Kilkenny has been crowned the 2013 National Tourism Town. The medieval cultural hotspot was chosen from a shortlist of ten top tourism towns. A Best Small Town Award was also presented to Mulranny, County Mayo which is situated along the hugely popular Great Western Greenway.
The Tourism Towns Award was designed by Fáilte Ireland to promote those Irish towns and villages which are working hardest to enhance their appeal to tourists visiting their local area. As the overall winner, Kilkenny received its winning certificate along with a €10,000 grant towards further developing itself as a tourism destination.Mulranny received €5,000 while the other eight short-listed towns received €1,000 grants to accompany their certificates of merit. As well as the certificates and grants, all the shortlisted towns will be able to boost their pitch and use their ‘Tourism Town’ status when marketing themselves.
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring congratulated Kilkenny on winning the 2013 crown: “Kilkenny, with a strong mixture of hurling, heritage and hospitality in its DNA, really impressed the judges this year with the way the locals knitted local food, sports and, of course, their medieval history into their tourist offering. Kilkenny is truly a city geared towards tourism and its relentless focus on the right type of welcome has ensured that it is our worthy winner this year.
The judges noted how Kilkenny has preserved so many of its historical buildings while at the same time undertaking an impressive regeneration programme. Accommodation offerings are plentiful and visitors can avail of a great array of local culinary delights. The judges were also struck by the enthusiasm of the local community and how individuals were unfailingly helpful, informed and friendly.
The judges were particularly impressed with how Kilkenny has brought the hurling experience to life through the various product offerings available. Cross promotion is widely found throughout the city business network and it was also noted how the ethos of the Gathering had been fully embraced by the people of Kilkenny and how they had brought their own style to it.
Congratulating Kilkenny, Shaun Quinn CEO of Fáilte Ireland said: “I would like to commend everyone in Kilkenny for their involvement in this year’s award. All our top ten towns have shown a high degree of local involvement in – and passion for - tourism. A big focus of both The gathering and the Tourism Town Award is community involvement and, as we are coming to the end of a year when such community tourism has really come to the fore, these finalists are all great role models for the type of local activism which has made The Gathering such a success.”
Kilkenny’s attributes of a tourism town were recognised earlier in the year by readers of ‘Conde Nast’ travel magazine when they voted Kilkenny as the 9th friendliest city in the world. Readers praised Kilkenny’s clean air and many pubs. “People were always greeting you,” one reader wrote. Another praised the “charming” locals, describing them as “proud folks who want you to sample their best.”
The assurance of a warm welcome for visitors was further galvanised following the launch earlier this year by Destination Kilkenny of the Kilkenny Visitor Welcome Ambassador Programme, which has been a huge success and the level of engagement by locals has far exceeded expectations. Now today, with the accolade of Ireland’s top Tourism Town, Kilkenny’s appeal can only get stronger.