Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will encourage visitors to get ‘active in nature’ and explore the region’s natural assets
Brand development to include Tourism Master Plans for the River Shannon and Beara Breifne Way, together with promotion of local attractions and activities
Fáilte Ireland today unveiled ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ as its latest new tourism brand – designed to boost tourism and drive visitor growth across the Midlands region.
The brand elements including the name, logo and what the brand stands for were developed following extensive research with consumers in Ireland, US, UK, Germany and France. Over 10,000 consumers were interviewed in the process giving Fáilte Ireland great insight and confidence that Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has the potential to be both appealing and motivating to visitors.
What consumers were attracted to about the new brand is that it will bring to life the Midland’s rich natural assets including its many lakes, walkways and blueways. It will also leverage a growing tourism trend for soft activities by encouraging visitors to be ‘active in nature’ and to explore the region off the beaten tracks through a range of activities including walking, food, cycling, fishing, and boating routes.
The River Shannon will be a central focus of the brand with a Shannon Master Plan currently being developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with Waterways Ireland to drive tourism opportunities both on and off the water, and in the towns surrounding it.
Another asset for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will be the Beara Breifne Way, which spans the whole region, and where a compelling walking and trail experience will be developed to international standards. The Activation Master Plan will see a number of towns along the route identified as walking hubs to support this ambition and drive visitors into nearby areas.
A series of food networks and trails will also be developed as part of the new brand.
Launching Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in Athlone today, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross T.D., said:
“I’m delighted to launch Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – a new brand which will significantly enhance the Midlands as a tourism experience and bring growth and jobs to the whole region. We have always been committed to ensuring that Ireland’s success as a world-class tourist destination is shared among the regions. Some of the country’s finest natural assets are in the Midlands, including spectacular lakes, walkways and blueways. Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will bring these gems to life, offering a unique experience to both domestic and international visitors.”
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran T.D. added:
“Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will transform the Midlands and how it is positioned to tourists. I’ve heard first-hand from people and businesses across the region about the major potential this area has to attract visitors and the willingness there is to grow tourism.
“It is fantastic at last to have a tailored brand for the Midlands as this is just what we needed to develop local tourism and unite our visitor experiences behind an offering of scale. I look forward to welcoming more visitors to the area in the coming years and I would encourage all tourism businesses and interested parties in the Midlands to work with Fáilte Ireland and to get behind the new brand.”
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will cover the ‘heart’ of the country, from Leitrim down to East Clare and extending through Longford, Roscommon, East Galway, as well as parts of Westmeath, Cavan, North Tipperary and Offaly (click here to view map). It will complement Fáilte Ireland’s other key brands – the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.
Speaking about how the new brand will help to drive growth across the region, Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said:
“Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has been developed after months of extensive market testing both here and overseas. The overwhelming feedback is that visitors from key markets want the opportunity to explore Ireland’s natural gems and rural communities. There is also a huge appetite out there for tourists to be active in nature through activities like walking, cycling, angling and boating routes – all of which the Midlands can offer in abundance.
“We believe that sustainable growth in tourism will depend on greater regional and seasonal activity and this new brand will go a long way in driving that – as well as economic and employment growth – across the Midlands. While it will take a number of years for the region to realise its full potential, our focus now will be on working closely with key partners and communities across the region to develop the top-class visitor experiences that will be central to the success of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.”
Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Commercial Development, Paul Keeley, said that significant economic activity can be generated by the new Midlands brand as well as additional tourism revenue and employment if the brand realises its full potential.
Mr Keeley added:
“We believe that Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has the potential to attract more visitors to the region each year – transforming the local and regional tourist industry, which to date has underperformed the rest of the country.”
Mr Keeley pointed to parts of the region east of the Shannon and stressed that Fáilte Ireland was building in an overlap here with Ireland’s Ancient East to allow local operators to decide to leverage one or both of the visitor brands, whatever best suits their businesses. Mr Keeley explained:
“It’s important to note that we have not defined the boundaries of our various brand territories based on county boundary lines. Instead, we have looked at clusters of product and the distinctive experience they might offer. There is an area along the east of the Shannon river that is strongly rooted in the new brand’s appeal but also has many historical attractions which are already benefiting significantly from being part of our Ireland’s Ancient East brand. Therefore, we’ve built in some flexibility in this overlapping area to allow local businesses to make the most appropriate decisions for themselves.
“From our experience, the visitor is not concerned with our local county boundaries. Instead, they are more interested in the things to see and do and how easy these are to access as part of their itinerary. This is what makes a holiday special. The overlapping area offers the tourism businesses the opportunity to align their own visitor experience with the brand it fits best into and which gives them the best potential to grow.”
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will now become a tourism development zone with Fáilte Ireland allocating investment and resources across the region.
