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Leisure Industry and Swot Analysis

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     chapter   6   swot analysis
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     swot analysis




      6.1    marketing and product development

     A SWOT analysis was performed with each of the
     operators and industry members from both a marketing
     and product development point of view.

     *While needs varied between all groups researched, the
     overall response is outlined below.
     TABLE 14 Marketing SWOT Analysis

     Strengths                                                        Weakness




     Access to airport and city centre                                Poor signage
     National primary routes                                          Web not current enough, not updated enough from members
                                                                      themselves
     Heritage is a strong USP for Meath in the tourism destination
     market                                                           Lack of reservation system
     Rural Village composition                                        There is no town called “Meath” – therefore lack of
                                                                      comprehension as to where Meath starts and finishes
     Agricultural and pleasant rural setting offer a good marketing
     backdrop                                                         Lack of services in north of county
                                                                      Lack of synergy between development and leisure amenities
                                                                      Weak tourist information and distribution
                                                                      Perceived poor VFM
                                                                      Inexperienced front of house staff
                                                                      Lack of integration in sectoral marketing groups
                                                                      Poor PR by Meath Tourism themselves to communicate the
                                                                      work they are achieving for the county




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The research methods were chosen to facilitate the most
comprehensive, accurate and up to date tourism review ever to be
undertaken in County Meath.




                                                                                                                                    6




                                                                                                                                    swot analysis
Opportunities                                                        Threats




Opening of more high quality(4*and 5*) accommodation in Meath        Competition
who will carry a marketing department each
                                                                     Coastal erosion
Signage- tourism, interpretive and directional
                                                                     Car driving and parking on beach
Establishment of Meath Tourism industry forums
                                                                     Complacency
Greater development of synergies between sporting groups,
education, developers, planning, Regional Tourism Organisation       Price/Greed
Exploitation of Visiting Friends and Relatives market
                                                                     Poor communication with Tourism Ireland Offices via Regional
Exploitation of web- more current info                               Tourism Organisation

Exploitation of ‘Coast’ name- little or no knowledge that Meath
even has a coast line
By laws for Beach to disallow driving on beach
More staff fam trips
More industry fam trips
Establishment of a tourism industry forum
Introduction of a self managed online reservation system
Sectoral and local marketing groups set up in each interested
area of the community
Introduction and promotion of tourist menus across all seasons
and across all levels of dining in Meath.
Communication via the RTO’s to overseas Tourism Ireland Offices
that Meath is more than a day trip, it is a destination in itself-
can be featured with an activity or twinned with Dublin as a
city break.
Press packs to be sent to all Tourism Ireland and RTO offices
both at home and overseas
Product development lists and updates to be circulated monthly
from Meath Tourism to all regional and overseas offices, TIL and
FI.




                                                                                                                                           34
     6.2     product development


     TABLE 15 Product SWOT Analysis

     Strengths                                               Weakness




     Wealth of Heritage                                      Lack of Hotels ( particular 4 and 5 star)
     Access-M1,N2,N3,N4                                      Poor Signage
     Location to Dublin city centre, airport and ferryport   Lack of family entertainment venues
                                                             Lack of weather independent facilities
                                                             Lack of Irish & cultural experiences
                                                             Lack of affordable golf




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                                                                                                                            6




                                                                                                                            swot analysis
 Opportunities                                                      Threats




 Develop more high end quality accommodation                        M1- fear of becoming ‘corridor county’
 Exploitation of Water and angling amenities                        Competition from other counties
 Establishment and promotion of new walkways and cycle route        Lack of ‘partnership’ working intra-agency in county
 for Meath to include Heritage and other attractions
                                                                    Lack of inward investment
 Develop “tourist character” in Towns
                                                                    Lack of interest
 Attract retail investor-Blarney, Avoca etc
                                                                    Coastal attractions
 Offer an Irish cultural experience to exploit Gaeltacht product
 in Meath                                                           Car driving and parking on Beach

 Remove Cars from Beach
 Create an aesthetic town-centre for “Coast”- with adequate
 parking
 Establish a voluntary festivals committee for the county with a
 view to funding a fulltime professional to work with Festival
 committees




  6.3    validity and reliability                                   6.4    limitations to research


The research methods were chosen to facilitate the                 There was a general lack of secondary information
most comprehensive, accurate and up to date tourism                regarding product development and the importance of
review ever to be undertaken in County Meath. Field                product positioning in influencing consumer behaviour
trips proved crucial in ascertaining the most current              and customer satisfaction. This is an area for further
situation in respect of tourism facilities (SWOT analysis)         research by the future developers in terms of market
and visitor experiences. An online survey was conducted            supply and demand at the time of investment as each
as a back up to the personal interviews and emails for             individual project will have to be assessed on its own
interested parties in order to ensure a maximum                    merit.
response level.




