COMMENT: Dust mites or delivery for Laois tourism plan

COMMENT: Dust mites or delivery for Laois tourism plan

A new strategy for tourism in Laois has set ambitious targets for the growth of the sector within the next five years.

So much so that at first reading it might be easy to dismiss the strategy as just another document, destined for the dust mites on a shelf somewhere.

And this would not be an entirely unfair attitude to take, because we have been driven to the point of cynicism by the amount of these plans and strategies over the years, launched amidst much fanfare, only never to be heard of again.

Who now remembers an attempt to brand Laois produce some years ago with a special logo, an idea modelled somewhat on the guaranteed Irish platform.

What is striking about this plan thouugh is that it is coming at a time when a lot of development has taken place in the county as regards tourism. It takes heed of this and addresses the challenge of capitalising on it.

For example, we now have world class hotels, which have built international reputations. Portlaoise itself has an excellent hotel and restaurant offering.

Our ability to host large national events, such as the Electric Picnic and the National Ploughing has been proven time and again.

The launch of the strategy in Castle Durrow last Thursday night saw a host of local food producers displaying their products. Their professionalism and energy was palpable.

The flagships of Emo Court and Rock of Dunamaise has been complemented by the development of attractions such as the Abbeyleix bog boardwalk, the Donaghmore Workhouse Museum and the soon to be realised Slieve Bloom Bike trail.

The Council Chief Executive, John Mulholland labelled the county the "best in the class" in many spheres and he is right. He also made the salient point as to how much has been achieved in the sector without any kind of a strategy, up to last week.

The challenge now is how to take this to the next level,, capitalise on it, and how do we present it to the wider domestic and international public.

The strategy proposes a number of actions and takes note of a new communications approach and marketing programme as well as building from the core of some of our principal tourist assets such as the Rock of Dunamaise.

Crucially, it emphasises the collaborative approach, and earmarks the creation of a Laois Tourism Academy for networking and training.

More people than we realise now work at varying degrees of level in the tourist sector in Laois, be it at the catering level or down to local groups such as South Laois Tourism.

There is a broad level of knowledge and experience here which such be harnessed and shared for the benefit of all.

Realising our potential is the key objective of this new strategy.

It is, and will be, challenging, but we are probably better placed than we ever were to meet it.