Heritage key to developing local tourism

In every town and village, people work hard to create a viable tourism sector that generates jobs and enhances quality of life.

Certainly, there is money to be made. However, there is also risk. Frequently, the creation of a heritage centre or museum is seen as a cure-all that will automatically attract the desired visitor numbers.

But after the initial wave of capital funding these places usually receive an inadequate budget for promotion, events and temporary exhibits. Typically, the result is stagnation and frustration.

A more sustainable approach is to use what the town or village and its hinterland already has, namely, its heritage and culture.

Below are various projects that revolve around their site’s uniqueness. Although each is particular to their town, village or city, all are broadly transferable across the country.

The Lee Sessions, Cork

Running since 2011, the Lee Sessions is an initiative supported by the local authority whereby traditional musicians are encouraged to play in pubs throughout the city. Some monetary support is provided during the summer. Assistance to the pubs on booking suitable musicians is also available.

The real strength of the programme is the marketing it provides the various establishments.

The Kilkenny Way Hurling Experience

The Kilkenny Way gives tourists the opportunity to sample the skills of hurling, learn about its heritage and go behind the scenes at Nolan Park. Such is the popularity of The Kilkenny Way that it is now one of the top rated activities to do in Kilkenny on Tripadvisor.

Kilmallock’s archaeological monuments

One of Kilmallock’s strengths is the high-quality archaeological monuments open for exploration. The two abbeys are continuously accessible. Other medieval towers are opened occasionally. There are also plans to create a linear park along the west face of the town wall.

Lismore Heritage Centre

The heritage centre has become the hub for all activities in this small town. It is not just a place of learning; it is the tourism office, a high quality gift shop, a booking office and a venue. Its staff coordinate events and festivals that take place across the town throughout the year.

Loughrea and Youghal’s Medieval Festivals

Loughrea’s medieval festival is Ireland’s largest free medieval themed event. It attracts roughly 15,000 people into the town. In Youghal, a similar event attracts up to 8,000 people annually. In 2008, a KPMG report estimated that the economic benefit for Youghal from this one day was €480,000.

Medieval Mile Pass, Kilkenny

In Kilkenny City, the drop in visitor numbers from the Castle to St Canice’s Cathedral, only 15 minutes walk away, is over 300,000. As a way of countering this, the local chamber has created the Kilkenny Medieval Mile Pass. The 24-hour pass allows the holder to visit tourist attractions, go on many city tours and get discounts from restaurants.

Collegiate Church, Youghal

Facilitated by a community employment scheme, tours of the medieval church take place daily. In the first nine months of 2016, 4,600 people attended a tour. In conjunction with the opening of the church for tourism, a programme of conservation has been undertaken.

Waterford Cycle Greenway

Officially opened in 2017, the 46km greenway linking Waterford City to Dungarvan follows the course of a disused railway. Providing a safe, off-road route, its course runs across rolling countryside, over 19th century viaducts and through tunnels dug by hand.

Already, usage by locals is very high.

A City of a Thousand Welcomes, Dublin

Run through the Little Museum of Dublin, the programme matches visitors to the city with a local ambassador who will meet the holidaymaker, share a pint or a cup of tea or coffee and welcome them. The ambassadors are not professional guides, just volunteer locals with a passion for their city.

Liam Mannix and Hollie Kearns are project managers with the Heritage Council

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