Roscommon People Editor PAUL HEALY chatted to LISA JOY, Roscommon’s new Tourism Officer
PH: Lisa, you have recently been appointed Tourism Officer with Roscommon County Council. Can you tell readers a little about your background?
LJ: I have 17 years local authority experience, having worked previously in Dublin City Council in various different departments including International Relations and Communications. I joined the Housing Department of Roscommon County Council in 2017 and was promoted to the role of Tourism Officer in January this year. I have a professional background in Business and Marketing so I am looking forward to utilising my skills and experience in this exciting new tourism role.
PH: What does being Tourism Officer involve?
LJ: My role as Tourism Officer involves actively developing and promoting County Roscommon as a quality tourist destination. I liaise with the Roscommon Tourism Trade network, the community and key stakeholders such as Failte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, Coillte, Roscommon LEADER Partnership, etc. to discuss opportunities and ways in which we can support tourism in the county and attract visitors to the area.
PH: What are your goals in the role?
LJ: My ultimate goal is to increase visitor numbers and to encourage Roscommon residents to explore all that this wonderful county has to offer. Roscommon County Council will be developing a new tourism strategy this year for Roscommon Tourism which will set out high-level priorities and goals to be achieved over the next five years. This will include ways in which we can support our existing attractions/tourism providers and look at developing new tourism experiences in the county.
PH: How is the morale of the industry locally, post-Covid lockdowns? Is there any evidence of renewed optimism?
LJ: Tourism businesses are operating in challenging times with rising energy costs, staff shortages and limited accommodation availability, however, there is certainly a sense of renewed optimism, with visitor numbers slowly starting to increase. Supports from agencies such as Failte Ireland in the areas of training and development, marketing, and funding supports such as the recently announced Just Transition Fund for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will empower communities to regenerate and transform their respective areas and become more environmentally sustainable and attractive places to live, work and visit.
PH: In tourism terms, Roscommon is often said to be in the shadow of Galway and Mayo, but I’m sure you would agree that we have a lot to offer! What is your perspective?
LJ: I would certainly agree that Roscommon has so much to offer. Roscommon is centrally located in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and offers the tourist a chance to get off the beaten track and escape into a rural paradise with a host of tranquil walks and trails to enjoy such as the beautiful Suck Valley Way, the Miners Way & Historical trail, and the stunning Cloonlarge Bog Walk, to name but a few. The Loughnaneane Sculpture trail can be found in the historic Loughnaneane Park in Roscommon town, with a dramatic 13th century castle to explore. The Boyle to Lough Key Cycleway allows locals and visitors to cycle along the Boyle canal through amazing woodland to the fabulous Lough Key.
Roscommon is steeped in history and attractions such as the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, the National Famine Museum|Stroketown Park, King House, and the Arigna Mining Experience will take visitors back in time to explore ages past. Beautiful onsite cafes allow for some tasty treats after tours have taken place. For those who love outdoor activities, Lough Key Forest & Activity Park offers a world of adventure for all, and Baysports and Shannon River Adventure are fantastic for water enthusiasts. The longest stretch of the mighty River Shannon flows through County Roscommon and offers a tranquil setting for boating holidays and some excellent locations for fishing. Roscommon’s centrality to the urban centres of the west/north-west and midlands make it an ideal location for short and extended breaks.
PH: What are the challenges Roscommon faces in highlighting its tourism attractions and increasing our visitor numbers?
LJ: As mentioned earlier, Roscommon tourism and the tourism industry overall are facing challenges such as rising energy and food costs, labour shortages, lack of availability of hire cars, and limited hotel capacity. However, the announcement of Failte Ireland’s Just Transition Fund of €68 million for regenerative tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is very welcome and will be invested across all tourism areas such as accommodation, activities and trails – which will improve our tourism offering and hopefully attract more visitors to the county.
PH: Is there a focus on internal tourism as well as attracting outsiders, i.e. encouraging residents of Roscommon to visit and appreciate some of our main attractions?
LJ: Yes, this is one of my goals as Tourism Officer… to encourage Roscommon residents to be a tourist in their own county and explore the fantastic attractions, activities, walks and trails that Roscommon has to offer. Supporting local tourism businesses is so important to help the tourism industry in the county flourish. There is a vibrant local arts & culture scene in Roscommon with many exciting annual festivals and events to enjoy such as the Boyle Arts Festival, Night and Day Music Festival, and the Castlerea Rose Festival. I would encourage people to follow Visit Roscommon on social media and go to the Visit Roscommon website for detailed information on all of the attractions, activities and events taking place across the county.
PH: What message would you have for businesses/service providers locally in terms of the support the Council/agencies can provide to them?
LJ: Tourists are now looking for unique visitor experiences and want to immerse themselves in local culture. If there are any businesses/tourism providers who would like to expand their tourism offering and look to develop a unique visitor experience, the Local Enterprise Office would offer supports to help companies grow their business. The Arts and Heritage Officers, along with myself as Tourism Officer, are available to offer support and guidance in our respective areas for service providers/communities with new ideas and are happy to promote the services of tourism providers through our marketing channels. Failte Ireland are currently developing Destination and Experience Development Plans for the Upper Shannon, Shannon Erne and Border destinations, and are inviting businesses to share their information about tourism projects and ideas that they are involved in or considering over the coming years.
PH: As we face into peak season, are you confident about the future outlook for tourism in County Roscommon?
LJ: I am very confident about the future for tourism in County Roscommon and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. Significant investment in Boyle under the Failte Ireland Destination Towns Scheme will enable the town to become an attractive, vibrant and inviting tourism destination. Outdoor recreation funding has been secured to enable attractions such as the Arigna Mining Experience and Rathcroghan Visitor Centre to expand their tourism offerings. The Failte Ireland Just Transition Fund will be crucial in transforming tourism across Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Roscommon people are one of Roscommon’s greatest assets, and I hope to connect with people and support them to become ambassadors for Roscommon, promoting the county on a national and international level. Roscommon County Council will continue to promote Roscommon as the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, a land of memories, with so much to explore!