NORTH Tipperary county manager Joe MacGrath has described as “good” a meeting he held this week with Failte Ireland chiefs on the future of Nenagh Tourist Office. Mr MacGrath had told councillors at their April meeting that Failte Ireland had indicated they were pulling out of the office and considering that it be run by a third party
However, the county manager met the tourist promoters this Monday and told the Tipperary Star: “It was a good meeting. There is a proposal on the table but I don’t want to go into it. They are going to consider it and will come back.”
He said Failte Ireland had told him they would respond by the end of this week.
If Failte Ireland and the council fail to come with a plan there are fears the county’s main tourist office won’t open in June for this season.
However, Mr MacGrath was “hopeful” that would not happen.
And Junior Minister Alan Kelly, who has responsibility for tourism, also revealed he was “confident” that the office will open on schedule.
Mr MacGrath said: “I want to ensure the tourist office opens for this season and then beyond that we need to bring certainty for the future of the office.”
He said one of the alternatives was that a third party or another organisation might be willing to run the office with Failte Ireland support. He indictated that these could include either tourism providers, the local council or the Chamber of Commerce.
However, while he was adament that it was “too late” to look at that this year as we are “on the cusp of a new season”, he said “all options” would be explored at the end of the summer.
The county manager maintained it was important that any group who might take on the office must not operate in “isolation”.
“Failte Ireland are the experts. Their support is critical and it is important to retain their expertise,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Kelly said that Failte Ireland and the council were working on a model of operation for the tourist office that will “keep it sustainable into the future and better serve the needs of local tourism”.
He said that while tourism promotion needed to be done primarily on the web, having a single point of information in a town such as Nenagh can be extremely helpful in assisting local people show visitors around and act as a hub for all types of tourism activity.
“The work of Failte needs to be assisted by local authorities and local tourism interests,” stated Deputy Kelly.
He pointed out that Failte Ireland worked in partnership with local communities in providing tourism information by local grups and businesses, and about 40 per cent of tourism information offices across the country had been taken over by local interest groups with support from Failte Ireland.
“Failte Ireland and North Tipperary County Council are engaged in a process designed to ensure the continued provision in Nenagh of tourism information and I expect them to agree on the best approach in the coming weeks,” said Deputy Kelly.
One of the area’s biggest accommodation providers, the Abbey Court Hotel, told the Tipperary Star, that the tourist office was a “vital” source of information on what to do and see in the area as well as a way for local businesses such as hotels, guesthouses and restaurants to promote their products and connect directly with visitors.
“We feel the closure would have dramatic result for tourists visiting the area and tourism providers in Nenagh,” said a spokesperson.