Gaybo launches new Kildare strategic tourism plan

Michael Malone, Kildare County Manager, Kildare Mayor Michael 'Spike' Nolan, Tony Jones, Chairman, Co. Kildare Failte, special guest Gay Byrne, and Chris Byrne, chairman of Kildare Leader Partnership pictured launching Co. Kildare Tourism Strategy 2013�2016, at Punchestown Racecourse, Monday, March 11.              Photo Tony Keane.
Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne launched a strategic four year plan to bring a bumper crop of tourists to Kildare at an event at Punchestown last Monday morning, March 11.

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne launched a strategic four year plan to bring a bumper crop of tourists to Kildare at an event at Punchestown last Monday morning, March 11.

Developed by County Kildare Failte, the plan’s ambitious targets include doubling the number of Irish visitors to the county and significantly increasing the number of overseas visitors by 2016.

The plan was based on a year-long consultation with those working in the tourist industry, plus a survey carried out by NUI Maynooth on the experiences of visitors to the county.

Kildare Failte was reorganised two years ago with a new, unpaid board - which includes those in the industry and retired business executives volunteering their experience - charged with revitalising the county’s tourism industry.

According to research it carried out, tourism brings 357,000 visitors to Kildare every year, and generates E95 million in direct revenue for the county. In 2011, the county hosted 147,000 overseas visitors (those who spend a night in the county), and 210,000 visitors from within Ireland.

According to Tony Jones, chairman of County Kildare Failte, the board has set a target of increasing overseas visitor numbers by 40 percent and domestic visitor and revenue numbers by 50 percent by 2016.

“The real challenge,” he told the Leinster Leader, “will be how to convert the millions of day trippers into visitors who spend a night in the county.”

Kildare, with its close proximity to Dublin, attracts millions of day trippers who visit the county for an event such as the races or a shopping trip to Kildare Village.

County Kildare Failte research into what could make them extend their stay in the county has uncovered several selling points it wants those running tourist attractions to take note of.

Tourists are looking for value, first and foremost, said Mr Jones. “In this economic climate, people are shopping around for value for money,” he said. County Kildare Failte wants to encourage accommodation and attraction providers to bundle their offerings together in packages, so that, for example, someone spending a night in the county will get discounted entry to tourist attractions and other perks.

Secondly, tourists are looking for festivals and event to encourage them to stay longer. Several Kildare destinations are on the recent Grand Tour initiative launched by Failte Ireland and the Kildare Wicklow Steering Group. Work is already advanced on the development of a tourist trail in North Kildare based on the life of Arthur Guinness. It is envisaged that several other trails based on classic motor racing, pilgrim sites, horse racing and heritage sites, could be established.

Tourists are also looking for child friendly facilities, which is one aspect of tourism on which Kildare could improve.

“A lot of people surveyed had families but did not bring their kids with them,” said Mr Jones, adding that these visitors were likely to be at a day’s racing or on a shopping trip. “If we could encourage family-friendly facilities we could encourage them to stay longer in the county,” he said.

The plan’s success depends on buy-in from everyone involved in the tourism sector, said Mr Jones, and also on everyone living in the county taking every possible opportunity to act as an ambassador to attract visitors to the county.

County Kildare Failte operated on a budget of E130,000 last year, which is drawn from EU-sourced Kildare LEADER Partnership funding, the county’s tourist industry and a grant from town councils.

Their finances funded the development of the plan, and they also spent on a successful nationwide ‘Into Kildare’ marketing campaign, featuring Kildare town native and national broadcaster Ray Darcy.

County Kildare Failte also launched on Monday a new benefits package for members of the organisation. It wants to increase its current 100-strong membership by 30 new organisations every year.

Over 6,000 people, or 10 percent of the county’s workforce, is employed in some form of tourism work.

- Laura Coates