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Minister Varadkar introduces ‘The Gathering’

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar TD has presented proposals for the biggest tourism initiative ever to be staged in Ireland.

‘The Gathering’ will be a year-long event in 2013 where people at home and abroad can play a part in the country’s recovery, bringing a potential 325,000 extra visitors and providing a major economic stimulus.
 
Showcasing the proposal at the Global Irish Economic Forum, Minister Varadkar said, “This is an invitation to the world to come and join in Ireland’s renewal. The Gathering will be a year-long programme of events, festivals and fun designed to bring record numbers of visitors. It’s an opportunity for people at home and abroad to play a part in Ireland’s renewal and help to rebrand Ireland on the world stage.
 
“It will extend the Government’s commitment to revitalise the tourism industry, create jobs and promote economic recovery. We hope the initiative will bring 325,000 extra visitors to Ireland in 2013, boosting the tourism industry, creating jobs and injecting millions of €uro into the economy.
 
“The Gathering will grow out of existing festivals and foster many more spin-off events. Everyone has a chance to get involved whether at local level or among members of Ireland’s diaspora. Tourism and the tourism experience have always been a key strength of Ireland and I’m excited about the potential of this project to harness that and take it to a new level.”
 
The Gathering represents an opportunity for communities, local authorities, sporting associations, county associations, individuals, families and businesses to do something positive to lift national morale and help the economy, he added.
 
This inaugural event will focus on a series of flagship festivals throughout the year, along with special interest spin-off events and a community-led programme. It will showcase Irish arts, sports, food, learning, genealogy and family heritage, science and hospitality.
 
Shaun Quinn, Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland, commented, “We have been working for some time to develop ‘The Gathering’ as the best possible initiative  to  support the revitalisation of our tourism industry – and all the jobs it sustains – and also to provide us with a compelling vehicle to tap into the wider Irish diaspora and draw on their energy and resources to benefit this country and its economic recovery. This initiative has the potential to bring international attention to Ireland enabling Irish people at home and abroad to showcase all we, as a nation, have to offer. That will be good for tourism and good for this country’s global image.”
 
Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, added, “Tourism Ireland looks forward to focusing our global marketing efforts behind this great, year-long event. Our extensive promotional programmes will target first-time and repeat visitors as well as the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry. We will be stepping up our partnership with the travel trade and travel media, with carriers and with the diaspora across the world to ensure that The Gathering becomes the ‘must do’ holiday option of 2013”.
 
Tim O’Connor, a former high level diplomat at the Department of Foreign Affairs who’s involved in preparations for The Gathering, explained, “With the ability to generate at least €220 million for the economy and as an opportunity to get the whole world talking about Ireland in a positive light, this initiative is just the kind of innovation we need right now”.
The year-long initiative aims to increase the number of visitors to Ireland and deliver specific, measurable economic benefits.
The Gathering will have three core audiences – the global diaspora, people of non-Irish extraction living overseas who have an affinity with or an interest in visiting Ireland and the people living in Ireland.
The programme will comprise three distinct categories:
 
·         A flagship festivals programme featuring unique headline festivals
·         A special interest events programme featuring smaller, intimate special   interest, business or sporting events and festivals
·       A community-led events programme comprising events and happenings     devised and organised by community groups at national and local     level. Ideally the larger of these would take place in conjunction with     the flagship programmes.
 
The Gathering will also work with the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors.

It will help existing festivals and events to utilise the structures and networks that already exist. Flagship festivals and special interest events will be selected from the existing calendar based on submissions received from promoters and organisers. 

A Board will be appointed for the purpose of determining the strategic plan and overseeing the effective implementation of the plan. It will be the ultimate decision-making body with responsibility for approving plans, allocating resources, monitoring progress and results and controlling performance. It will be chaired by Dr Tim O’Connor and will include industry representatives as well as members from the arts, sports and civil society groups which may also be appointed.

With the ultimate objective of creating a buzz about The Gathering, the digital strategy will be supported by a highly creative national and international marketing campaign.

Tourism Ireland is committed to prioritising The Gathering in all its marketing communications activity both in traditional and new media. Fáilte Ireland will promote The Gathering within Ireland.

The Irish Hotels Federation has welcomed the announcement. IHF Chief Executive Tim Fenn sated that The Gathering will provide a much-needed boost to hotels and guesthouses throughout the country and will enable tourism bodies to harness the strong connection many people of Irish descent living abroad have with Ireland.

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