COUNCIL and business heads are pinning their hopes on increasing tourism in Listowel on a new initiative aiming to promote the town as a major heritage attraction.
Listowel is the focus of a new national pilot scheme - the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) - along with Westport and Youghal aiming to increase tourism and heritage activity in keeping with the wealth of attractions in each town.
The scheme is being pushed by the Department of Heritage under Minister Jimmy Deenihan who told The Kerryman this week that it represents 'major potential' for increased business in the north Kerry capital.
Officials at his department, in the Heritage Council of Ireland and Fáilte Ireland are now working alongside Listowel council and business leaders to market the town far better and promote its many attractions.
Listowel Town Clerk is a member of the new steering committee - comprised of representatives from each town, the Heritage Council, the Department and Fáilte Ireland.
"Our town has a range of fantastic attractions, but it is not being promoted enough and I think one of the first jobs is to tell tour operators exactly what we have here and develop a special website and maybe a dedicated app for Listowel as well," he said.
Mr O'Brien met with counterparts in Youghal on Friday, following a meeting in Listowel on Monday at which the Minister brought all interested parties together to impart his vision.
If successful, the pilot scheme will be rolled out nationally. "We have a wealth of attractions here, from the Castle to St John's to the Monorail, not to mention the special plasterwork - how many people take notice of them?" Mr O'Brien asked.
"The Lartigue is a perfect example of the reach of our attractions, bringing people from all over the world to Listowel all year round practically, but there is scope for so much more," he said.
The HTI is looking to revitalise the vision behind the Heritage Town Programme launched in 1991 that was never fully realised for various reasons.
"This has major potential for Listowel," Minister Deenihan said. "Listowel has many advantages in that it has a vibrant literary and culinary culture and a strong built heritage. It is a very strong product and the scheme is intended to capitalise on every aspect of our heritage."