Plans for a ‘Medieval Mile’ in Kilkenny are due to be announced in the next few weeks, and the project will help to promote the South East as a “necklace of must-see destinations,” a Fáilte Ireland conference held in Hotel Kilkenny heard on Monday afternoon.
The Medieval Mile will be one of two “game-changing developments,” the other being a Viking Triangle in Waterford, said Fáilte Ireland’s head of operations for the South East, Gary Breen.
Of the Medieval Mile, he said: “We hope within the next two weeks to have blueprints developed that will outline how this project will evolve.”
It will include the Craft Yard; St Mary’s Cathedral, which will become an exhibition space; the new Butler Gallery for contemporary art being developed at Evans Home; and the upgrade of High Street.
“When that project is in place, we will have the finest built heritage experience in Ireland,” Mr Breen said.
Other promotions he cited in Kilkenny include a tapas-style Blasta Trail being piloted in hotels, restaurants and cafes with the aim of attracting “grazing” diners in the early evenings; the availability of GAA bookings through the tourist office; and the marketing of an “urban triangle” of Kilkenny, Wexford Town and Waterford.
“If our three main urban centres are succeeding at a higher level than they are today, then the whole region can succeed on the back of that,” Mr Breen said.
These plans fit in with Fáilte Ireland’s hope to promote the South East as a “must visit” destination for overseas tourists.
Following on from a growth of 6% in the sector last year, Fáilte Ireland chairman Redmond O’Donohue noted that the sector is worth €360 million in the South East and accounts for 10,000 jobs.
“The challenge is that we may be too reliant on domestic demand. ... We need to hold on to and increase domestic visitors, but we need even sharper focus on international visitors,” he said.
The region should “focus on authentic heritage and culture that we have in abundance in the South East, particularly historic cities and towns, monuments and attractions that we have here,” he said, and market a “necklace of must-visit destinations.”
“We have got to get more overseas business,” agreed Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn. “But the good news is that you have the wherewithal to do it – you have what people want.”
Regarding culture and heritage, he said: “This part of the country has more of that than anywhere else in Ireland.”