                                                                                                                                   36
37
     chapter   7   recommendations
38
     recommendations




      7.1    marketing and product development                         7.2i    positioning

     Making Meath Tourism relevant                                    It is no longer adequate to position Meath as just the
                                                                      ‘Heritage capital’. After five years of selling this message
     Meath Tourism has become less relevant to the industry
                                                                      it is now time to broaden its interpretation and position
     it serves. A number of factors have hindered the function
                                                                      Meath as ‘Ireland's Heritage capital, specialising in a VFM
     of Meath Tourism between staff changeover, changes on
                                                                      and hassle free experience offering quality outdoor and
     company functions and radical changes to the brief of
                                                                      leisure pursuits’. The business providers that are alert in
     Meath Tourism itself. These changes are welcomed by
                                                                      the county will utilise this to expand their current
     the Board and the industry as market forces are
                                                                      business (Hotels, Golf Clubs, accommodation providers,
     constantly evolving.
                                                                      restaurants and bars). It will also have the effect of
                                                                      encouraging an improvement of standards and services
     The company will remain non profit making and
                                                                      to the business community currently being offered by
     membership driven in terms of marketing. However, a
                                                                      the sectors mentioned above. Once this challenge is met
     strong shift on emphasis will commence immediately to
                                                                      and achieved, this will offer a confidence and fresh
     ensure Product Development becomes as key a focus as
                                                                      motivation to the product providers to develop new
     Marketing has been in the past.
                                                                      niche markets. These will include leisure tourism
                                                                      (equestrian sports should enjoy a particular high in the
     A complete review of the marketing effort has taken
                                                                      county thanks to past successes such as Paul Darragh and
     place and this is reflected in the new goals for Meath
                                                                      Eddie Macken and Golf - Ryder Cup, 2006) and shopping
     Tourism. To implement them will involve assistance from
                                                                      tourism for the weekend. While it is undisputable that
     every agency at county, regional and National level. This
                                                                      the USP will remain Heritage and all its interpretations, it
     is timely as tourism is currently undergoing radical
                                                                      is now time to move the brand along to its next phase
     changes Nationally and Regionally also. Meath has the
                                                                      (refer to appendix 6)
     enviable access and heritage factors working in its
     favour. If successful at attracting the right quality( 4*) and
                                                                      The importance of ‘Heritage’ in the Meath's positioning
     size of product development into the county, there is
     no reason why Meath cannot out perform all other
                                                                      A study released in September 2004 undertaken by
     counties in the East Coast and Midlands Region, the only
                                                                      Lansdowne Market research on behalf of the Heritage
     other region showing growth after Dublin in 2004
                                                                      Council revealed the increased awareness of the
                                                                      importance of our Heritage over the last five years.

                                                                      Nine in ten members of the public agree that it is
     7.2     holistic approach to marketing                           important to protect our heritage and the percentage
                                                                      agreeing that it is ‘very’ important has increased from
     The way forward for Meath as a tourism destination-              46% in 1999 to 55% in 2004. Those resident in Dublin are
     moving Meath into the top ten tourism destinations in            most likely to make this claim with 71% agreeing it is
     Ireland.                                                         ‘very’ important (vs. just 41% in 1999).

     Gaps and opportunities have to be filled and addressed           Overall, there have been notable increases in positive
     if Meath is serious about progressing in the tourism             attitudes towards heritage and there has also been some
     stakes. The county has enviable access to Dublin and             increases in the percentage that claim to be actively
     Northern Ireland yet the wealth of obvious tourism gaps          involved in heritage at a local level (albeit from a small
     is staggering. A concerted effort must be undertaken via         base).
     the agencies and industry jointly (possibly via the
     Tourism forum) to really put Meath on the National and           Compared with the previous identical study five years
     International Tourism map. As performance related                earlier, a significantly greater proportion of the public
     measures are laid down in this strategy, monitoring and          strongly agree that heritage protection is everyone’s
     evaluation methods are crucial.                                  responsibility (41% vs.28% in 1999) and that Government
                                                                      should offer incentives to people to encourage heritage
                                                                      protection (42% vs. 26% in 1999).

39
After five years of selling this message it is now time to broaden its
interpretation and position Meath as ‘Ireland's Heritage capital,
specialising in a VFM and hassle free experience offering quality
outdoor and leisure pursuits’.




                                                                                                                          7




                                                                                                                          recommendations
 One in three people strongly agree that there should be
                                                              7.2iii function of the new agency
penalties for those who do not preserve heritage and
one in five express the same sentiment in relation to
using taxpayer’s money to fund heritage protection.           The new Tourism and Development company for Meath
However, it is worth noting that one in five strongly         will be target driven and market lead. Performance
agree that heritage protection should not interfere with      measured methods in both the areas of Marketing and
necessary development of infrastructure.                      Product Development will be introduced. Economic
                                                              Indicators will feature as part of each years annual plan
Three quarters of those interviewed agree that there          and methods of monitoring and evaluation of the Board
should be more information available on heritage in           of Meath Tourism and Development company.
Ireland and approximately eight in ten believe that           The core functions of the company are:
schools should play a more active role in heritage
education. (In terms of primary sources of information        1. To promote county Meath as a tourist destination in
about heritage, over a quarter are most likely to initially       both the domestic and overseas market to move its
mention primary school).                                         ranking into the top 10 tourism counties in Ireland

With Meath positioning itself as the Heritage Capital of      2. Work in association with all other state agencies who
Ireland, it is reassuring to note that the product is being       are charged with improving Meath as a Tourism
so well received and acknowledged as “worthy                     destination in particular Dublin and the East Coast
investment” by the domestic market.                              Counties within the RTO.

                                                              3. To encourage and assist the improvement of the
                                                                 tourism product and service in County Meath to
                                                                 internationally acceptable standards offering Value
7.2ii role of Meath Tourism                                      for Money (VFM) and a hospitable Welcome.

