ENNIS’ business community are being urged to pull out all the stops when it comes to customer service as judges for the prestigious Fáílte Ireland Tourism Award visit the town.
According to the Ennis Tidy Towns Committee, if the town wins the national title, it can expect a major boost to the local economy.
Teresa McGrath, on behalf of the committee, explained, “Fáilte Ireland successfully launched this competition last year to further enhance the Tidy Towns Award. It is a most prestigious award and carries with it an overall winning prize of €10,000. However, the most attractive aspect of achieving the top place in the competition is the benefit to the town by way of increased tourism, trade and social events.”
Ennis was in the top ten of the competition last year, and has already been shortlisted for this year.
“I believe that we came quite close last year and we are already shortlisted so we are on the road to success. There would be a major boost to tourism for the town that wins, and I believe that by working together towards our aim we can make Ennis Ireland’s top tourism town,” she added.
Teresa went on to appeal to business people to give their support to the town’s bid and make a real effort to welcome customers.
“This competition is judged on courtesy and friendliness. It’s not so much based on how the town looks, it’s more about its people. Ennis is a very attractive town for visitors, with its narrow streets and old world lanes. It represents a pleasant blend of its historic past with the vibrancy of a modern progressive town. It is the home of traditional music and for many festivals based on this activity. But this competition isn’t about how the town looks, and we need business people to just make that extra effort so that Ennis can win this. If Ennis were successful, the town would be promoted all over Europe.
“We know the Ennis business community has always strived to improve customer and business services, particularly through such initiatives as Create the Magic and Inis Dom. These show that apart from the purely business aspect they want to be personal and expand into the social sphere.”
She explained, “During July and August, two judges will visit the shops as ordinary customers, their brief being to establish the courtesy, the friendliness and the warmth of their reception. Of course they will also sense the general welcoming atmosphere on the streets and footpaths as they walk around.”
Teresa urged, “We ask people in the stores particularly to be alert. Put on a broader smile, a cheerier hello, and a warmer handshake. Presume that any customer is one of these judges.”
She concluded by stating she believes that Ennis has what it takes to take the top prize. “We have the opportunity to win this award now and so put Ennis in the forefront of the Irish tourist business. We can do it and we will do it together,” she said.
The judges will announce the final shortlist at the presentation of the Tidy Towns awards in September and the winner will be announced in November.
Now in its second year, the award focuses on how participating towns and villages have developed their community in key tourism areas.
In preparing for Ennis’ entry, the local organisers made a submission to Fáilte Ireland on the four areas of sense of place, detailing how the town tells its own unique story to visitors, what’s special about it, and what distinguishes it from other towns; local involvement, detailing how the local community works together to provide an authentic visitor experience; tourism products available and details of the development and promotion of the town.
Speaking in the run-up to this year’s awards, Beverley Sherwood, destination development manager with Fáilte Ireland, emphasised the important characteristics of a tourism town and how the award scheme seeks to recognise them.
“For us, a good tourism town is all about the role of the community in welcoming visitors and telling the story of the local area which all add significantly to the enjoyment that visitors have. We have taken great care in drawing up the assessment criteria, ensuring that towns receiving an award have enhanced the experience of their visitors, improved their local ‘tourism offering’ and encouraged community wide participation in the development of local tourism.”
The top 10 highly commended tourism towns will each receive €1,000. In addition, there will be an award for the best small town (population less than 1,000) and the best large town (population greater than 1,000), and each will receive a prize of €5,000. Finally, there will be an award for the best overall town, which will receive an additional €5,000.