Rewarding innovation in tourism initiatives at home and abroad, the inaugural Irish Tourism Industry Awards, held last night in Dublin’s Doubletree Hilton, identified a dozen winners from over 330 entries.
The Fab Food Trail, operating in Cork, Kilkenny, and Dublin, was dubbed best urban experience; Kerry County Council was named best local authority for tourism innovation; and Shannon Airport took home the award for best international access initiative.
The Adventure Travel World Summit, held in Kerry last year, also received an award, with special accolades going to Sheep’s Head and Bantry Tourism Co-operative; the Top of the Rock Pod Páirc and Walking Centre in Drimoleague, West Cork; and Waterford’s Viking Quarter.
Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, said: “Outside of Dublin, the tourism mecca of Ireland is Cork and Kerry. There were lots of great applications from those counties.
“It sounds cliched but we really were blown away by the number and the quality of the entries to the awards.
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“Tourism has been through a rough patch lately but it’s making a comeback and we should celebrate the successes and celebrate the recovery.
“In tourism, if you’re not having fun you’re not doing it right. So today is all about having fun and celebrating our successes.”
Paul Carty, the chairman of the confederation, said that despite some challenging years, tourism has managed to “survive, thrive, and still provide a level of quality and innovation that would be the envy of other sectors”.
Other notable awards on the night were presented to Lough Boora Discovery Park in Offaly, the Guinness Storehouse, and Glasnevin Cemetery Museum.
The award for best design went to Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites — but those judging the award decided Equipage Shoes in Bantry deserved a special prize. It will now have the services of a designer to help with its branding and marketing.
“The range of awards recognises both innovation and excellence, and rewards the best operators in the tourism industry,” said Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe, who presented the awards.