Including Offaly, Westmeath and Cavan in tourism marketing for Ireland’s Ancient East ‘stretched credibility’ says review


The inclusion of Offaly, Westmeath, and Cavan in tourism marketing for Ireland’s Ancient East “stretched credibility” according to a review by Fáilte Ireland.

The review concluded that the geography for Ireland’s Ancient East was too large, especially by including what were traditionally considered midland counties.

The three counties – Offaly, Westmeath, and Cavan – have instead been added to the brand of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, which Fáilte Ireland believes will be a better fit.

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Minutes of a board meeting heard how “concern” had been raised over the Ireland’s Ancient East and how it was functioning.

The board were told a review was already underway to make it a “more attractive offering” and link in better with outdoor and cultural activities.

The review – which is ongoing – looked first at the geography of the brand concluding that the area covered by Ireland’s Ancient East should “retract”.

Fáilte Ireland said that their Hidden Heartlands had been a success, with 47% brand recognition by the end of 2019, a year and a half after launch.

It said including Offaly, Westmeath, and Cavan would strengthen and reinforce both brands and make more sense for tourists.

An information note said: “The proposed adjustments to the regional tourism brand boundaries align more naturally with the visitor offering on the ground including landscape, product base and primary travel corridors.”

Fáilte Ireland said they had consulted widely before making the change, meeting with local authority bosses and key tourism operators in the area.

They said the county councils in Offaly, Westmeath, and Cavan had all agreed with the approach and that the consensus among businesses was it was a positive move.

Fáilte Ireland said: “It made more sense for these Midland counties to be part of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand given the strong association the brand now has with the Midlands.”

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The agency said the regional brands were continually evolving and open to change according to what tourists were looking for.

They said when the Hidden Heartlands brand was created, it had been designed to complement both the existing Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

When Hidden Heartlands was first launched, a decision was made to restrict its geography along the eastern side of the Shannon.

Fáilte Ireland said: “The Ireland’s Ancient East brand was still a young brand and was serving the industry well.

“Fáilte Ireland could not fully predict the extent of the success of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand and, therefore, adopted a more cautionary approach.”

They said the full report on the future of the Ireland’s Ancient East branding would be finalised later this year with a steering group overseeing the review.

Minutes of the November board meeting at which new regional tourism strategies were discussed also said “more work” needed to be done on the Northern section of the Wild Atlantic Way.

The board were told major investment had taken place at Westport House in Co Mayo and Fort Dunree in Co Donegal and that other initiatives were also planned.

Fáilte Ireland had also been in discussion with travel operators around creation of new travel itineraries that ventured further north, while cross-border tourism was also being targeted.

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