Rural towns across the country are desperate to attract the euro that often lands in the tills of bigger cities with tourist attractions like theatres, theme parks, five-star restaurants, airports, sea ports, blue flag beaches and large hotels, etc.
However, heritage, history and the simplistic values of rural life can prove very attractive to those visitors who are seeking that something different, i.e. the idyllic retreat delivered with a large dollop of the aul Céad Míle Fáilte; and of all the things Roscommon has to offer, the welcome of the friendly locals is possibly up there with this county’s most attractive features, meaning we’re well placed to entice, accommodate, promote and showcase our pride in our natural amenities.
Year in, year out, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Ireland with each one spending their hard-earned cash on shopping for souvenirs, dining out, guided tours, fashions and accessories and entertainment. However, for those who come from the big bustling cities, outdoor rural life, working farm visits, national parks and good ol’ down to earth home cooking, not forgetting the fact they’re supporting jobs and local enterprise, (a fact that is hugely integral to their unique adventure), serve to provide many enticing reasons to don the wellies and the jeans and embark on a Rural Roscommon Adventure.
Rural tourism, as in providing the authentic, bespoke experience with a modern-day take, is absolutely vital if Ireland is to develop and sustain rural communities. Not everyone wants the typical sun, sea, sand and sangria holiday, with many now looking for farmers to share their old-fashioned, passed down from father/son/mother/daughter skills and knowledge of the local land, and view the whole producer-to-punter experience as refreshing, different, enriching, worthwhile, educational and nostalgic.
However, while it’s easy to place a focus on the economic benefits of rural tourism and the gains it brings regarding job creation, it would be devastating for the likes of Roscommon to lose out in the long run, especially in the event the county becomes too reliant on the visitors’ euro, meaning the land becomes damaged by the impact of the carbon footprint, or with large buildings like hotels possibly ruining the beautiful landscape, noise and litter pollution and the inevitable disruption to our wildlife.
Nevertheless, there’s no problem too large that a good planner and strategist can’t put right, meaning careful groundwork, organisation and correct management and public relations will always serve to ensure a desirable outcome for rural tourism, which is what the World Travel Market views as ‘one of the best current projects in the tourism industry.’
Besides, when it comes to visiting Roscommon, if they don’t holiday here, I feel that tourists of all ages and interests are possibly missing out big time. I’m told on the “aul bacon, mash and cabbage dinners,” angle that my own relatives love so well when they drop in for a short visit and stay the weekend, (yep, I cook them all locally sourced meat, eggs and veg, despite me being a vegan), which is possibly the best mental image my lot could bring away from this county. Oh, not forgetting the museums, the boat tours and water sports; the loop walks, the cycling trails, the health and relaxation related breaks, the golf courses and the historical heritage tours providing every visitor with an experience they will enjoy to the extent they’ll be motivated to want to return.
Remember, even though setting yourself and your farm/lifestyle up as a rural tourism destination where visitors get, for a week or two a year, to enjoy the slower, more relaxed pace of life can be a challenge, (and I have to say I’m a bit of a Basil Fawlty so it’s probably never going to be a successful enterprise for the likes of me who gets into a flap if you leave a loo roll unravelled), but with the right person, the right product and the right planning, Roscommon could well be Ireland’s new Rural Highway to Heaven!