More festivals and events need to be organised in Longford in order for the county to sell itself to visitors.
That’s the view of tourism expert John Brennan who was guest speaker at a special event to debate the future of tourism at the Backstage Theatre in Longford town yesterday.
Mr Brennan is well known for the televison show “At Your Service” where he and his brother Francis advise tourism providers who are struggling in their business.
Several questions at yesterdays event centred on how best to attract people to the county, and John Brennan said the organisation of festivals is a vital part of tourist development.
He referred to the list of Bord Fáilte tourist grant announcements published this week which showed the Longford got the lowest amount at €2,000 euro.
John Brennan says the county needs events to bring people in and let them see what is on offer
The following is a statement from Longford County Council released following the event:
On Tuesday 25 April, John Brennan, star of the TV programme At Your Service, delivered a very impressive and thought provoking presentation to local tourism providers at a Longford County Council facilitated event in the Backstage theatre. A large number of attendees representing accommodation providers and the tourism industry were in attendance.
The event, run in conjunction with the County Tourism Committee, covered a wide range of topics from national promotional strategies to the basics of good service delivery.
Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, Councillor Mick Cahill, introduced the event and suggested to the audience that County Longford is on the cusp of significant growth in the tourism sector. Mick referenced the recently launched Tourism Strategy which he believes will deliver significant investment in key strategic and sustainable tourism projects. He identified the Center Parcs resort as being the catalyst for change in what Longford can achieve in tourism over the next few years. He believes that tourism will be a key economic driver in County Longford. Major projects such as the Royal Canal Greenway and Lough Ree and Mid Shannon Wilderness Park will be critically important in increasing the profile of the county and region. He highlighted the opportunities for local projects to support these and confirmed that a number of these are already under development.
In his introduction, John remarked upon the positive image created as he drove through Longford on his way to the Backstage. He highlighted the importance of self promotion and awareness of what the county and town has to offer to visitors.
A key theme throughout the presentation was the challenge to service providers to make themselves distinctive in a crowded and competitive marketplace and the importance of identifying their unique selling point. John claimed that there are significant risks if there are too many similar products and services on offer and that local competitors would end up competing on price. The key is to do something different that appeals to particular segments of the market, allowing the promoter to get a better return. He applied this theory to accommodation, food and marketing of local areas.
Collaboration between tourism and service providers will be crucial to ensuring that attractive itineraries are provided for visitors to the county. John encouraged those in the industry to develop links and work closely together to provide a product that is unique. He explained that it can take years to develop projects and that promoters must be committed, resilient and tireless in their efforts. He stressed that projects must stand on their own merits and cautioned about relying on grant aid as a prerequisite to delivering the project.
John stressed the importance of social media, responding to posts on the likes of trip advisor and keeping your product offering relevant and unique. He argued that Longford needs to build up a broader festival and activity based portfolio that will deliver greater numbers of visitors in intense bursts. This will provide the opportunity to promote the county and highlight what’s on offer. This in turn will provide the incentive to build a stronger accommodation base. John suggested that Longford, while organising more than its fair share of high quality festival and sporting events, does not appear to benefit from national funding compared to other counties.
Chief Executive of Longford County Council, Paddy Mahon explained that this event is one of the new initiatives introduced by Longford County Council to promote the county. Paddy facilitated the discussion session and attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and debate issues relevant to their own businesses. Apart from being very informative, Mr. Brennan was very engaging and answered several questions from the audience in a frank and insightful manner.
Councillor Micheal Carrigy, Chair of Longford Tourism Committee, closed the event by encouraging promoters to work in collaboration with the Committee and Council to promote Longford as a tourism destination. Micheal outlined plans for the new VisitLongford website which is currently being developed. He asked those involved in the business to provide information about their offerings which will be used to keep the new website up to date and relevant.
After the formalities were over, a reception was held to facilitate networking and sharing of ideas. Attendees had the opportunity to talk about the issues and ideas generated through the discussion.