facilities, and creating a mountain biking site to rival any in Ireland.
The strategy also includes an ambitious flagship project to build Ireland’s most iconic, ‘must see’ attraction - a multi-million euro, futuristic, glass viewing platform overlooking Keem Bay in Achill.
The strategy is being spearheaded by Mayo County Council’s Enterprise and Investment Unit, which is led by Joanne Grehan.
Some of the key opportunities identified in the strategy, called Destination Mayo 2015-2020, are adventure and outdoor, spiritual and cultural tourism.
Ms Grehan said it is about “positioning Mayo as that location of choice” and she hopes to see an unprecedented level of partnership and collaboration established for community and voluntary groups, the business sector, and Mayo County Council, to realise the ambitious targets contained within the strategy.
Mayo is currently the seventh most visited county in Ireland. It recorded 245,000 overseas visitors in 2012 with an expenditure of €67 million and also performs very strongly in the domestic market.
The county’s reputation as a leading adventure and outdoor pursuits destination has grown significantly in recent years, according to senior executive engineer with the Enterprise and Investment Unit, Padraig Philbin.
“It is one of the biggest markets out there,” he said. “In Germany alone, there are 11 million cyclists who holiday abroad.
“We are the seventh most visited county but there is huge potential for us to come up the rankings.”
He said branding and marketing the county under the name ‘Wild Mayo’ will target that sizeable outdoor and adventure market.
“We have natural people, wild nature, unspoiled and authentic landscapes, pure culture and raw adventure. We have all of these things in abundance.”
The branding would also tie in well with the Wild Atlantic Way, which has already proven to be an extremely effective marketing tool to attract visitors to Ireland’s Atlantic coastline.
Mr Philbin pointed to Knock Shrine, Croagh Patrick, and other sites of religious and spiritual significance dotted throughout the county as major advantages in developing spiritual tourism.
He also pointed to cultural attractions such as the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, the Michael Davitt Museum in Straide, and the Museum of Country Life, Turlough, for the development of cultural tourism.
The strategy was endorsed by the members of the local authority’s tourism policy group on Tuesday.
It is now expected to go before the full meeting of Mayo County Council for consideration in March.