Phyllis Burke (Ashwell Cottages Self Catering), Maureen Bergin (Kildare Village), Jim Kavanagh, Karen Gorey (Robertstown Holiday Village) and Aine Mangan (Kildare Failte) at the Failte Kildare AGM.
Tourism in Kildare is hitting its stride with enormous room for growth in the coming years and enormous potential for jobs and the economy.
That was the overall impression to come from the organisation’s AGM on Wednesday, March 7, in the Solas Bhríde Centre in Kildare Town.
2017 saw the industry experience a sustained period of progress and growth across all sectors, the outgoing chairman Tony Lenehan told the meeting.
He noted the launch of the organisation’s strategy ‘A 2020 Vision for Kildare Tourism’, which aims to build an “exciting, sustainable tourism industry where stakeholders work together to design and deliver quality experiences for doimestic and international visitors, create jobs, boost local economies and protect the natural environment”.
The past year also saw the hiring of Áine Mangan as the county’s first full time manager and Amanda Dermody as adminstrator for the company.
The county’s links to national tourism strategies and initiatives, in particular, the Ancient Ireland East, continued to grow with a number of tourism spots getting the Ancient Ireland East signs installed.
Mr Lenehan believed that within the context of the Ancient Ireland East’s theme, Kildare “has much to offer the visitor”.
Part of this was the ‘Sport of Kings Experience’ concentrating on horse racing in the county.
The past year also saw the development and enhancement of Kildare Fáilte’s website and promotion of tourism trails such as Arthur’s Way, the Shackleton Experience and a Food Strategy which will, it is believe, enhance the visitor experience.
Business tourism is, they believe, an area of potential for Kildare, being so close to Dublin and the airport.
“We will continue to work closely with Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the Dublin Convention Bureau to maximise leisure and business tourism opportunities, national and international for our members”.
In October, Mr Lenehan explained, Kildare Fáilte brought a partnership of 17 Kildare businesses together on a stand in the RDS for Connect 17.
The aim was to “sell the Kildare Experience to attendees at the biggest event of its kind in the country for meetings, events and incentive buyers around the world”.
And Mr Lenehan noted that the organisation had applied for funding to support digital awareness training for the SME sector in Kildare.
He said he hoped that workships would be held throuhout the county to for tourism businesses to enhance “their skills to develop their digital activities and to support their marketing and promotional plans”.
Turning to the less than positive side, he warned that competitiveness would remain a key concern for the industry and for the years to come.
“Capacity constraints are beginning to impact the ability to cope with demand in specific locations at peak periods.
“The shortage of visitor accmomdation across Kildare is potentially damaging for the industry and needs to be address,” he warned.
And “Brexit, service quality and skills shortages across all sectors of the industry in Kildare will continuue to dominate the issues for industry managers,” Mr Lenehan added.
However, in general he was upbeat.
He said that a successful tourim destintion had a myriad of interlinked components that set it apart from competitors, ranging from quality of experience to levels of hospitality offered throughout.
“Through its success to date, Kildare has shown that it has the right fundamentals to consistently exceed visitor expectaitons and the priority now must be to ensure that those essentials are maintained and enhanced to the highest international standards”.
And in a nod to more recent events, he welcomed a recent deicsion to grant planning permission for a Blueway along 47kms of the Grand Canal.
He said it would be a great economic and business opportunity for towns such as Robertstown, Rathangan, Monasterevin and Athy.