Lough (Lake) Derg is an important natural heritage asset and visitor destination in Ireland as part of the River Shannon waterway. However, its potential as a sustainable tourism asset has not been fully exploited so far. To promote Lough Derg as a destination and to provide additional key visitor attractions in the region, a public-private participatory policy making model for tourism development, management and promotion of Lough (Lake) Derg has been initiated.
As part of this initiative, the Lough Derg Marketing Group was established which comprises a broad range of stakeholder representatives from three local authorities (Tipperary County Council, Galway County Council and Clare County Council), Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, local development companies and the tourism trade. The vision for the group as outlined in the roadmap published in 2014 was to ‘Develop Lough Derg as a key destination for superb water-based activities combined with a range of high-quality walking, cycling, heritage, culture and food experiences that will entice domestic and international visitors to stay longer. This will be achieved through joint cooperation of all tourism stakeholders in the development and marketing of their area under the Lakelands-Lough Derg identity’.
The Chief Executive of Tipperary County Council (TCC) is the chairperson of the group and the Council was instrumental in its establishment. The local authorities work closely with the agencies and tourism industry of the group in order to market and promote Lough Derg and deliver capital projects where funding can be raised. Such funding has been allocated for tourism infrastructure and marketing promotion initiatives. Specifically, the group successfully acquired a EUR 2m stimulus fund from the national Department Transport, Tourism & Sport which acted as a catalyst for the implementation of 14 projects since the end of 2014.
Key activities that have been implemented include:
- Improving orientation by implementing the Lough Derg Signage Strategy
- Improving lakeside experiences by upgrading amenities at lakeshore sites
- Experience development – development of tourism products such as the Lough Derg Blueway to attract visitors to Lough Derg
- Destination marketing to increase public awareness of the area via www.discoverloughderg.ie, social media, facebook and twitter, Tourism Ireland Ezines, advertorials, familiarisation trips for tourism industry and bloggers and
- The Lough Derg Stakeholder Engagement Plan which engages with and supports tourism businesses by organising networking events.
A number of new businesses have emerged on the lake since the work of the stimulus fund projects began, including kayaking, paddling, team building, adventure business companies and food outlets. The demand for lakeside and leisure activities resulted in increased visitor numbers and a tourism boost worth EUR 10m to the local economy.
The model adopted in Ireland is an inspiring example of public-private participatory policy making at local level for sustainable tourism development in an area with valuable natural asset. There are many aspects to this initiative which have learning transfer ability and can be interesting for other regions, including:
- Improve orientation by implementing signage strategy
- Improve lakeside experiences by upgrading amenities at lakeshore sites
- Experience development – develop tourism products
- Destination Marketing – increase awareness of the destination
- Lough Derg Stakeholder Engagement Plan – engage with and support tourism businesses.
The group is currently preparing an end of Roadmap 2014 – 2017 report and will progress to creating a new Roadmap for 2018 – 2021.
Source: Interreg Europe