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Mairead and Orna McGuinness enjoying a meal at RAW Interiors & Café, Killaloe. Photograph: Ruth Griffin Photography. This is one of a number of photos that will form part of a new image bank developed by Tourism East Clare (TEC).

Project shows East Clare in its very best light

A PROMOTIONAL video and photographic resource showcasing East Clare will shortly be unveiled, with the aim of highlighting the region’s tourism offering. 

The innovative project has been spearheaded by Tourism East Clare (TEC) and saw photographer Ruth Griffin capture the area in its best light. Feakle-based Ruth has travelled the highways and byways to capture images of TEC members and their businesses. She has also documented a vast range of attractions, that surprised even her, as someone who has lived all her life in North-East Clare. 

In the coming months, a video containing drone footage and other images shot by Ruth will be launched. The exact contents are still under wraps as Aoife O’Mara, Marketing Executive with TEC, collaborates with Ruth on the final cut. What the TEC committee can reveal is that the piece will feature music from trad girl band Cailíní Lua, as well as some stunning aerial video over Lough Derg. 

Christine O’Brien of Ardboula House and Farm is Secretary of TEC and said the project will create an invaluable resource for promoting the region. “This is all about improving the visual profile of the region,” she said. “We had been working hard with the support of LEADER through Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) and starting to get noticed. Then Clare Tourism and Fáilte Ireland approached us with a one-off grant aimed at supporting networks during Covid. We knew of Ruth and her work and we’re delighted that we were able to get her to photograph every village and downland.”

TEC credits much of its recent promotional success to its Marketing mastermind, Aoife. “When Aoife came in as a dedicated marketing person, that’s when things really started to take off,” said TEC Chairperson Arlene White. “We needed a fresh perspective.”

Christine agreed that Aoife’s appointment was the catalyst for a big leap forward. “She’s so effervescent and easy to work with and when we brought Ruth in, that’s really taken us to the next level,” she said. “What Ruth has captured will be an amazing catalogue and will tackle that perception that East Clare is a thoroughfare that people just pass through. There is so much here and now people will be able to showcase it. We really see the image bank as a tool to encourage a stronger network, particularly around our festivals.”

Arlene said the resource will have a number of important functions. “Aoife is building up the image bank and this will be added to regularly,” she explained. “Members of TEC will get access so that they can use them for promotions. They’ll also be a resource we can draw on when we’re approached by the media who when they’re covering tourism amenities here.”

While the pandemic posed major challenges of tourism businesses across the county with the cessation of international travel, there has been an upside. “We did notice that whenever the different lockdowns eased, most parts of East Clare were really busy with domestic tourists,” Arlene said. “People wanted to avoid cities and East Clare has the water amenities and the walks and that’s what people are looking for now. All of the providers told us that visitors were saying, ‘I never knew this was here’. We are really hoping that there’s now a whole new market as well as the international one which we expected to welcome again next year.”

Among the other positive developments on the horizon is the development of the Holy Island Visitor Experience. The centre in Mountshannon is expected to be operational next year. “It has been a long time coming,” Arlene said. “It’s a while since the Council first bought it, but it was never going to be developed immediately. It will really add to the offering in this part of the county and with international travel expected to return to 2019 levels next year, things are really falling into place.”

Getting out to capture East Clare on camera has been something of a labour of love for Ruth. “It was very much dictated by the weather and the different lockdown restrictions,” she said. “I’m still going out to meet the businesses They’ve had to deal with so much uncertainty. People have been very welcoming and it’s not a matter of going in and disrupting people’s work, the pictures are all very organic and natural.”

The eagerly-awaited video is currently on the editing bench. “It’s coming together,” said Ruth. “We’ll have a shorter and longer version and there are some lovely shots including drone footage of the waterpark at Ballycuggeran, Quin Abbey and Holy Island. There’ll be a bit of fun and a pint or two featuring as well.”

As it approaches a new and exciting stage of its development, TEC is keenly aware of the support of CLDC, Clare County Council and in particular the Killaloe Municipal District members. “We are very grateful for the support and it has meant a huge amount to us,” Arelene said. 

Aoife agreed that the funding has enabled huge strides forward. “Thanks to the LEADER funding, TEC has successfully launched various social media campaigns, liaised with members, enhanced the website, started an image database and launched a fortnightly email newsletter,” she said. “As a result, awareness of the network and its members grew in 2021, and we are looking forward to replicating this success again this year. The network and its members have much to look forward to as we look to the year ahead. Our plans include launching an East Clare destination video, forming working groups, and developing packages that cross-promote our members.”

Aoife’s contribution to the promotion East Clare is huge and it’s something she’s delighted to be involved with. “I am incredibly proud to have been a part of the development, marketing and expansion plan of the Tourism East Clare network,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing the network’s continued growth over the coming years. I believe that the network is a valuable asset to the region, and it is great to see members benefiting from being a part of this interconnected community.”

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