It is recommended that Meath Tourism would now                4. To seek new and high quality investment in the
become known as ‘Meath Tourism’ with a strapline that            tourism industry in Meath with specific reference
states its development as well as marketing function.            to accommodation and Leisure activities (Golf,
Working as part of a team within Economic                        Equestrianism,Walking, Cycling and Angling).
Development in the Local Authority, the county tourism
officer will work with agencies to realise the goals          5. To liaise and co-operate with Government
outlined in this plan over the next five years. All              Departments, State Agencies and any other Bodies as
activities will have to be funded partly by the industry         may be appropriate in the interest of Tourism in the
which will be driven by membership fees that are                 County.
measurable and have a number of buy in options and
payment methods.                                              6. To increase the level of awareness and appreciation
                                                                 of the value of the Tourism industry throughout
Product Development will take on 50% of the brief for            County Meath trough Familiarisation trips and
Meath Tourism and Development Agency. This will also             Tourism Information Forums.
allow the organisation to become involved in attracting
large scale accommodation investment, retail                  7. To do any other such thing which the Board of
investment suitable to the tourist, promote and lobby            Directors may decide in furtherance of the overall
for better Coastal awareness in Meath, Twinning with             objectives of the Company ( appendix 1)
new emerging markets for Meath( together with the
Local Authorities). While the role of the Tourist Office
will be run by the local town councils (appendix 8) in
association with the RTO (where the RTO will assist
seasonally in Trim) Meath Tourism will remain active
in circulation of approved accommodation lists to all
product providers to ensure quality is foremost in the
Meath Tourism product. Other themes that Meath
Tourism could consider for broadening its markets could
include “Disabled friendly Meath”.                                                                                             40
                                                                    Some activities, such as trade fairs and overseas
     7.2iv tourism - everyone's responsibility
                                                                    consumer shows, which prove expensive, may not suit all
                                                                    sectors. Gardens, for example would prefer to promote
     The function for the incoming tourism Officer will be          to the domestic and UK markets, while accommodation
     divided between Marketing and Product Development.             depending on the angling fraternity consider their
                                                                    market to be in France, USA and other mainland
     The role of Tourist Office and Visitor Centre                  European countries. Restaurants on the other hand may
     management will fall between the area Town Councils            want to focus on the local and Dublin market. From
     and the RTO. While each of the Town Councils, Trim,            2005, it is intended to offer a number of choices in terms
     Kells and Navan will manage their respective tourist           of payment( direct debit later in season as well as full
     information points in their respective visitors centres,       payment at beginning of year) to subscribers. Also,
     Heritage Centres and Arts Centre, The Tourism Officer          members may be offered a number of buy in options to
     can now focus 50% of their time on attracting inward           become a subscriber to Meath Tourism. Therefore,
     investors. The County Tourism Officer will continue to         offering a voice as to where the tourism budget will be
     monitor standards in each of the tourist office to ensure      spent and an option not to participate in activities that
     quality information is being carried at all times.             are not relevant to them.

     The remaining 50% of the Tourism Officer and the               It is recommended that the model for subscription
     Boards time will be devoted to Marketing via the web           (appendix 2) be offered to the members of industry who
     (50%) and alternative methods of communication,                wish to become subscribers of Meath Tourism and the
     (print/partnerships/advertising/co-operative marketing         RTO on condition that the RTO reciprocates the efforts
     etc), the remaining 50%. This offers the Tourism Officer       by ensuring that their members are also county Tourism
     a very focused approach to achieving targets and               members (refer to “Partnerships” with the RTO).
     delivering measurable results.
                                                                    Breakdown of Fees:
     The interaction and daily booking both with clients and
                                                                    20% - Web
     visitors has proved a fulltime job in the past. This
                                                                    20% - Distribution
     function has , in 2004, been handed over to the RTO and
                                                                    10% - Listings on brochures
     the town Councils who can act as a hub for tourism at a
                                                                    25% - Represented at tourism forums and trade/
     more local level, thus making tourism more relevant and
                                                                          consumer shows
     involving more of the community on a consistent basis.
                                                                    25% - Product development including signage
     The relevant centre managers and the County Tourism
                                                                    *non membership to RTO excludes one from the above
     Officer will meet quarterly to share information and
                                                                    buy in options.
     assess trends and business developments. These
     meetings will be very useful for forward planning for
                                                                    This demonstrates to potential subscribers that their
     each centre manager in terms of staff planning, town
                                                                    subscription fees will be ‘ringfenced’ for certain works to
     marketing and promotion both at a micro and macro
                                                                    be agreed by them at the Tourism forums. The speed and
     scale in line with regional and National guidelines as per
                                                                    quantity of work undertaken by Meath Tourism is
     the New Horizons for Irish Tourism document.
                                                                    dictated by the amount of investment that is made via
                                                                    membership fees by each operator on the ground. If an
                                                                    operator feels that a particular show is not applicable to
                                                                    them they have an opt out/ ‘buy in’ A la carte option.


     7.2v funding, subscription - relevance
     Funding to date has been very generous from Meath
     County Council. However, in order for this to continue
     there must be greater emphasis placed on the product
     provider in the county to play their role also. In the past,
     subscribers to Meath Tourism have always had to ‘buy
     into’ the activities presented to them each year.