An initial €2m has been allocated to start the development stage of the brand, with further funding to follow. This first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences, support industry development and develop marketing campaigns for the region.
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Note for Editor
Ireland’s Hidden Heartland – Brand Proposition / What the Brand Stands For
Active in Nature
“There is an infinite variety of things to do for all ages along the length of the river Shannon, by the many beautiful lakes in the area or along the many quiet rural byways that criss-cross this picturesque part of Ireland.
The water offers leisurely boat trips, water sports and great fishing, and there are numerous walks, cycle trails and pony trekking trails that allow you to take in the views, or explore together the rural heartlands and small villages in this quiet, relaxing part of the country.
Or try a section of the Beara Breifne Way, Ireland’s longest inland walking and cycling trail, following the route taken by Gaelic armies during the early 17th century.”
Ireland’s Hidden Heartland – Brand Name
The brand name and concept, which encourages visitors to explore the area, followed months of detailed and extensive market research and testing with both domestic and overseas markets as well as industry and trade representatives in the region.
There will be parts of the new brand footprint which will crossover with Ireland’s Ancient East, in areas where the region complements both brands, and businesses in this area can choose which brand works best for their needs and offer.
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – Five Things You Need to Know
1. It’s all about getting active in nature
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has been developed to offer a distinctive flavour of Ireland, complementing Fáilte Ireland’s other three brands – Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.
It will leverage a growing tourism trend for soft activities* (outdoor activities combined with a nature or cultural element) by encouraging visitors to be ‘active in nature’ and to explore the region through a range of activities including walking, food, cycling, fishing, and boating routes.
All aspects of the brand (name, logo and what the brand stands for) have been extensively researched with over 10,000 consumers across all key markets. The response from consumers is very positive and we’re very confident that we have arrived at a great solution to enhance and promote the natural assets of the Midlands.
(*Soft activities are adventures including outdoor or recreational travel to remote or non-traditional destinations for the purpose of new experiences, exploration of cultures and natural wonders, or engaging in a variety of rugged activities.)
2. There’s a lot more to do and see in the Midlands than you might imagine
We know there is a growing tourism trend for soft activities and the Midlands has a great basis to provide this. It has rich natural assets including its many lakes, walkways and blueways, and through the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand, we will develop what already exists and bring new experiences to the table.
As the Shannon and Beara Breifne Way are further developed, we see these as the two centerpieces of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. Other key assets proving attractive to the visitor are Strokestown House and the Arigna Mining Experience as well as the region’s many lakes.
Whether it’s cruising the Shannon, walking Beara Breifne Way, exploring Lough Key Forest, or taking an electric bike trail in Leitrim, there is something for everyone. Not to mention the huge amount of activities like boating and fishing offered by the region’s many lakes including Lough Derg and Lough Allen.
Complementing these activities, is a wealth of culture to explore, from the Arigna Mines or Strokestown Park House in Roscommon, as well as the Castles at Athlone and Birr and the sacred site of Clonmacnoise. With a great range of accommodation and restaurants in the locality, the Midlands have great potential to become the ideal location for a holiday to get away from it all.
3. If the Wild Atlantic Way is ‘primitive landscapes’ and Ireland’s Ancient East is ‘history’, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is ‘a gentle exploration in nature’
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is all about being active in nature. This gives the area its own distinctive aspect of Ireland’s tourism offering compared to the other regional destination brands.
The tourism assets in the area, if developed in the right way, can deliver an authentic experience that allows visitors to get off the beaten track and explore unique waterways, tracks and trails at a gentle pace – a chance to relax and recalibrate with friends and loved ones.
Every element of the brand has been extensively researched across key markets including UK, US Germany and France and relative to key Irish and international benchmark offerings. We have a winning proposition that is very appealing to consumers but there’s work to be done to ensure the true potential is delivered over time.
4. The investment in the new brand starts today
Having announced the brand today, Fáilte Ireland will now recruit a dedicated team to ensure a strong local presence to champion the brand’s development, with additional employees being recruited in 2019.
Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will now become a tourism development zone with Fáilte Ireland allocating significant investment and resources across the region.
An initial €2million has been allocated to start the development stage of the brand, with further funding and capital grants to follow. This first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences and the development of infrastructure, tourism products, services and marketing. Over the next few years, significant investment will be required to develop new (and boost existing) attractions in the region to unleash the brand’s full potential.
5. You will see the first advertising for the new brand this summer
Fáilte Ireland plans to launch the new regional experience brand to a domestic audience this summer. This comprehensive through-the-line campaign will build awareness of the area as a visitor destination amongst Irish and Northern Irish consumers while showcasing some of the many attractions and experiences available to visitors. We will build on this domestic marketing and, as the brand develops and scales up, work with our colleagues in Tourism Ireland to position it overseas.