A major initiative aimed at boosting the area’s economic tourism spin-off is to be established in Armagh.
Under the umbrella of the Armagh Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage Ambassador Pilot Programme, an agency will be appointed to manage the scheme.
It will be set up at a cost of £10,000 and, if successful, will be rolled out across the whole of the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area over the next two or three years.
The council is expected to approve the move at its next full sitting, with a report on the pilot being presented to a meeting last night (Tuesday) of its economic development and regeneration committee.
The move to ‘grow’ the tourism programme comes after the recent success of Armagh in securing the prestigious purple flag status for its night-time economy.
It was in April that the council launched its new regeneration and development strategy for the borough.
It recognised the particular opportunity that the tourism sector represents as a future driver of the council economy.
The need for additional accommodation, together with the creation of strong visitor experiences, development of a strong brand and providing memorable experiences for visitors were highlighted as key priorities.
A workshop will be undertaken with councillors on October 20, to focus on priorities in tourism development and marketing.
Sara McGeary, Tourism Development Officer, has compiled a report to council, in which she states: “The Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area has an extensive range of tourism, arts, cultural and heritage facilities.
“As highlighted in the council’s regeneration and development Strategy 2015, it is imperative that visitors have memorable experiences of these facilities, including the quality of the welcome.
“As has been the case in successful destinations elsewhere, quality of welcome and local community knowledge of their heritage, culture and arts resources, greatly enhances the visitor experience which in turn has a positive impact on recommendations to friends and family and return visits.
“The latest Visitor Attitudes Survey 2014, undertaken by Tourism Northern Ireland highlights that the area – classified according to the destinations of Armagh, Lough Neagh and the Mournes – already performs well in relation to welcome, knowledge of area, pride in the area etc.
“However, the new council area has the opportunity to differentiate itself from other destinations, through provision of excellence of welcome, friendliness, informative staff, relaying what is unique and authentic about our area and through confidently conveying a sense of pride and belief in our tourism, arts, and culture and heritage products.
“The target outputs are to have a team of Ambassadors that are sufficiently informed and confident in relaying what is unique about our area to visitors.”
It has been proposed that a pilot Ambassador Programme is conducted in Armagh city with a view to the programme being rolled out across the entire council area over a two to three year period.
It is expected that the programme will be open to both businesses and local residents, with an initial target of 25 participants signing up for an eight to 10-week period.
A suitably qualified agency will be appointed.
The programme aims to help to provide a world class customer service to international and domestic visitors
through a knowledgeable population and business base; increase the range of opportunities for visitors to communicate and to have immersive experiences with the local population; engender a sense of civic pride amongst local people in the importance of the area, its place in the world, uniqueness, colourfulness, diversity; and to engender a sense of confidence amongst local people to promote their area and all it has to offer to visitors; effectively to become Ambassadors both at home and abroad.
It also aims to provide personal development opportunities for the participants and create positive PR stories around the Ambassador programme, while increasing the number of visitors and return visitors to the area.
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