41
                                                                                                                               7




                                                                                                                               recommendations
recommendations - marketing                                      1. An update of the work to date
                                                                 2. The plan for the remainder of the year
7.2vi information and communication                              3. A platform for similar businesses to discuss
                                                                    “performance for year to date” - networking
Distribution of information within the county                    4. The opportunity for the industry to recommend
Tourist Information is particularly weak in the county. As          changes that need to be implemented to adjust
a test pilot scheme a number of publicans will be                   performance if required.
identified throughout Meath that will be offered the
opportunity to become “information pubs”. These pubs             The Objective of the tourism forum would be to guage
will be issued a ‘brochure holder board’, which as its           what is going on in the market place and to offer a
name suggests will hold various approved subscribers             networking opportunity to the industry. These can be
leaflets. These will be distributed and stocked by the           informal gatherings and can be scheduled throughout
merchandiser/ contractor on behalf of Meath Tourism              the county in different product venues. No meeting
to all participating pubs. These pubs will be easily             should last longer than 100 minutes and a tight agenda
identifiable as they will have their internationally             will be set in advance covering issues raised by members
recognised information symbol (“i”) from outside their           concerns since last meeting.
premises. The pubs selected will be required to sign a
contract that will ensure certain guidelines are followed        A suggestion of “Town Themes” may be one area for
(i.e. no unapproved accommodation and non-member of              investigation at the County Tourism Forum- develop-
Meath Tourism will be allowed to use it, maintenance of          ment of themes per town could generate a natural Irish
stand, contact via email to Meath Tourism if stock               “Touristy feel” to the towns and villages of Meath. This
depletes prior to merchants visit).                              would involve working in association with Chambers of
                                                                 Commerce, Town Councils and Pride of Place initiative
All information pubs and tourist offices will be visited         and other relevant community groups to facilitate this.
regularly by the county tourism officer to ensure high
standards are set and maintained.                                It is recommended that the towns of Navan, Trim and
                                                                 Kells operate as town Tourism hubs, whereby each of the
Events and entertainment information should be                   Tourist centres (Navan Arts Centre, Kells Heritage Centre
updated and promoted weekly and made publicly                    and Trim Visitors Centre) becomes the tourism hub of
known via tourist information boards, websites and               the town and each of the managers act as town tourism
distribution outlets (Tourist offices, Information pubs,         managers. While their existing role will not change
etc). Meath Tourism should investigate the possibility           sufficiently, the message that it communicates to the
with sign agents of quarterly updating information               people in the immediate environs is that each of these
contained in town signs etc                                      important towns in Meath's landscape will adopt a more
                                                                 centred tourist role. Tourist information, brochure
Tourist information is not just pertinent to the tourist.        distribution and retailing will feature in their current
The locals and product providers (B&B’s, hotels etc) also        format and other activities i.e. art exhibitions, functions
need to be kept informed as to what is going on in their         may also feature throughout the year. Research
county. More importantly, they must direct what is               presented by the industry highlights a greater need for
going on and should be invited to monitor progress and           “touristy feeling towns” in the county. This shift in focus
this can be done through the establishment of a                  by each of the town Councils, who finance each of the
County Tourism Forum. This forum will mirror the                 centres, will assist this change of mindset.
recommendations from the Meath County Development
Board “ to identify, develop and implement co-ordinated
marketing initiatives”.

County Tourism Forum
The County Tourism Forum should meet quarterly in Meath
for the first year (2005). After this, it may be sufficient to
meet 2-3 times per year, or as often as is merited by the
industry. What Meath Tourism does not want to offer, is
another talking shop. What the Forum should offer includes:                                                                         42
     7.2vii training and familiarising                               7.2ix central reservation system - CRS

                                                                     Implementation of a CRS for the tourism industry in
     Familiarisation trips both internally (businesses in the        Meath
     county) and externally (tour operators and media) are
     crucial. There is no substitute for experience or a picture     Meath. In order to acknowledge the role and encourage
     in the ‘minds eye’. A site/product/service experienced in       the development of Information and Communications
     a positive manner is the best method of advertising and         Technology (ICT) in the tourism sector in County Meath
     creating a market for any business.                             an audit of the county’s tourism industry must be
                                                                     undertaken to ascertain the availability and usage of
     Meath Tourism should continue to carry out                      email and websites. This must be followed by the
     familiarisation trips to both audiences and work in             relevant training.
     association with MERTA when attracting incoming tour
     operators and media to the county. However, a study to          Provision of a CRS would allow subscribers of Meath
     reveal the true value of tourism to Meath needs to be           Tourism to update their information and manage their
     undertaken and then communicated regularly and                  information on the site itself( as in the mobhaile
     concisely to the people of the county so that a true            project). This will be password controlled by all relevant
     value of tourism worth is identified for Meath. This            subscribers. Training will be provided to all participants
     could be invaluable information for potential inward            by Meath Tourism. This places the need for current
     investors, employers and developers.                            information and availability back in the hands of the
                                                                     property/activity owner. This system will also allow on
                                                                     line booking and monitoring for evaluative purposes for
                                                                     Meath Tourism and their subscribers. Based on the
                                                                     research findings, there is obvious lack of Internet
     7.2viii web - www.meathtourism.ie                               knowledge. It is recommended that the provision of
                                                                     training will become a major area for industry to
                                                                     embrace.
     The Meath Tourism web is heavily branded and is an
     excellent case study for brand implementation.
     However, the web content itself needs to be kept
     current and updated , i.e. live information is the key (see
     CRS). A dedicated approach to web updating, registering         7.2x     the Meath brand
     and special offers must become paramount for Meath
     Tourism. While this is going to be labour intensive, it is a    Review of the Meath Brand to expand its interpretation
     worthy investment. A growing percentage of Irish                to best showcase the county
     tourism bookings are now coming via the web. To
     ignore this will spell disaster for Meath. Quality Value        While research and commonsense acknowledge that the
     Packages and special events should benefit particularly         Meath Brand has been a very good investment for the
     well for the web. However, the user and supplier                county in terms of tourism positioning, it is now timely
     (accommodation and event organisers) must                       that the brand be developed further. The Unique Selling
     communicate to Meath Tourism to ensure that they are            Proposition (USP) has been unanimously accepted as
     maximising every opportunity for their business. The            “Heritage” from the introduction of the brand. While this
     web is simply a tool, but used correctly it can become a        is true and reflective of the county’s strengths as a
     very useful marketing weapon.                                   tourism destination, it is not an exhaustive offering of
                                                                     the county. Heritage is a strong hook for the county to
     Judging from the research undertaken with the industry          launch itself as a tourism destination however it
     in the county, there is a need for a great deal of training     generates little or no revenue for the operators in the
     in web optimisation. Meath Tourism should consider              county. It is now time for the brand to be expanded to
     facilitating this training and working with LEADER and          include activities that can attract attention and
     the industry to fund this. For the percentage of the            spenders( high yielding spenders) to the County and
     industry who have websites approximately half of the            position Meath as a central, quality, VFM hub, that can
     industry is not active in applying their marketing IT skills.   act as a base and offers a choice of things to do.
     As the percentage of internet business relating to travel       (appendix 6)
43   and tourism grows globally, the web is a tool that must
     be embraced and utilised daily.
                                                                                                                         7




