ESCAPING crowds and traditional tourist hot spots will be on the minds of many who are looking ahead to the summer season, in the hope of a holiday break and an easing of lockdown restrictions. Fáilte Ireland’s research on consumer sentiment, which reveals a renewed interest in activity-based and outdoor tourism, has provided cause for optimism for tourism operators in East Clare as they look ahead to the 2021 season. Ahead of the AGM of Tourism East Clare, which will take place on Zoom on February 24, Chairperson Arlene White said the most is positive.
“Given what Fáilte Ireland has found about what domestic visitors will be looking for this year, we can see that East Clare really matches their needs perfectly,” she told The Champion. “There’s a huge demand for holidays and breaks in rural areas with plenty of water-based and outdoor amenities and activities. Obviously, we have a wealth of opportunities to get active in nature and amenities that are within easy reach for people travelling from the major cities and towns. If you take something like wild swimming – which means going to a lake rather than a swimming pool – we’re ideally placed for that and looking at organising some kind of challenge events for people to come and take part in in their own time.”
Arlene also noted that during the summer season last year, the East Clare operators who were able to open, experienced a welcome business boost. “We are conscious that a lot of people are struggling and were not in a position to open,” she noted. “For operators who were able to open their doors for the shortened season last July and August, there was evidence of a boost and a lot of interest from domestic visitors. What I heard from a lot of people was surprise at what East Clare has to offer and we’d be hopeful that that will lead to repeat business this year and a real boost in terms of word-of-mouth marketing.”
Now under Fáilte Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands regional brand, East Clare has received another welcome boost in terms of increased access to marketing support. “We’ve had support with social media marketing since last August and that’s been fantastic. We’ve tripled or quadrupled our reach and also been a position to have a very successful community campaign to encourage people to spend locally at Christmas.”
Another phenomenon, according to Arlene, has been renewed interest among local people in their own area. “More people are out and about within their 5k and have been posting amazing images on platforms like Instagram,” she said. “We had one image of a sunset which was tagged ‘East Clare’ and it went absolutely manic in terms of shares and likes. What’s happening is that people have become ambassadors for their own area and it’s great.”
Next week’s AGM is open to everyone involved in tourism and will feature an update from tourism officer Deirdre O’Shea on county-wide marketing and on the Inis Cealtra project.
“We would love to widen the network and get more people involved,” said Arlene. “It’s just €50 for a year’s membership and we waived the fee altogether last year. We will be unveiling a new initiative on the night of the AGM and it’s an exciting one aimed at the domestic visitor market for 2021 and on the return of international tourism for 2022.”
Details on how to attend the AGM at 7.30pm on Wednesday, February 24 are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.