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Safety to the fore for 2021 tourist season in East Clare

SAFETY will be to the forefront of visitors’ minds this summer, potentially creating opportunities to grow tourism in East Clare, under the Hidden Heartlands brand. That was the view of Fáilte Ireland’s Tony Dawson, who addressed the AGM of Tourism East Clare (TEC) and outlined his organisation’s priorities in promoting tourism in the area.

“The media campaign currently is a work in progress and it all depends on what instructions will come from government on re-opening,” he explained. “The ‘Keep Discovering’ campaign is what it’s called. Last year, it was ‘Make a Break for It’. Roughly from June right through into December, the campaign will run on television and radio and, of course, on social media. There’ll also be some newspaper advertising, to a degree. The campaign will focus on staycations and aim to continue the success that we saw in that area, after the re-opening last year. We’ll also be involved in promoting ‘Stay and Spend’ and there’ll also be individual ‘Keep Discovering’ campaigns in different areas. We will have, on occasion, towards the end of the year campaigns running on a county basis and this is where we rely on the cooperation and initiative of the county councillors. Last, but not least, you’ll see the Safety Charter. That will be pushed and we will keep at it, because that is vital.”

Mr Dawson encouraged all TEC members to sign up to the voluntary code. “People are looking out for the Covid-19 Safety Charter and will continue to do that,” he noted. “It’s not onerous, it’s very simple and it’s available on Fáilte Ireland’s corporate website, Fáilteireland.ie. Basically, all our marketing efforts have the objective of getting people primed to take a domestic break in Ireland and underlying all campaigns will be the Covid-19 safety charter message.”

The Fáilte Ireland representative noted that, in the Shannon region, recreational activities perceived as being safe had received a welcome boost in summer 2020. “One of the areas that really had a good year was the cruise hire business,” he noted. “Why? Because people felt safe. Irish people didn’t really use it to often. It was mainly German and Swiss, but when Irish people did go, they absolutely loved it. That’s one area that had a very good summer. We’re hoping that that market, for the future, will improve. The consumer sentiment survey shows there’s hope there.”

Mr Dawson also noted that the immediate priority for most tourism businesses now is to survive. “One thing that’s coming through in all of this is the importance of agility,” he said. “Short-term survival is to the fore for 2021. Medium to long-term recovery, post pandemic, involves increasing the number of people that will take breaks. From a marketing penetration point of view, our focus is about growing penetration and building on the percentage of Irish people who take holidays in Ireland.”

The importance of converting potential interest on the part of consumers into actual visits was also highlighted.  “We know from studies by Google that 40% of intention to book online, people don’t get converted,” Mr Dawson said. “We don’t know why. If you don’t get people within so many seconds, they’re gone. It’s really vital to get peoples’ attention and keep it. Things are moving so quickly on the whole digital area.”

In terms of the insights of Fáilte Ireland research, Mr Dawson said a number of things were clear. “Keep doing what you’re doing and, if you can, try to offer something a bit different,” he advised. “Do look at the IT side of things. You’ve got to be up to scratch on that and support is there from the likes of the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). We have supports built in too to the Covid-19 Safety Charter. On Fáilte Ireland’s corporate website, we have a number of courses and support on that. Put yourself in the shoes of the visitor. Think about what they would like and how they want to approach things.”

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