                                                                                                                         recommendations
7.2xi co-operative marketing                                     7.2xii a new holistic marketing approach

County packaging and co-operative marketing locally          Branded print and promotional collateral
While it has proved useful in the past to market co-         Promotional collateral generate positive PR and
operatively within sectors( i.e The Meath Good Food          professional presentation. Good company literature
Circle), these groups( restaurants, hotels, golf clubs,      puts flesh on the bones of all marketing
equestrian centres) are now jaded and in need of new         communications. Customers, business partners and
invigoration. It is now time to consider marketing on a      investors will often turn here first for important and
sector by sector marketing group combined with               relevant information. Therefore creating the right image
location by location marketing groups. This will have the    is vital. This is the function of Meath Tourism on behalf
effect of delivering business on the ground and locals       of its members.Getting it right often means the
taking ownership of all actions taken by initiatives. For    difference between persuading a reader to act (ring and
example, a tourism action group in Oldcastle could be        book) and losing their interest.
set up to include the local B&B, Pub, restaurant (who may
also be a member of the County Meath Good Food               Meath LEADER II funded the creation of a brand for the
Circle) . This will have the added benefit of bringing a     county. Meath Tourism, in turn adopted this brand and
county dimension to a smaller town tourism group. If         has showcased it in so far as budget constraints has
operating correctly, referrals from restaurants in another   allowed them. Using Heritage as the USP, the brand has
part of the county may send business to Oldcastle, once      assisted Meath Tourism catapult its county into the
there, the restaurant owner will refer business to the       National and indeed International tourism stage.
local pub, hotel, B&B, Taxi, retailers etc                   However, the brand is now in need of further
                                                             development and extension. The product has changed
Intracounty marketing within the region                      and therefore the brand must also react to that change.
                                                             It is timely now for the county to consider assessing the
At National level, Tourism partners are placing a very
                                                             value and range of the brand in order to ensure
strong emphasis on developing a more regional focus. To
                                                             maximum value is derived form the new improved
this end Meath must concentrate on working more
                                                             extended brand. Meath Tourism must be part of this
closely with their neighbouring counties within the
                                                             process if it is to wholly embrace the envigorated brand
Midlands East Region. While a concerted effort is being
                                                             and promote it in as broad a context as possible.
made by the mini branding introduced by the East Coast
and Midlands to separate the East Coast( Meath, Louth,
                                                             It is important that the extended brand is applied
Wicklow and Kildare) from the midlands counties, it is
                                                             diligently and intelligently across all promotional
prudent that Meath tourist operators would commence
                                                             materials to everyone’s satisfaction.
packaging with their neighbours in Wicklow, Louth and
Kildare. An excellent opportunity awaits Gardens in
                                                             Design of the county promotional collateral needs to be
Meath and Wicklow with appropriate accommodation
                                                             treated in a holistic manner employing skills and
to work together in this case. Similar packages should be
                                                             expertise to combine visual elements, typography and
investigated between Louth and Meath in terms of
                                                             high print standard’s, to fulfill two important tasks:
Heritage products within the Boyne Valley. Kildare and
Meath have a unique link with the equestrian product.        .Information will be communicated clearly and
                                                             concisely to present the county in all its facets
Testimonials linked with product
Advertising using testimonials from well known Meath         . A favourable impression of the county will be created
personalities would go a long way to popularising Meath      as part of the overall corporate identity
as a tourism activity destination. National celebrities
such as Pierse Brosnan, Tommy Tiernan, Hector, Sean
Boylan and Dylan Moran should be approached to
promote their home county favourably.




