THE GOVERNMENT’S FLAGSHIP tourism initiative ‘The Gathering 2013’ has delivered between 250,000 and 275,000 visitors to Ireland this year and generated as much as €170 million in revenue.
Findings compiled by the director of the project, Jim Miley, show that the initiative succeeded in its aim of engaging Irish people to invite their relatives and friends to attend the thousands of ‘Gatherings’ held across the country.
Visits to Ireland for the first ten months of the year are up 7.3 per cent with double digit growth reported in visits from the United States – one of the tourism industry’s key target markets.
The project also delivered within its approved budget of €13 million from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, with the Minister Leo Varadkar hailing its success.
“It’s delivered the results we were looking for, giving a vital boost to tourism and employment. It helped to restore Ireland’s status as a premier tourism destination and it strengthened links with the diaspora,” he said.
But Miley hailed the “enormous voluntary effort” in making it a success, saying that the interest had gone beyond what was expected.
“The enormous voluntary effort in making the gathering a success is evidence of the on-going power of community and had a significant impact on generating 5,000 national events, many in counties, that would not typically be regarded as tourist destinations,” he said.
He has recommended that it should not be staged more frequently than on a five-year cycle and that a decision on the next Gathering should not be made until the final Economic Impact and Social & Community Impact Report which is due to be published next year.
Consideration should also be given to not repeating the project at all and instead focussing on the project’s legacies including tourism initiatives led by local authorities.