Thursday, 20 June 2019

Questions (29)

Aindrias Moynihan


29. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to promote heritage sites under the auspices of the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25825/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is highly conscious that the iconic heritage sites in State care play a significant role in attracting tourists to Ireland and accordingly the Office already has a strong focus on a multifaceted approach to the promotion of these sites in partnership with other stakeholders including the Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Fáilte Ireland and Local Authorities.  

The OPW uses a number of methods currently to provide information to intending visitors and increase awareness of the estate both among tourists and citizens:

- The sites are generally marketed by the OPW under the Heritage Ireland brand with a website of the same name providing all information relating to the properties.   This site is being renewed with a new design and layout before the end of 2019;

- Maps, publications and flyers on visitor sites are widely available to intending visitors through a national distribution contract covering hotels, train and bus stations, tourist offices etc

- A range of complementary initiatives such as Free Wednesday and U-12’s Go Free and Free Disabled Entry also help raise the profile of the heritage estate in State care and prove popular with visitors.

- In recent years the OPW has negotiated agreements with partner organisations abroad such as English Heritage and Manx Heritage to grant their members free access to the sites here to encourage more visitors from the UK area;

- In addition to some limited traditional advertising in magazines etc, the OPW also makes extensive use of digital technologies with over 50 Facebook pages and Instagram accounts which see very good engagement with users on an ongoing basis.

- The OPW also produces an electronic magazine Heritage Ireland which is widely distributed online and showcases the sites in greater detail.

- Online booking is used as a promotional tool and an active programme is underway to extend its availability: it was first introduced at Kilmainham Gaol in 2016 and is now in place at a further six sites with up to 3 more locations targeted for 2019.

- OPW sells visitor heritage cards at all sites, facilitating tourists who wish to visit multiple properties during their stay.   These are available at all locations in Adult, Family Senior and Child categories and will shortly be available to purchase online.

- OPW participates at tourism industry events such as Meitheal where we interact with industry partners and tour operators and also attends at other promotional events such as Holiday Fair, Active Retirement, Over 55s etc.

- OPW participates with stands at gardening and agricultural shows such as Bloom, the Tullamore Show, the Ploughing Championships etc;

- Allowing the use of sites for filming can have promotional benefits both as film locations and also for tourism magazine programmes.   Sites have therefore been used as locations for productions including Star Wars, Penny Dreadful and Ripper Street and access granted for programmes such as Nationwide, Tracks & Trails and It’s a Park’s Life

In broad terms, OPW is quite conscious of the role Culture and Heritage plays in tourism marketing terms and engages in continued co-operation with Fáilte Ireland in promoting the sites within its brand architecture of Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin: Surprising by nature and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.   OPW will therefore remain open to future possibilities in marketing the heritage estate, particularly where these synchronise with the core conservation mission.   Thus, for example, OPW will be conscious of the need to develop second and third tier locations as alternative visitor possibilities as a way to lessen visitor pressure at the more crowded sites, understanding that this will also assist Fáilte Ireland in its objective of spreading visitor activity more broadly throughout the country.