Laois You're Welcome launch at the Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise
The Covid-19 pandemic has not held Laois Tourism from taking a big step toward repositioning Laois on the tourism and hospitality map.
Laois Tourism board members and invited guests gathered in the Dunamaise Arts Centre last week to launch a new brand and campaign for the tourism and hospitality sector in Laois.
Central to the branding is a new logo and a new catchphrase to encourage visitors to spend some time in Laois.
“You're Welcome” is the simple message that will be sent out far and wide by Laois Tourism and local businesses involved in the hospitality sector across the county.
It aims to get the message out that there is a whole lot to love about Laois.
Laois Tourism wants to welcome visitors to discover undiscovered castles and historical gems. It aims to get people to explore the expansive outdoors.
Apart from the new logo and motto, the rebranding is accompanied by a host of other ways to showcase all the great things about the county.
A breathtaking video, produced by local young filmmaker Naoise Kettle, is just one element of what Laois Tourism plan will be a large social media campaign. His two-minute video will be followed by five 30 second videos which are in production.
The button has also been pressed on a redesign of the Laois Tourism website which features the key messages the campaign wants to get out there. It is built by local company, Modus.
New brochures will also be produced to promote the new look. Designs are already in the works.
A photography bank of more than 500 high res photos has been compiled which can be used by Laois Tourism's 100 members to attract guests.
Prizes have also been donated by tourism and hospitality businesses in Laois Tourism to drive social media traffic to Laois.
Another initiative is to invite bloggers to review what the county has to offer.
All in all, the project has cost €25,000 and has been backed by Laois County Council and Laois Tourism and co-ordinated by local company Big Ideas Consulting which is retained by Laois Tourism to promote the county to visitors.
Apart from the involvement of Naoise Kettle in making the new film, local businesses have been central to the homegrown relaunch. Penhouse Design in Ratheniska came up with the new logo but also the concepts around which the rebranding is based.
Gillian Reidy presented the brand to Laois Tourism. Underpinning the 'You're Welcome' motto, Ms Reidy said there are keywords to support the message. These are, Escape, Explore, Discover, Experience, Wander, Let Loose, Enjoy, Chill, Laugh, Play.
All of these words are used in different images to promote different aspects of why people should visit.
She explained why “You're Welcome” is the new motto.
“For years we have said that Laois is in the middle of the country and only an hour from Dublin and a couple of hours from here or there. That's great but it means we are pushing people out of the county. What is the point in saying come here to Laois and visit but they stay somewhere else? We want to say to people come here to Laois and stay here. You're Welcome is what people say when they have been thanked. So we are thanking people but also saying you are welcome to visit our county,” she said.
Caragh Burns-Sharma is chairperson of Laois Tourism. She oversaw the launch of the rebrand.
“We're absolutely thrilled to be at this point launching the branding for Laois as a destination.
“Now that we have this branding we are really going to have to make use of it.
She urged members to build on the enhanced sense of Laois that the branding entails.
Speaking to the Leinster Express after the launch the chairperson said Fáilte Ireland has been very supportive and helps rising stars but, she said, Laois Tourism is the marketing and promotions body that will drive the campaign forward in the long term.
“It is not just the brand (launch) today, it means that now that we have this sense of people pulling together, we have 104 members and rising, we are helping each other out and cross-promoting all of the time. The image of the county is enhanced by everybody pulling together under this new banner,” she said.
She also had a message for people who live in Laois.
“If somebody buys their dinner in a local restaurant, that is local spending and it is really appreciated. It is really important that locals support locals. That sense of local pride is there and people are rediscovering Laois which is brilliant, ” she said.
Ms Burns-Sharma said tourism has a definitive dividend for local people in the shape of employment.
“Tourism and hospitality employs 2,000 jobs in the county. Those are very precious jobs that need to be supported by everybody. So if we want the lovely restaurants and the nice places to go and the good leisure centres, of course, we have to support them ourselves. It doesn't happen automatically. That is hugely important.
“We also need to promote our own and have that sense of county pride,” she said.
She said there is job growth potential, adding that many peoples first job was in hospitality.
“An awful lot of us got our first start behind a bar or in a restaurant so it is very important not to underestimate the value of those jobs,” she said.
She emphasised the importance of Government support for hospitality businesses through the Covid-19 crisis but added,
“Nobody is saying that it is easy out there but the resilience and hard work is unreal and we have to support our own.”
She thanked Laois County Council and Laois Partnership for supporting the project and local businesses
“They really are 100% behind us. They really are,” she said.
Laois County Council's chief executive John Mulholland praised Laois Tourism's board and members for the “extremely hard work.”
He used the launch to praise local businesses who have worked through Covid-19.
“Little did we know in February when we launched the website the scale and magnitude and extent of what has befallen the world which has affected so gravely.
“When I look around, even though there are masks, I still see a lot of smiling eyes and I see the human endeavour that is there. The perseverance and the persistence and the dogged pursuit of excellence in our county. I want to congratulate those in the catering business, the guesthouses and hoteliers who were just on the cusp of doing really great and strong things and then got a blow in the solar plexus.
“But I think we have the capacity through collaboration to recover and put ourselves on a very strong footing because we can be justifiably confident of what we have to offer. The new brand of tourism that people seek out and experience. We are not overrun with tourists. We have quiet enjoyable experiences. We have natural heritage. We have good landscape, we have the built environment. We are in the Ancient East and there is so much to appreciate,” he said.
He has recent first-hand experience of the variety of outdoor experiences on offer. He said he had spent the past two weeks exploring various parts of Laois.
“I really really enjoyed it,” he said.
He believed that the content of the new brand will only improve what Laois has to offer.
Cllr Padraig Fleming spoke on behalf of Laois Partnership. He said action needed to be taken to improve the image and increase tourist numbers.
“We did the best we could in the past but things needed to be moved to a higher scale to attract the visitors in,” he said.
Cllr Fleming said the potential for tourism is considerable.
“The new branding together with the new marketing materials will help the many diverse attractions that Laois has to offer,” he said.
He said Laois Partnership is happy to have supported the branding which is part of the current Laois Tourism Strategy.
For more on the new campaign go to www.laoistourism.ie