The Athlone area and county Roscommon are to be promoted domestically and internationally under Fáilte Ireland's new 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' tourism brand which was launched at the Hodson Bay Hotel today (Thursday).
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and Fáilte Ireland CEO, Paul Kelly, unveiled the new branding, which is designed to complement the existing 'Wild Atlantic Way' and 'Ireland's Ancient East' campaigns.
Minister Ross said it was "fair" to say tourism promotion had been neglected in the Midlands in the past, but the current Government was fully committed to supporting the new tourism brand.
The 'Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands' region will extend from Leitrim down to East Clare and will include Longford, Roscommon, East Galway, as well as South Westmeath, Cavan, North Tipperary, and Shannonside areas of Offaly.
Some €2 million in funding has been earmarked for the brand in 2018, and the recruitment of five tourism staff to develop the campaign is due to begin shortly.
The Director of Commercial Development with Fáilte Ireland, Paul Keeley, the new brand had the potential to help generate "significant economic activity" in the Midlands.
“We believe that Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has the potential to attract more visitors to the region each year, transforming the local and regional tourist industry which, to date, has underperformed the rest of the country.”
Minister Ross praised the new 'Hidden Heartlands' name, saying it “stimulates the inquisitive nature of people to come here and find something which maybe hasn’t been discovered, or at least appreciated, before.”
Praising the contribution of his Independent Alliance colleague, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Minister Ross joked that he wanted to call the new brand 'Boxer's Baby' but that this had been vetoed by Fáilte Ireland.
Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said 10 different brand names had been resarched but that 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' was by far the most popular name among those surveyed.
"(That idea that) it’s off the beaten track, there are hidden gems, things people haven’t discovered before, it’s warm, it’s welcoming, all of these things are why this name resonates so well and resonates internationally, not just at home," said Mr Kelly.