Discussion about Ireland’s Ancient East, in media terms certainly, has welcomingly increased in recent weeks, with presentations made in Waterford and Kilkenny by Fáilte Ireland to American tour buyers regarding its marketing plan.
Embracing the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ancient East as part of a joint marketing approach to entice more US visitors to Ireland, building brand awareness regarding the ‘Ancient East’ is going to take time.
As part of this, the general public needs to be educated about this new tourism concept so that they can in turn inform visitors about the Ancient East, and the local heritage attractions which can be explored.
With hoteliers also learning about the concept, Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford are in a prime position to promote its Norman history, from Strongbow in Waterford city, the Butlers in Kilkenny (and Carrick-on-Suir for that matter) and the Anglo-Norman invasion at Bannow Bay and Baginbun in Wexford, where “Ireland was lost and won”.
And when considers Waterford’s rich Viking history and the region’s Medieval narrative, there are clear marketing opportunities – including the use of the Waterford Estuary – which have not yet been positively exploited.
And given the ‘Three Sisters 2020’ bid for the European Capital of Culture which involves Waterford, Kilkenny and Wexford, a successful pitch for that event may also serve to promote Ireland’s Ancient East.
In its literature, Fáilte Ireland see the idea as offering a personal experience of 5,000 years of European History and involves “building on the wealth of historical and cultural assets in the east and south of Ireland, maximising the history and heritage in East and South of Ireland and bring it to greater international attention”.
A spokesperson added: “Stretching from Carlingford to Cork and from Cavan to Carnsore, the new experience brand covers 17 counties and is intended to match and complement the Wild Atlantic Way in terms of scale and ambition. Ireland’s Ancient East promises the visitor a personal journey of discovery through 5,000 years of history in a lush green landscape with stories told by the best storytellers in the world.”
According to Fáilte Ireland, based on its “comprehensive research in overseas markets,” two overseas market segments have been identified among those likely to visit Ireland, namely the ‘Culturally Curious’ and the ‘Great Escapers’.
“The Culturally Curious are older visitors (over 45) and want to broaden their minds and expand their experience by exploring new landscapes, history and culture. Great Escapers, on the other hand, tend to be younger, early 30-somethings and want time out from their busy lives and careers to connect with history and nature and their place within.
“This appeal to an interest in local culture and heritage, in particular, differentiates Ireland’s Ancient East from the Wild Atlantic Way. The emphasis within Ireland’s Ancient East on built heritage (as opposed to natural landscapes along the Wild Atlantic Way) will make it a very attractive proposition for those more interested in understanding the relationship between local place, past and people.”
Fáilte Ireland has spent the last year working in consultation with key stakeholders to develop the initiative including tourism attractions and businesses throughout the region “to bring the proposition to life”.
Some €600,000 has been allocated for the first phase of Ancient East signage while Fáilte Ireland is also working with businesses to “develop their visitor experience in line with the brand promise, to create their story and to tell this story in an engaging way”.
Fáilte Ireland has also held a series of development workshops during the summer aimed at assisting local businesses “to animate the stories of their locality”.
The spokesperson added: “As well as the traditional marketing of the new brand overseas, Fáilte Ireland will also be working with the local tourism industry to help them actively sell the new proposition to potential customers and overseas trade. Already, at this year’s Meitheal, the new proposition has been introduced to overseas buyers and selected Irish operators are pitching it to buyers at the marketplace sessions.
This is a different type of proposition from the ‘oceans and cliffs’ promotion that has dominated the Wild Atlantic Way’s TV and internet marketing proposal
In the Failte Ireland presentations for Waterford, images of hiking in the Comeraghs were displayed, as were our dolmens, ancient monuments, the Viking Triangle, the Bishop’s Palace, our Norman history, Medieval museums and, of course, Waterford Crystal.
An ‘Ancient Spaces’ grant scheme for up €1 million is also available when it comes to developing our visitor experience.
Speaking at last April’s launch of the Ancient East initiative, Paul Keeley, Director of Business Development with Fáilte Ireland, said it “will allow us to seriously build on the assets we have in Waterford and encourage visitors not only to visit but to stay longer.
“With historical attractions such as the Viking Triangle Waterford: Bishops Palace, Museum of Treasures, Reginald’s Tower, Lismore Castle – to name but a few – Waterford ticks all the boxes with regard to the main themes of Ireland’s Ancient East with early Christian, Medieval and Anglo-Irish sites all within reach.”
He added: “As with the Wild Atlantic Way, this will be an evolving project and, although the brand has been launched, the hard work now begins. To that end, over the next weeks and months, Fáilte Ireland will be meeting with tourism operators, and other interested parties in Waterford to work with them and to bring Ireland’s Ancient East alive in this part of the region.”
Opportunity knocks via the Ancient East, and there’s an onus on us all to weigh in behind it – but it will also require a focused approach from Fáilte Ireland when it comes to marketing this new tourism concept.