Fáilte Ireland announced that Westport and Kinsale have been crowned the 2014 National Large Tourism Town and National Small Tourism Town respectively. The Mayo hotspot and Cork fishing village were chosen from a shortlist of ten top tourism towns, with the remaining towns all receiving certificates of merit to acknowledge their own impressive performances in reaching out to visitors and creating the best possible tourism experiences.
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring congratulated Westport and Kinsale on winning the 2014 crowns -
“Congratulations to Westport and Kinsale on what is a great achievement and worthy recognition for all that they do for tourism in Ireland. These awards are all about honouring the towns that put tourism at the centre of what they do. This is particularly evident with our winners with both towns clearly embracing tourism and seizing the opportunities that it brings. I would like to commend both winners and all those communities that are represented here today.”
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 winners, Westport and Kinsale received its winning certificate along with a €5,000 grant towards further developing itself as a tourism destination.
Aside from today’s two top winners, the other commended towns were:
• Ardmore, Waterford
• Carrick on Shannon, Leitrim
• Cobh, Cork
• Glengarriff, Cork
• Kilkenny, Kilkenny
• Killarney, Kerry
• Lismore, Waterford
• Portmagee, Kerry
A panel of independent assessors, as well as a team of ‘secret shoppers’, visited each town to measure their tourism performance and the level of welcome to visitors.
Congratulating all the towns involved, Paul Keeley from Fáilte Ireland said:
“If The Gathering taught us one thing, it was that those towns and parishes with the greatest grass roots engagement with tourism thrive the most. The objective of our Tourism Towns Awards is to encourage and recognise this type of community-wide commitment where it exists and share their achievements with other towns. A true ’Tourism Town’ isn’t necessarily a town that gains the most from tourism but rather a town that gives the most. In that respect, Kinsale and Westport are worthy winners this year.”
With regard to the overall winners, the judges’ first impressions of Westport were that the town was something special, noting the great sense of local energy and pride. The friendliness of the locals was evident and there was no doubt that tourism is the mainstay of the town. The judges particularly noted that –
“They say variety is the spice of life and Westport is not short of either. There is something for everyone and it caters well for Ireland’s climate”.
Accepting the award on behalf of Westport, Councillor Michael Holmes said -
“Over the years the tourism product has been greatly expanded, now competing with leading tourist destinations worldwide. Westport offers a very varied palate of visitor attractions and activities, coupled with amazing local foods in a setting of spectacular scenery.
The Tourism Towns initiative, gives Westport renewed focus to ensure that our standards are kept high and that the people value the visitor’s contribution. All this helps to confirm that Westport of the Welcomes – at the heart of The Wild Atlantic way – is the ideal axis point for exploring this amazing natural landscape.”
For Kinsale, the judges noted how there is a great feeling of having arrived when you come into the town and a real desire to get out and start exploring. The cosmopolitan feel of the town particularly impressed the judges, who noted –
“There is a great cosmopolitan feeling in Kinsale coupled with beautiful scenery and narrow streets bursting with history. It would appear that Kinsale has something to offer all demographics and its visitors will leave with lasting impressions and memories.”
Delighted to accept the Best Small Tourism Town, Charles Henderson, Chairperson, Kinsale Tidy Towns, commented -
“Three words sum up Kinsale – Location, Location, Location! A picturesque fishing village nestled between hills and harbour, encompassing a mix of medieval buildings and a maze of narrow streets, seamlessly incorporating a multitude of historical tourist attractions and gourmet restaurants. The allure of a semi-tropical climate is of course an added bonus! This award will give a great boost to all our efforts in the town.”
Town Awards – what are the judges looking for?
The Tourism Town award focuses on how participating towns have developed their local area in the following key tourism areas:
• Sense of Place – How the town tells its own unique story to visitors, what’s special about it, and what distinguishes it from other towns.
• Local Involvement – How the local community works together to provide an authentic visitor experience.
• Tourism Products Available – What the town has to offer visitors.
• Development and promotion of the town – How the town takes a unified approach to marketing and developing the town into a “tourism town”.
THE JUDGES’ COMMENTS ON THE TOP TEN TOWNS:
First impressions are that this town is something special. One can see at the onset that this is a very well organised/maintained and compact town with lots to offer.
