Monday 22 July 2019

Fitzpatrick calls for more work to boost tourism in Louth

TDS get update on fÁilte ireland efforts to promote 'wee county'

Francis Carroll

Fáilte Ireland has been called on to do more to promote tourism in Louth, the north of the county in particular.

Peter Fitzpatrick TD was speaking after he and fellow members of the Oireachtas attended an information clinic hosted by the national tourism development authority to give an update on its work on the ground in Louth.

While Mr Fitzpatrick believes more can be achieved, he was happy to receive a commitment from Fáilte Ireland to join him to visit the Carlingford Lough Ferry.

'I think we have a hidden gem in North Louth, but not enough is being done. I will push hard for Dundalk and North Louth,' he said.

Meanwhile, Declan Breathnach TD, who was also present at the event in Buswells Hotel, has stressed the importance of Louth being equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast airports.

He noted Fáilte Ireland capital investment projects have included funding towards Carlingford Castle (€400,000) Drogheda Tholsel (€40,000) and Louth Adventures (€50,590), all amounts to date.

As far as Fáilte Ireland registered/approved accommodation goes, the 2018 supply in Louth was 12 hotels with 1,826 beds, 22 self-catering units (149), 1 caravan/campsite (84), 2 guesthouses (37), 1 hostel (20), 5 Irish Welcome Standard (71) and 16 bed & breakfast (176).

Festival funding in 2018 and 2019 amounted to €311,000 - €295,000 of which has been invested in Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and Púca Halloween festival.

Of course, the Fleadh took place in Drogheda last year and will again be held there next month.

However, the Púca festival is new. It has been developed in partnership with Louth and Meath county councils and a programme of events will be centre around Drogheda, Trim and Athboy from 31 October to 2 November next.

At the June meeting of Louth county council it was indicated the intention is to extend the festival to all areas possible.

Fáilte Ireland has also allocated €16,000 to the local authority to distribute to local festivals.

A Destination Towns initiative is a new scheme, now open for applications, which allows local authorities bid for funding of between €250,000 and €500,000 to develop up to two towns in their area that have the potential to become a tourism hub.

'The main topics (of the information clinic) were around jobs, revenue, the overseas market and accommodation supply,' said Peter Fitzpatrick.

He feels the €295,000 for festivals is not enough.

Deputy Breathnach took the opportunity to talk with Mark Mohan, manager of Ireland's Ancient East at Fáilte Ireland.

'I spoke to him about the important role Louth can play within this region. Louth welcomed 172,000 overseas visitors in 2017 who spent €55m in the county, representing enormous value to our local businesses, pubs, restaurants and hospitality sector.

'It's important to note that Louth is an equal distance from Dublin and Belfast. Millions of overseas visitors land in Dublin and Belfast's airports each year. We are a stone's throw away from the two biggest cities on this island, and we must focus on convincing those who land in these airports to make the short journey to Louth.'

The Fianna Fáil TD added we must work hand-in-hand with Fáilte Ireland, community groups and the county council to further develop our tourist attractions and our festivals.

'Just this week, Fáilte Ireland included Drogheda, one of Ireland's oldest towns, in the 'Historic Towns Trail Initiative', encouraging visitors to explore and stay in the region for longer.

'We must now see an increase in funding of our tourism sector to bring these plans to fruition. Our position on the M1 corridor is key to attracting visitors from north and south of the border.'

The Argus