Betty Sykes, Miriam O' Donoghue, Maeve Martin Kelly, Caitriona Scully, Johnathon Sykes and Donie O' Connor at the launch of the plan
A CONCERTED new effort is underway to put west Limerick firmly on the tourist map. And in a bid to win a bigger share of the growing tourism market, West Limerick Resources has commissioned a five-year Action Plan with key recommendations and a time-line.
At the launch of the West Limerick Cultural and Heritage Tourism Action Plan 2019-2023 at Springfield Castle last week, Shay Riordan, the manager of West Limerick Resources, stressed that calling it an action plan was deliberate.
“This is about drilling down to specific actions and projects we can take on,” he said. “We are desperately serious that this is not a document that is printed and thrown up on a shelf.”
Limerick had the sixth highest international spend of all the counties, he said, to the surprise of many in the audience. But, West Limerick itself doesn’t have a strong identity as a visitor destination.
The challenge now was to change that. “We have opportunities here. If we don’t take these opportunities, nobody else is going to do it for us, ” Mr Riordan said.
The most successful tourist destinations are those that work together, he continued, and he stressed the need for collaboration and buy-in by the tourism and heritage sector but also by communities and voluntary groups. And the action plan proposes a number of ways in which this collaboration can be fostered, through events and a long list of possible new community-based festivals.
But providing support for those involved in the tourism, culture and heritage business is also a vital objective of the plan, and the plan proposes a number of workshops and visits to help achieve this. The plan also looks at specific ways to strengthen and market the West Limerick brand and crucially to create experiences for visitors.
According to the plan, those visitor experiences should fall under a number of main categories the Culturally Curious; the Great Escapers; Connected Families and Indulgent Romantics and these are the main target markets.
As part of this, the plan proposes a “uniquely West Limerick food experience”, for example, as well as a tie-in with the Shannon Erne Pilgrim Way. The Great Southern Greenway is a huge asset for West Limerick, the plan acknowledges, but this needs to be built on through adding in various “experiences” along the way.
The plan also recognises the value of the link-up with the hugely successful Wild Atlantic Way, through the Shannon Estuary Way. But argues the need to develop it further.
Overall, the action plan aims to increase visitor numbers and jobs in the tourism sector and to increase the number of culture and heritage festivals and events in the area by 50%.
A lot of work had gone into drawing up the action plan, Mike O’Flynn, chairman of West Limerick Resources said. Heritage and tourism are very much interlinked, he said, and he believed there was a massive opportunity there for West Limerick to boost visitor numbers. “This is just a start,” he said.
Maurice O’Connell of West Limerick Tourism and Donie O’Connor of West LImerick Heritage Network welcomed the plan which was introduced by Caitríona Scully while Jonathan Sykes welcomed people to Springfield Castle and gave a short history of the building which is rented out to visitors or for events but which is open to visitors now every Saturday.