Birr received a major funding boost with the announcement that funding through the new €15.5 million Fáilte Ireland Destintation Towns Scheme was being allocated to the town to develop its potential as a tourism “destination town”.
The funding has been allocated through Offaly County Council as part of the €15.5million ‘Destination Towns’ initiative launched earlier this year by the National Tourism Development Authority.
The Destination Towns project aims to develop an impactful and memorable identity for Birr and will deliver a series of new orientation signs, map boards and two information kiosks to encourage visitors to explore the many hidden gems of the town.
A new scheme will also be developed for Castle Street to create a new destination focal point and strengthen the connection between the town and the castle.
The process of identifying the towns that receive funding through the Destination Towns scheme commenced in mid-2019 and was led by the Local Authorities in consultation with Fáilte Ireland.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D. confirmed on Monday, December 9 that every county in Ireland will benefit and the first round of allocations, including Birr, will take place from January.
The Fáilte Ireland scheme is part of the National Tourism Development Authority’s work to drive a better regional spread of overseas and domestic visitors and spend.
Through the scheme, which was launched earlier this year, every Local Authority in the country had the opportunity to bid for funding of up to €500,000 to develop a town in the county to enable it to improve its tourism offering and make itself more attractive to visitors. The Local Authorities will also provide funding for their projects.
With Fáilte Ireland research consistently showing that attractive towns and cities are key motivators for overseas holidaymakers coming to Ireland, the new scheme will provide funding to councils to enhance public spaces such as squares, streetscapes and markets in a way that will engage tourists and enhance their experience in key towns.
This could include spaces for food and craft markets, areas for town centre events, public art displays as well as orientation and signage to help visitors explore a town’s local heritage.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross T.D., said: “Tourism’s importance as an economic driver for Ireland cannot be overstated. It sustains 260,000 jobs across the country and generates revenue in communities nationwide. Initiatives like Destination Towns, funded through the Government’s Project Ireland 2040, is a great example of how investing in infrastructure can deliver long-term economic benefits for local communities.”
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., said: “The investment awarded to the towns across Ireland today reinforces the Government and Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to growing the tourism sector and the benefits it brings to regions throughout Ireland. I’m delighted to see Fáilte Ireland and the Local Authorities continuing to work hand-in-glove to ensure towns nationwide can fulfil their tourism potential.”
Fáilte Ireland’s CEO Paul Kelly said: “The towns which reap the greatest benefits from tourism and schemes like Destination Towns are those where all local tourism players work together - from Local Authorities and businesses to the communities themselves, each complementing another’s efforts to create a full and appealing offering for their area. A core focus of Fáilte Ireland’s work is to drive a greater regional spread of visitors and revenue across the country. Initiatives like our Destination Towns scheme are critical in doing this by boosting the tourism appeal of destinations across Ireland. We’re delighted with the support from the Local Authorities and we would like to thank them for their work in putting forward such compelling cases for investment.”
Welcoming the scheme, Ann Doherty, Chair of the County and City Management Association EECC Committee added: “The concept behind Destination Towns goes to the heart of what the local authorities are about: making great places to live, work and visit. The initiative provides a really practical focus to help us to plan strategically for the infrastructure, attractions and public realm improvements that will appeal to visitors and unlock or enhance our tourism offering, including in collaboration with local business and communities.”
Fáilte Ireland’s Destination Towns scheme is funded under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 strategy with the aim of driving sustainable growth in the Irish tourism sector and higher revenue and job creation around Ireland.
Locally, Cllr Peter Ormond, An Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council welcomed funding of €500,000 for Birr town under the Destination Towns’ initiative. Cllr Ormond would like to thank the staff of Offaly County Council for their work on this project and their professionalism and expertise that went into making the application.
“Birr as a tourism destination has made tremendous progress over the years and this funding will move Birr as a tourism destination to the next level. Tourism has become an important economic driver of Birr and surrounding areas and this funding for Birr reflects the excellent tourist product on offering,” he commented.
Cllr Ormond stated the new scheme will provide funding to Offaly County Council to enhance public spaces such as squares, streetscapes and markets in a way that will engage tourists and enhance their experience in key towns such as Birr. This could include spaces for food and craft markets, areas for town centre events, public art displays as well as orientation and signage to help visitors explore Birr’s local heritage.
Cllr Ormond stated he was delighted Birr was initially chosen by Offaly County Council as Offaly’s destination and the calibre of the application and the product offering has now been rewarded with €500,000. “We hope to see plans for this investment in the new year and we look forward to the next stage of tourism development for Birr in 2020,” the councillor enthused.