                                                                                                                              44
     recommendations - product                                      7.3.1i welcome signage
     development
                                                                    A high percentage of the industry who participated in
                                                                    the research for this strategy suggested that ‘Welcome
      7.3      product development                                  Signage’ be placed at the entrance to all towns in Meath.
                                                                    This signage should be integrated and branded to
     Product development gaps in the Meath Tourism                  deliver the unique ‘Meath’ welcome. It offers Meath an
     product.                                                       opportunity to utilise the brand and communicate the
                                                                    core strengths of the county and in particular the town
                                                                    in question. Meath Tourism, Pride of Place and Meath
     Signage                                                        LEADER could approach this jointly via the County
     Signage has proved to be one of the most neglected             Tourism Forum.
     areas in the tourism product the Meath currently has.
     Directional, Welcome and Interpretive heritage signage
     are all areas that are poorly serviced in the county.
     Improved and integrated signage while functional will          7.3.1ii interpretive signage
     also act as a promotional and marketing tool if well
     done. It is recommended that an integrated signage             It is prudent that Meath Tourism would work in
     design and implementation plan be commissioned for             partnership with the OPW and Meath LEADER to invest
     Meath.                                                         in interpretive heritage signage from National
                                                                    Monuments down to the local old graveyards and ring
                                                                    forts of the county. Again this offers the opportunity
                                                                    to showcase the county brand. For a county that
                                                                    considers itself Ireland Heritage capital, this is crucial.
                                                                    Accompanying promotional information should also be
      7.3.1 directional signage                                     made available in leaflet form and on the Meath tourism
                                                                    website, www.meathtourism.ie.
     The road infrastructure has changed radically in Meath
     over the last number of years and this continues to be
     the case. While this is a sign of progress and makes
     Meath more accessible, it also offers the opportunity to
     pass through Meath even quicker so signage is a “must”         7.3.1iii maintenance of signage
     if there is to be any opportunity of attracting visitors off
     the M1, N2, N3 and N4. This can be achieved in                 A plan must be designed between the Local Authority
     association with the NRA and Local Authority through           area engineers to oversee the maintenance of the signs.
     service signs, brown heritage and attractions signs.           A sign is of no use if it can not be read due to overgrown
     However, once off the main primary routes, directional         hedgerows or debris from passing traffic.
     signs on secondary routes are quite confusing and often
     misleading. This area needs immediate attention by the
     Local Authority and should become a discussion
     priority for Meath Tourism with the Local Authority in
     2005.                                                          7.3.2    hotel development

                                                                    4 star quality accommodation offering VFM
                                                                    There is a huge need for the development of more
                                                                    hotels and conference facilities in the County,
                                                                    particularly in and around the M1, N2, N3 and N4. Hotel
                                                                    business has changed dramatically in the last 5 years. The
                                                                    domestic visitor is now “time poor and cash conscious”.
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                                                                                                                               recommendations
While the customer wants to take a much higher
                                                                7.3.3    Meath's outdoor pursuits
number of breaks per annum, they are for shorter times,
booked much later and must offer Value For Money
(VFM). The successful hotel will be the property that can       Golf, Equestrianism and outdoor leisure activities
offer the all in service, i.e. wellness treatment/beauty        Golf
treatment centres, health and leisure centres, good food        The Golf Product in Meath is improving, both in quality
and most importantly easily accessible, i.e. not too far to     and quantity. With the arrival of new courses it is
travel to. It is also of huge benefit if the location for the   anticipated that a number of clubs will offer value for
hotel offers good shopping closeby and evening                  money ‘Green Fees’ to non members. This has been one
entertainment. With Dublin under one hour away, it is           of the demands by the overseas tour operators and is an
surprising that more hotels to fit the above description        area that can work with accommodation providers to
have not evolved in Meath to date. However, a number            offer mid week and week end packages. Currently there
of planning applications are currently under review that        is not enough Green Fee availability on quality courses in
may redress this imbalance. The Dublin market is wide           Meath and opportunities are available in this sector.
open for Meath once the product becomes available.
While every effort must be made by Meath Tourism to             Equestrianism
attract investors to build such facilities, it is also          The equestrian product in Meath is particularly strong.
important that village enhancement and leisure product          However their ability to use it in PR is poor. Testamonial’s
development (equestrianism/horseracing and golfing              from equestrian success stories such as Paul Carberry,
etc) are simultaneously driven.                                 John Ledingham, Paul Darragh and Eddie Macken should
                                                                be used more to promote Meath as a quality destination.
While the current hotel base is particularly low, there are     Horse riding schools perform well from the local and
plans currently underway to radically change the                Dublin market. Horse racing in Navan and Fairyhouse are
number of beds in County Meath. It is prudent that the          also very well attended venues. Meath Tourism need to
latest corridor from Dublin be supplied with high 4 and         make more use of the equestrian backdrop to position
5 star accommodation to reap the benefits of Meath’s            Meath as a quality activity destination.
proximity to the airport and the city. In particular, the
Dublin corridor ( Ratoath, Dunshaughlin, Dunboyne and
Ashbourne) would benefit from such investment.
However there is no town in County Meath that could
not absorb or offer benefits to a hotel development.
                                                                7.3.4    development along urban corridors
Unless the stakes are raised in terms of inward
investment to a high scale and volume in a sustainable          Meath needs to seriously consider its location in terms
manner and in keeping with planning guidelines for a            of access. With the introduction of the M1 motorway,
rural county, tourism will progress very slowly for Meath.      people can be forgiven for referring to it as the ‘corridor
                                                                county’. The county is now so accessible, it has become
Accommodation within other categories (self-catering,           easy to “pass through” without even acknowledging that
B&B, Guesthouse etc) are all reasonably well serviced in        you have been there. Product needs to be attracted to
the county. However, as the demand grows for Hotel              these areas urgently in the form of high quality large
accommodation, the B&B sector will have to consider             scale hotel accommodation, emotionally branded
differentiating themselves and creating a proposition for       directional signage and quality shopping and attractions.
their sector collectively. This is not just true of Meath,      Some planning applications to meet the gaps are
but Nationally. However, with competitive pricing so            currently being assessed for these areas. New
close (Dublin’s Inn type products) to Meath, failure to         developments that can use the name ‘Meath’ should be
offer a clear and different proposition to the visitor from     encouraged as it helps to associate Meath with specific
this sector, signals the end for B&B’s as we have               attractions ie - Meath Craft Centre, Meath Design Yard
traditionally known it.                                         etc.

More high quality hostels would be advantageous for
the county especially in the Donore and Navan areas.


