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Offaly part of new 'Hidden Heartlands' tourism brand

Story by Adrian Cusack

Saturday, 14th April, 2018 9:00am

Offaly part of new 'Hidden Heartlands' tourism brand

Different areas of Offaly are to be promoted by two different Fáilte Ireland tourism campaigns, after Thursday's launch of an 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' brand for parts of the Midlands.

The new branding, which is designed to complement the 'Wild Atlantic Way' and 'Ireland's Ancient East' initiatives, was unveiled yesterday in Athlone.

A Fáilte Ireland representative said the new brand would focus mainly on activities, and would be suited to promoting areas of Offaly directly alongside the River Shannon.

However, it's also expected that heritage attractions in the county, such as Clonmacnois and Birr Castle will continue to be promoted under the 'Ancient East' campaign.

Areas of Offaly alongside the River Shannon are to be promoted under Fáilte Ireland's new 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' tourism brand, which was launched in Athlone Thursday morning.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and Fáilte Ireland CEO, Paul Kelly, unveiled the new branding which is designed to complement the existing 'Wild Atlantic Way' and 'Ireland's Ancient East' tourism campaigns.

Minister Ross said it was "fair" to say tourism promotion had been neglected in the Midlands in the past, but the current Government was fully committed to supporting the new tourism brand.

Some €2 million in funding has been earmarked for the brand in 2018 and the recruitment of five tourism staff to help develop the campaign is due to begin shortly.

There was a degree of uncertainty yesterday about which areas of Offaly would or would not come under the 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' label.

Promotional material which was distributed at the launch of the new brand made reference to local attractions such as Birr Castle and Clonmacnois.

However Paul Keeley, Director of Commercial Development with Fáilte Ireland, told the Offaly Independent that towns such as Birr and Tullamore would continue to be promoted under the 'Ireland's Ancient East' brand.

"Birr and Tullamore are in Ireland’s Ancient East. The logic for that obviously would be (attractions) like Birr Castle, which are very active participants in the Ancient East project, would benefit more from that brand."He said the River Shannon was "a key asset within the context of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands" and that the new brand would take in "that part of Offaly which is readily accessible if I want to do a short trip off the water."

"It's actually the N62, or thereabouts, which is the dividing line, for the want of a better term, between the two brands," said Mr Keeley. He added that the new brand had the potential to help generate "significant economic activity" in the Midlands.

“We believe that Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has the potential to attract more visitors to the region each year, transforming the local and regional tourist industry which, to date, has underperformed the rest of the country.”

Minister Ross praised the new 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' name, saying it “stimulates the inquisitive nature of people to come here and find something which maybe hasn’t been discovered, or at least appreciated, before.

”Paul Kelly of Fáilte Ireland said 10 brand names had been researched but that 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' was by far the most popular name among those surveyed.

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