From her offices upstairs in Naas’s town hall, Aine Mangan is plotting and planning Kildare’s rise as a tourism destination.
The newly appointed Tourism Development Manager for the county joins Kildare Failte at a good time, just a few months after it launched a comprehensive strategy.
From Rathangan originally, she has a background in working in hospitality and golf for major and prestigious companies like Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland, the Grove near London, Riffa/Royal Golf Club in Bahrain and with Forte Hotels — and nearer to home, with Carton House.
But despite her background in golf, she is keenly aware that Kildare has much more to offer than the traditional attractions of golf and horse racing.
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Speaking to the Leinster Leader, she saw growth potential is areas such as food (producers and restaurants), trails celebrating, for instance, St Brigid and Shackleton and cycling and walking trails and greenways.
What’s needed, she feels, is a coming together of all of the numerous organisations that add something to Kildare’s offering.
“If we can work together, we can attract tourists, and more importantly, we can make them stay,” she said.
In that vein, she’s interested in creating packages for tourists that might take in something traditional like a round of golf, but then also include something not so traditional like a trip to Lullymore or Kildare town’s Medieval Festival followed by dinner in one of the county’s great restaurants.
Recent years have seen the development and promotion of brands such as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East, and Ms Mangan believes that one of her key challenges will be to develop and promote the brand ‘Into Kildare’.
And in line with that theme, she believed that marketing of Kildare needs to become more online and that tourism providers need to think in terms of digital market.
“We need to move with the times,” she said, adding that she’d like to see fewer brochures being printed and more emphasis and development on the IntoKildare website, an app and on social media.
She’s also a fan of audio trails (where the tourist downloads and listens to a guide on their mobile phone that gives them a tour) and noted that some had been done already.
Another thing she’d like to see is a developement, from the ground up, of a tourism mentality in Kildare, whereby everybody understands that they can potentially play a role.
She referenced an experience in Killarney recently where she was looking around her and somebody approached on the street and asked: “Can I help you?”
“That’s what we need here, in Kildare,” she said.
She believes that tourism is everyone’s business and that its proximity to Dublin — the sixth most popular city break destination in Europe — offers significant opportunities.
She is particularly looking forward to working with the board of Kildare Failte. “Our goal is to support the creation of an additional 1,500 direct and indirect jobs in hospitality and tourism by 2020. The target is to grow revenue by 40% between now and mid-2020, to increase overseas visitor numbers by 25% and expand Irish visitors to the county by 30%.