                                                                                                                                    46
                                                                    (A.O.I.F.E) would offer guidelines and professional
     7.3.5    rural landscapes and services
                                                                    support to this role and assist the tourism forum in the
                                                                    setting up of such an officer. It is recommended that the
     Planning for Meath's Rural Landscape and services in a         Meath Tourism Marketing Executive becomes a member
     tourism context                                                of A.O.I.F.E in 2004. It would be envisaged that the
     Planning needs to consider for development of services         county tourism officer, the Heritage centre manager in
     within the more rural parts of County Meath to support         Kells, Visitor centre manager in Trim, Tourist office
     week-end and mid week leisure users through the                manager in Navan and LEADER festival co-ordinator act
     provision of restaurants, craft outlets and activities.        as contacts on the ground in relation to festivals and
     Meath is ideally located as a short-break-distance from        events development and publication. While some work
     the Dublin. As ‘wellness centres’ becomes a bigger             in relation to festivals has already commenced by
     market for both Domestic and International visitors, it        LEADER, it would be prudent to include this agency in
     offers a unique opportunity to developers and                  such a committee.
     entrepreneurs based in the North of the County.
     However, such centres do not successfully exist in             Bridges as welcome and event platforms
     isolation. Shops, craft outlets, sporting facilities and       There are a number of architecturally attractive and
     accommodation must be planned for in a ‘cluster type’          significant bridges in County Meath. They, for the large
     of development if the region is to benefit as opposed to       part, go unnoticed and have not played any significant
     one single developer. It is the circulation of visitors that   role in tourism to date. A county audit examining the
     enhances a particular region. To this end, It may be           structure and architectural beauty of some of the
     worth The Local Authoritys consideration to investigate        bridges could allow the bridges be utilised as Welcome
     allocating tourism related projects to a particular            beacons or festival locations for the county.
     planner/planners who have a clear understanding of the
     tourism development needs and potential within a               Festival Themes
     sustainable manner and in keeping with the adopted             A number of festival themes could be worked out to
     county development plan. This would give a clear signal        best showcase the towns/villages in Meath. This should
     to all concerned that Meath is serious about attracting        be considered in association with the already well
     the right calibre of investor/developer into the county.       received Pride of Place Initiative. Floral, Equestrian, Golf,
                                                                    Coastline and Heritage themes have all been suggested
                                                                    as potential festivals. This could offer opportunities to
                                                                    twin with new Eastern European Countries as well as
                                                                    like minded villages/towns in the UK which will
     7.3.6     professional festival committee                      automatically open doors for new markets for the
                                                                    county.

     Festivals in Meath should be encouraged and funding
     should be sought to realise them. This may be available
     either through INTERREG111 or Meath LEADER with                7.3.7    waterways, angling and the coast
     matching funds from the industry. While this is
     happening to a small degree around the county there is
     a need for a full-time festival office in Meath. This has      The Rivers and Lakes of County Meath should be used to
     happened in other counties and it has proved hugely            assist profile the area with efforts from such clubs as
     popular (Kilkenny Arts festival, Killarney Fest, Wexford       Trim Canoe club. A feasibility study to investigate the
     Opera Festival etc). the Tourism Forum should consider         possibility of having a link to the barges along the canal
     establishing a “think tank” to deal with sourcing funding      should also be considered as is suggested in the “Boyne
     to set up such an office and role. The Local Authority         Valley Integrated Development plan, 1996” document.
     should be encouraged to house and maintain the office          While this may involve a serious investment initially,
     in Ashbourne Civic Offices and the post be financed            the effect it will have in lifting tourism to a higher level
     by another agency/agencies and festival committees             will more than pay for itself. A feasibility study on
     throughout the county. For a small membership fee, they        the potential and funding available for Water Way
     would have a hands on professional officer to assist           development in Meath should at least be investigated.
     them. The Association of Irish Festivals and Events

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                                                                                                                           recommendations
In the interim many activities could be explored to
                                                            7.3.8    partnership and packaging
utilise the water ways and Coastline of Meath both as an
amenity and as a backdrop for the county. A more
indepth specific study to investigate maximising water      It is important in Meath's case that networking takes
amenities for County Meath should be considered.            place on three fronts:
Angling promotions should be continued with the             1. Destination Networks
assistance of the Boyne Valley Fisheries Manager            Co-operation needs to exist between the agencies (in
(Regional Fisheries Board) , however other counties must    particular the Regional Tourism Organisation and
also be encouraged by the RTO to support this initiative.   Tourism ireland Limited) to break into other destination
Alternatively promotion should be exclusive to the          areas using marketing websites (lastminute.com,
accommodation and service providers who are                 Ireland.ie, Dublin Tourism and Failte Ireland etc) to intro-
subscribers of Meath Tourism.                               duce the Meath product to new markets. This is particu-
                                                            larly applicable in the Leisure and Free Independent
Most people are unaware that Meath has a coastline.         Traveller overseas market.
While short (less than 10km), it is an ideal walking and
safe bathing beach. A substantial amount of money has       2. Area Networks
been invested by the Meath Local Authorities in its         Co-operation between product providers in the area.
upkeep, and in the past it has enjoyed the status of a      This involves the development of marketing linkages
“Blue Flag Beach”. A number of issues must be addressed     between operators in complimentary sectors (i.e. golf,
for this valuable east coast area of Meath.                 gardens and equestrian sector for packages). The
                                                            objective is to strengthen the marketing message of the
1. Blue Flag status must be achieved and maintained.        area and to create packages to attract holiday makers. A
   This can be done by more frequent water sampling.        particular person will have to be identified in each area
                                                            that will drive these initiatives and the Tourism Officer
2. Cars should be removed from the Beach( By-laws           will need to work closely with these groups. This may be
   already in place to enforce this)                        an area to work with the staff from the successful ‘Pride
                                                            of Place’ initiative and use their inroads already made to
3. A heart/square needs to be established for both          harness interest and drive for Tourism thinking for a
   Bettystown and Laytown.                                  specific village/town.
4. Adequate car parking to be investigated for both areas   3. Product Clustering
                                                            Co-operation between operators in the same field. The
5. Pride of Place/Tidy Towns initiatives need to be         objective is to create group marketing initiatives and to
   investigated here.                                       build up business reference relationships which can also
                                                            be useful in overbooking scenarios. Product networks
6. Support for the International Laytown Beach races        did exist such as the Meath Good Food Circle and at one
   should come from Meath Tourism and Meath Festivals       stage operated very successfully in Meath. However
   Committee.                                               all these need to be revisited and driven only if each
                                                            product network merits it. Joint promotion and
7. Investigation, amongst the local community, for          advertising may be considered here as part of the “back
   another festival should be considered for the area,      end “ of the reworked brand. Where leisure is a lifestyle
   (perhaps Sand Yachting which has received some           - promoting golf, equestrianism etc.
   National coverage in recent times)
                                                            The latter two approaches to packaging and networking
8. In keeping with the County Development and               must have the ability to work both vertically and
   Heritage plan, Special Areas for Conservation (SAC’s)    horizontally across the industry sectors and
   must be considered and plans for conservation should     geographical regions to maximise return for Meath.
   be implemented.




