New Laois Tourism Strategy sets out ambitious targets and projects

Pat Somers

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Pat Somers

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New Laois Tourism Strategy sets out ambitious targets and projects

The launch of the plan at Castle Durrow

A new Strategic Plan for Tourism in Laois 2018-2023 has set as one of its key targets the addition of 60,000 extra bed nights in the county every year.

The "action driven plan" was launched by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in Castle Durrow on Thursday evening.

Other principal targets set out in the strategy include:
-25,000 extra domestic visitors to the county per annum;
- 7,500 extra overseas visitors per annum; -
300 new jobs in the sector;
10 per cent increase in accommodation capacity across Laois.

The plan states that these targets are based on achieving annual growth over the next five years.

It also identifies some key projects which it terms "Destination Connector Projects.

These include:
- A new desination band and marketing communications approach will be created for tourism in Laois
- The creation of a collaboration project the Tourism Academy which will the focal point for tourism networking, collaboration and training
- The creation of a Laois Towns Experience Project designed to develop a central story/historic theme that designated areas employ as the basis for visitor experience development
- Capitalising on the county as a national event centre
- A marketing programme to address the online strategy required to develop the destination profile and develop the market profile of Laois as a viable tourism destination
- Industry collaboration to market the county as the "Meeting and Conference Centre of Ireland."

It also identifies projects which it sees as contributing to "the strategic destination positioning of Laois and which possess the characteristics to be catalysts for tourism in Laois."

These are: The Rock of Dunamaise; Slieve Bloom Bike and Walking Trailsl; Nature and Bog Innovation; and Accessible Waterways.

Paul Keeley, Business Development Manager of Failte Ireland told the large gathering at the launch that it was important to realise the potential of Laois and the challenges it faced.

Brexit is "a bit of a stone in the shoe that we have to be vigilant about. There will be massive growth in Europe and North America and we will have to diversify. The challenge is that 79 per cent of overseas bed nights are just in 5 counties. 21 counties are chasing after the rest. The challenge is how to we stand out opposite the competition," he said.

Mark Kenny of W2 Consulting who prepared the strategy said that Laois needed to pull together in terms of product development. One of the challenges was capitalising on the inherent heritage and stories on the ground, he said.