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New campaign in Connemara

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Looking to the future

Connemara tourism chiefs are confident a new marketing campaign will make them a top tourist destination

Anton Mc Nulty

STRETCHING from Galway Bay in the south to Killary harbour in the north, Connemara’s scenery is breathtaking. From the rugged peaks of the Twelve Bens to the stunning surroundings of Kylemore Abbey, the area should be a magnet for tourism, but through the years it has never quite been able to use its natural resources to its best advantage and ensure that tourism is a viable and sustainable industry in the region.
To try and rectify this problem, Fáilte Ireland and local tourist groups in Connemara have joined forces to launch a new marketing initiative for the region to heighten awareness  among the home and overseas market of what Connemara has to offer. With the campaign launched, those involved in the industry in Connemara feel confident that they can build on what they have and in time match the success of Westport and Killarney.
Traditionally there has been a divide in Connemara between south and north, but now Fáilte Ireland want to sell the name of Connemara as a whole, rather than individual towns or villages. One of the most striking aspects of the new campaign is the creation of the Connemara brand and logo, which is designed to unite the region as well as bring about a strong awareness of Connemara as a destination to stay in and discover.
The decision by Fáilte Ireland to sell the Connemara brand met with the approval of Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, whose Department matched Fáilte Ireland’s allocation of €100,000 towards the campaign. Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Minister Ó Cuív said the name Connemara was known on the continent, and selling Connemara as a unit was the sensible way forward.
“It is fair to say that if you go around the world very few people would have heard of the towns and villages of Ireland. But we are lucky in this region that we have three brands which are commonly recognised; one is Galway, the other is Connemara and the third is Aran. To put those to the fore of marketing makes sense to me because in reality it is a big world out there and we are small fry. If we think of Spain and Portugal, we talk about the Costa del Sol, we don’t talk about the villages of Spain,” he said.
As part of the campaign, eight hotel partners from Connemara have teamed up with Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and contributed €50,000 for the marketing campaign. One of the hotel partners is the Clifden Station House and its General Manager, Wilson Bird, explained that he is enthusiastic about what the new marketing campaign can do for Connemara. He said the industry in Connemara has looked at the success of Destination Westport and they wanted to emulate that and were setting high targets for themselves.
“If we were to match where Kerry are now, we would be doing very well. The attractions are already there; you have Twelve Bens, Kylemore Abbey, Diamond Hill; you have fishing, walking and all the sea recreations. We have to use them to the best of our advantage and people are now working more together than they were. Connemara as a whole is moving on and on, year on year, and that will continue to be the goal,” he said.
Ciara O’Mahony, the Regional Tourism Development Officer with Fáilte Ireland West, feels that if they are to make Connemara a destination of choice for people in Ireland and abroad, they have to invest in facilities and infrastructure.
“We have the beautiful countryside but the problem we have had is the access, where people felt they were coming to this beautiful part of the world but they were not able to access it or engage with it. What we need to do is work on rural tourism and make Connemara irresistible to people who like walking, cycling and who are involved in extreme sports. There is a serious market for that out there and people will come from afar if we have the product in place. What we need to do is provide enough things to keep them here and make them see that Connemara is not just a place to visit for a day when you are staying in Galway city.”
Adventure the focus for rejuvenating region

ONE of the tourism sectors which Fáilte Ireland West hopes Connemara will capitalise on is the aspect of nature and outdoor tourism. With attractions and natural resources like Killary Fjord, the Twelve Bens, rivers and mile upon mile of trails and paths, there is no doubt that all the raw material is there to be exploited.
A common complaint over the years has been that the infrastructure was not in place to cater for the outdoor enthusiast. However, over the last year, significant investment has been made in developing walking and cycle routes across the region, and ensuring that these routes are sign-posted and easily understood by the visitor. Events such as Gaelforce West, The Connemara International Marathon (or ‘Connemarathon’) and the Leenane Walking Festival have all added to the profile of the region.
Two centres which have seen the potential of outdoor and adventure tourism for many years in Connemara are the Delphi Mountain Resort Adventure Centre and the Killary Adventure Centre. Mona Purcell, the Manager of the Killary Adventure Centre, explained that the promotion of outdoor and adventure tourism in Connemara was neglected by the tourism bodies and it is only in the last five years that people have realised it is the way forward.
“We have been involved in the promotion of adventure tourism for the last 20 years but we were struggling because we were doing it ourselves. However, Brian Quinn in Fáilte Ireland has made a huge difference in the last few years and is aware of the benefits of outdoor tourism. It is definitely the way forward because we can’t sell sun holidays and people who visit the area like to do something different.
“We are fully booked up already for next year and I think the hotels are now aware of the advantages. The B&Bs also need to sell themselves as hill-walker-friendly and rejuvenate themselves. In Wales, the B&Bs were nearly dead but they changed their attitude and decided to cater for hill-walkers. Now there is a huge boom in hill-walking in Wales and they need to do something similar that can work here,” she said.

“We have a fantastic tourism product here, we just need more people in the industry to come aboard this campaign. Connemara is a brand and image of real Ireland for an awful lot of people. This is about rural tourism and people are now copping on to the fact that there is an opportunity to go to Connemara and enjoy a product you won’t get in a city.”
Brian Quinn, Acting General Manager, Fáilte Ireland West

“We want to make Connemara a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, whether you are a hiker, cyclist, fisherman or golfer. We hope to target the visitor who is an outdoor enthusiast and the potential for this sector will be significant once we have the right balance in place. There is a strong awareness of Connemara in Ireland and mainland Europe and we want to build on this in our campaign.”
Ray Rooney, Chairman, Fáilte Ireland West