                                                                                                                                48
                                                                   RTO’s will facilitate an online reservation system (book
     7.3.9 packages and pricing need clarity
                                                                   assist) in all of their Tourist Offices, while staffing and
                                                                   managing all recognised Tourist offices throughout the
     Much promotion in the past has consisted of                   region. It is prudent to consider offering a special rate
     motivational advertising, and information on products         to Meath Tourism subscribers if they agree to subscribe
     and geographical areas, “close to Dublin airport”.            to the RTO, on condition that the RTO offer the same
     Countless brochures are produced each year by hotels          gesture in return. This ensures that all businesses can
     which have this general purpose but achieve very little in    benefit from dual partnership.
     terms of business generation. While there continues to
     be a role for motivational promotion and advertising, it
     is more advisable for products in Meath to focus on
     specific, priced offers to the market - either directly to
     the consumer or indirectly to the trade (tour operators).
     This will allow operators in Meath to maximise the            7.4ii    with County Development Board
     returns on marketing investment.
                                                                   (* to attend Meath Tourism Forum)
     The manner in which an offer is packaged can also fulfill
     strategic needs such as season extension and product          To assist the County Development Board (CDB) with its
     diversification, and position the county as delivering        Tourism theme by acting as Tourism Forum facilitator.
     long term value and high yielding customers. This will        This will involve quarterly meetings with the industry
     apply particularly to upcoming new Golf courses and           and agencies involved in tourism development and
     closely located accommodation.                                marketing. The forum will offer a timed and managed
                                                                   agenda to voice concerns in the season and allow pre
                                                                   planning for the season ahead. This in turn can feed back
                                                                   into the County Development Board agenda for
                                                                   progress.
     7.4      partnerships


                                                                   7.4iii    with Meath Leader
     7.4i    with the Regional Tourism Organisation

     (* to attend Meath Tourism Forum)                             (* to attend Meath Tourism Forum)

     The Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO), East Coast and       To work in association with other agency/partners in the
     Midlands are currently under review. One of the key           county to maximise opportunities to drawdown funding
     changes is that the RTO will become a membership              for tourism for:
     driven organisation like its sister RTO’s. Arising from the
     review, members in the industry in Meath will be              (i) marketing and promotion - in association with the RTO
     afforded the opportunity to become members of both            (ii) Product Development - in particular in areas of signed
     the RTO and Meath Tourism. The RTO has implemented            walking and cycling routes
     a number of changes which deserve support from their          (iii) to share databases for information being
     member county tourism colleagues.                             communicated to the county

     From 2005, RTO’s have agreed to fund a number of
     pertinent National and International trade and
     Consumer shows on behalf of the County tourism
     companies. They will also distribute one ‘selected
     county’ brochure per county to fairs that the county
     representatives are not themselves attending.

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                                                           recommendations
7.4iv   with Meath County Council

Pride of Place Initiative (* to attend Meath Tourism
Forum)
To work in close association with Pride of Place and
Environment department to ensure maximum attention
is brought to bear on natural Touristic areas. Emotional
tie ins are crucial to Image presentation in any town,
village or county, and contributes significantly to that
first impressions ‘feel good’ factor one experiences
when on holiday. The positive Moynalty experience can
be replicated in many towns across the county if the
interest in the community is present. It will be Meath
Tourisms job to promote and market the finished
product with the community.




7.4v    with Office of Public Works

(* to attend Meath Tourism Forum)
For a county who prides itself on being the Heritage
capital of Ireland, it is prudent for Meath Tourism to
have a senior attendee from OPW attend regular
meetings with Meath Tourism. This crucial post for
Meath will benefit through communication with the
Board and vice versa. Access and opening times can be
discussed and viewpoints can be exchanged in relation
to conservation, new product development and
marketing. While Meath Tourism are acutely aware
that Marketing is not the remit of the OPW, and have
a healthy respect for its Heritage, communication
between both groups, should be formally copper-
fastened.




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