ENNIS is pulling out all the stops when it comes to reaping the benefits of coach tourism, including job creation and increased visitor numbers. The county capital will shortly be the first in the country to offer an accredited course for tour guides.
It is expected that the Certificate in Arts in Local Heritage Tour Guiding, run through Limerick Institute of Technology, will be up and running in the coming months.
Details of the initiative were unveiled at this week’s meeting of members of the Ennis Municipal District. Councillor Johnny Flynn, a member of the Ennis Coach-Friendly Committee, called for financial support to be given for its delivery.
The course will be run as a joint tourism initiative between the local authority, local businesses, Ennis Chamber and LIT. The venture is the result of efforts being made to capitalise on Ennis’ achievement of Coach-Friendly Destination accreditation last year.
Brian McCarthy, acting director of services, explained, “A working group/committee was formed last year to achieve CTTC ‘Coach-Friendly Destination’ accreditation for Ennis. Although this accreditation is in place since October 2017, the committee, comprising public representatives and local business owners, decided to stay active, to build on the accreditation to create a genuine ‘coach-friendly’ package for Ennis, with a number of initiatives and actions. One of the initiatives includes the development of an experiential tourism product for the town, such as walking tours across a number of locations and attractions in Ennis.”
The economic directorate of Clare County Council has been in discussions with Limerick Institute of Technology, regarding the potential of running an accredited course for tourism guides for Ennis.
According to Mr McCarthy, “Such a course would assist in providing formalised training for guides, creating a high standard of guides with particular expertise in Ennis, enhancing the visitor experience, whilst also upskilling and creating employment.”
He outlined that the course and logistics are in place and “subject to funding, such course could be offered in Ennis to potential participants within the next three months”.
Councillor Flynn described the upcoming course as “very exciting” and “another national first for Ennis”.
He believes that the training could become a template for other towns in Clare.
The course has has been developed and validated to assist Ennis in offering a quality guiding service, with particular emphasis on the value and importance of in-depth knowledge of the local heritage, culture and social history of Ennis and its surrounding area.
The draft programme comprises two five-credit modules, Professional Tour Guiding and Local Irish Culture and Heritage Guiding.
The Ennis Coach-Friendly (CDF) Committee, under the leadership of Margaret O’Brien, Ennis festival and events co-ordinator, has worked since the end of 2017 with Ennis Chamber, Clare County Council and LIT to progress the development.
“Having a group of trained local guides, passionate and understanding of their local area, with the knowledge and competencies to deliver and manage a comprehensive tour management and guiding service for tourists, will be a huge attraction in the future in getting tour operators to include a half-day, or longer, stay in Ennis in their itinerary,” stated Councillor Flynn.
Councillor Flynn initially proposed to Ennis Town Council the development of a dedicated coach park for Ennis in 2011.
He was also involved in canvassing the then Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, to grant a bus licence application to Dublin Coach for its service out of Ennis.
The plans were widely welcomed at the meeting of the Ennis Municipal District.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy commented, “It’s fantastic to think that we would be the first.” Councillor Mary Howard, meanwhile, commended LIT for widening its outreach offering in Ennis.
By Jessica Quinn