A DISPUTE has broken out between Laois County Council and Fáilte Ireland over the tourist information office in Portlaoise, which is open for less than three days a week, and closed at weekends.
Earlier this year Fáilte Ireland told the local authority that they would be closing their Laois office in Lyster Square and would be moving their only employee to an office in a different county.
Laois County Council then offered to lease back the office from the Government agency to keep it open. It is now being manned by a participant in a Portlaoise community employment scheme, and interviews are underway for a second person to be hired through the scheme, so that the office can open for five days a week.
The county manager Peter Carey, who is also chairman of Laois Tourism, criticised Fáilte Ireland for their lack of support to Laois this month.
“We don’t believe we are getting the support we should get, such as access to brochures and IT. They changed all their structures, and I suppose they lost staff, but we will certainly be taking up the case with them regarding support,” he said at May’s county council meeting.
However, Mr Carey also said the Council had to cut their annual contribution to Bord Failte from €35,000 to €10,000, in efforts to keep within their overall budget.
Tourism Officer with Laois County Council, Dom Reddin said the council was willing to contribute to Fáilte Ireland if they are getting value for money.
“We don’t have a problem paying the money if they are promoting the county, but we won’t be paying them if they withdraw their services. We will try and continue to work with them,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird raised a motion at the meeting to ask Fáilte Ireland to keep their staff in Portlaoise.
“Bord Fáilte had a representative here for years and years. This council invested heavily in tourism. They have pulled that person and left Laois with nobody. This person has huge experience, I would see it as a pivotal role, for people who have opened up gardens, for fishing etc,” he said.
Laois Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Portlaoise traders have moved their offices into half of the tourist office premises, and have undertaken to work with Laois County Council to promote the county both for tourists and business.
“People come into us when the tourist office is closed, and we help them as best we can. We fully support the council, I know they are doing everything they can,” said chamber president Breda Stackpool.
A spokesperson from Fáilte Ireland said they have been supporting businesses in Laois through their clients services team, including online support, tourism courses and mentoring.
“With regard to the tourist information office in Portlaoise, Fáilte Ireland is currently working with Laois County Council and Laois Chamber around as to how we best provide tourist information in Portlaoise,” the spokesperson said.
The agency say they gave Laois an opportunity to participate in a recent Lakelands Autumn Breaks Campaign, targeting the domestic and UK markets, and that they have included the county in an upcoming Family Fun campaign for newspapers, radio, television and the web.