The Laurentic Conference this year was held as a two day information sharing experience in Buncrana and Greencastle on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2017. Organiser Don McNeill worked tirelessly to make the days successful as he coordinated the collaborating events that shared common interests and comparisons from Inishowen with Newfoundland. It provides insight into current projects both here and in Canada. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Sustaining Coastal Communities’ looking at ways to develop Cultural Tourism in a coastal community.
Day One Laurentic Conference opens at Buncrana
The Mayor of Donegal County Council, Councillor Gerry McMonagle formally opened the conference stating that it is a key element in linking cultural heritage of Newfoundland and Inishowen across the Atlantic. He stated that “14 million funding has been allocated to expand greenways and coastal walks to create and sustain jobs in the area”. He talked about the ‘Inishowen experience in tourism’ urging visitors to explore the extensive coastline and wildlife in particular bird watching, whale and dolphin watching at Dunree. Key speakers were Andrew Ward, Joint CEO at Inishowen Development Partnership, Dr Edward McKeever, PhD. Management and Business Development Fellow at Lancaster University development, Emmet Johnston co-founder of Irish Basking Shark Study Group, Francis Conaghan, Paths and Trails Development Officer, Colin Kennedy, Parks Development Manager at Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Bernadette Dwyer, Fogo Island, (a remote island in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland) and Loyola O’Brien, Tour Boat operator, Newfoundland.
Dr Edward McKeever, spoke about the role of entrepreneurs in (re)creating and (re)constructing places through the creation of social and economic value in Donegal the ‘coolest place on the planet’. He talked about the social process in relation to entrepreneurship and networking in communities for local development. He gave examples of local development in Clonmany and Ballyliffin; in particular the Clonmany Festival and hill walking in the Urris Hills. Emmet Johnston inspired the audience with his visual presentation about the marine environment, the lifeblood of coastal communities. He used the Basking shark project to illustrate the value of the marine environment for developing sustainable eco-tourism. His ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the resources on our doorstop and in particular the wildlife, birds, sharks, whales and dolphins off the coast of Malin Head and Dunree.
Francis Conaghan, informed the audience that visitor numbers had increased at Inch Lake Walk to 126,855 in 2016 and noted the increase in motor homes as this is a discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way. Colin Kennedy spoke of The North West Greenway Project, which has been allocated 18.5 million to develop a cross border cycle network in the region. He reiterated the environmental projects benefit tourism in that they encourage more visitors to the region. Bernadette Dwyer gave an overview of comparisons between Fogo Island and Inishowen and spoke about the valuable coastal resource in both regions. They have developed geo tourism, eco tourism and cultural heritage projects to encourage international visitors to the island. A great story closed the session before lunch with Loyola O’Brien who experienced seeing the looming closure of the fishing industry and subsequently started a new venture starting up a boat touring company in 1985 which now provides Whale and Bird watching tours in the area.
Day Two Laurentic Conference 2017 showcased in Greencastle
Day two opened with a Welcome address from Owen Doyle the theme was titled “Marine Heritage & Culture” with speakers from the Ronan McConnell, Maritime Museum, Derry, Inishowen’s Maritime History regarding the Defence of Antwerp, David Snook and Wreck Diving Off Inishowen from Don McGlinchey. The last session of the conference the theme was “Inshore Fishery& Aquaculture” with speakers from Newfoundland Tom Best and Cabot Martin and local Loughs Agency Ciaran McGonagle speaking about the management, development and conservation of the native oyster fishery in Lough Foyle. A celebration of local seafood rounded off an end to this year’s conference served in the Inishowen Maritime Museum, Greencastle.
Tourism News in Buncrana Tourist Office
Back at the tourist office here in Buncrana the team are set to see visitor numbers soar over the high season. Last Saturday, the last weekend in June, there was a footfall of 48 people given visitor information. The weekend opening of this facility is welcomed by all that call here and in the current climate of uncertainty for the organisation and its staff; this is testament of the service that is not only required but imperative that it continues to serve. Visitors come from all corners of the globe. North America and Canada rank highly on our statistics following our two main markets; UK & Domestic travellers. The office has also recorded return visitors from our European markets and interestingly the Netherlands along with Germany and France seem to come back to us to see more.
The feedback is very positive from both our trade members and visitors that leave glowing reviews so far this season; taking advantage of things to do and see and stay longer in Inishowen. We are delighted to hear back from the trade that people visit from our referrals and that the service provided here is both factual and expressed with passion for our special Peninsula. It’s not just the scenery, we hear time and again it’s the people here that leave lasting memories of their holiday here and that encourages them to come back.
With national news coverage recently highlighting Nancy’s Barn’s speciality seafood chowder in Ballyliffin; it attracts extra visits from our neighbours from Northern Ireland too. Recently two Canadian visitors called in and informed me that they had to bypass certain attractions in Donegal due to time constraints in order to visit a must see and explore story at the Doagh Famine Village. They had been told not to miss this. This is just a snapshot insight from the feedback here at Inishowen Tourism. With exciting new initiatives developing and tours expanding their product offering, there has been no better time to seize the opportunity tourism offers right now. On behalf of the team” Inishowen” we thank you, the trade, the visitors and the local community for your continued support to “make Inishowen the destination to choose for a holiday”.