There is a great sense of energy and pride in the town and it is obvious from the locals that they are well used to dealing with tourists.
They say variety is the spice of life and Westport is not short of either. There is something for everyone and caters well for Ireland’s climate.
The locals were very friendly and approachable. There is no doubt that tourism is the mainstay of the town.
Arriving into Kinsale on a beautiful summers evening, the first thing to come into view, are the masts of the yachts in the Harbour, a beautiful sight to see. There is a great feeling of “having arrived” and a desire to get out and start exploring.
There is a great cosmopolitan feeling in Kinsale coupled with beautiful scenery and narrow streets bursting with history. It would appear that Kinsale has something to offer all demographics and its visitors will leave with lasting impressions and memories.
A visit to one of many restaurants is a gourmet delight, and music playing in many venues, all add to a great tourism experience.
Fom the moment you arrive in Ardmore it’s obvious that you have come across something special. Ardmore has a lovely relaxing feel to it with a warm welcome and the smell of the fresh sea air is magic. Whether you are a lover of food, the sea, history, relaxation or art, there is something for everyone both indoors and outdoors.
Ardmore is very accessible and is a most enjoyable visit – one would happily recommend it to others as a special place, especially on a fine day, its magic.
It is obvious from the onset that the local involvement is critical to the development of tourism and that the tourists are not taken for granted.
The River Shannon is central to tourism in Carrick and provides a great amenity to the town. The Dock arts centre is a hub of activity, with rehearsals taking place for upcoming events, and a lovely art exhibition upstairs.
The Tourist Office has an easy to follow Historical Guide booklet available and the trail meanders through the town, on and off Main Street and has some lovely buildings to see.
Carrick has one of the best event calendars to be seen, with events to suit all demographics.
There is no doubt if you love and are interested in the history and the sea it’s the place to be.
There is a sense of vibrancy due to the respect and pride of the historical impact on the area and its people and the legacy it left behind.
It’s obvious that there is a huge local effort to promote Cobh as a worthwhile tourist location. The locals and staff alike were all very friendly and helpful when approached, eager to assist and offer information.
Overall a very worthwhile visit not to be missed, even on a wet day.
To arrive in Glengarriff from the Cork side is a real pleasure. There is a great sense of welcome in Glengarriff, from hotel staff to people in shops and restaurants, to the men who take visitors across the sea to Garnish Island, all were very happy to accommodate tourists and had a pleasant approach and a smile for all.
There is plenty to do and see and a feeling of wanting to stay longer to experience all the town has to offer.
It’s very pleasant to sit and watch the world go by and see the boats come and go to the Islands and in good weather there is no better place to sit outdoors and have a meal and chat to overseas visitors.
The city is bursting with history, great shops, cafes, eateries etc something for everyone.
It is obvious from the city and its people that while it is a working business location it is very much focused on tourism. Everywhere one was met with smiles and eagerness to assist.
There is general feel of Kilkenny as a safe, clean and pleasant environment well organised with happy residents welcoming a wide variety of visitors.
On the day of assessment the town was awash with tourists with plenty to see and do on offer.
The town centre is busy but has an unhurried feel to it, and the buildings are well maintained. The town has a compact feel to it which enhances the overall experience.
The local people are very friendly and willing to take the time to help and offer advice. The store assistants and people in the service industry are all very informed about what the town has to offer its visitors, recommending attractions, and pointing out venues to hear different types of music.
The overall impression was very good, what a relaxing perfectly maintained and manicured town. There is a huge commitment and pride in the town and all it has to offer by the local residents. Lismore is a very special town and one we all should be proud of.
A very worthwhile visit, not only to admire its beauty and learn its history but also a wonderful place to relax. Lismore is a unique tourist experience where the old meets the new complimenting it very well creating a relaxing atmosphere.
The approach to Portmagee is spectacular with high cliffs and sweeping mountains as far as the eye can see.
There is a feeling of anticipation on the journey in, which does not disappoint the visitor. The blue sea with its fishing trawlers nestled beside the harbour walls and the queue of Tourists waiting to board the boats going to the Skellig Rocks add to the sense of anticipation.
The level of care and attention by the inhabitants of Portmagee, for their village, is very evident. The tidy towns committee clearly work very hard at presenting their village as a jewel in the crown