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Portmagee is Ireland's first National Tourism Town


December 12, 2012

Portmagee is Ireland’s first National Tourism Town

Failte Ireland recently announced that Portmagee was the first ever winner of the National Tourism Towns Awards. The County Kerry village was chosen from a shortlist of ten top tourism towns – the remainder receiving certificates of merit to acknowledge their own performances. 
The Tourism Towns Award was designed by Fáilte Ireland to promote those Irish towns and villages which are working hardest to enhance their appeal to tourists visiting their local area. As the overall winner, Portmagee received its winning certificate along with a €10,000 grant towards developing itself as a tourism destination. The other nine short-listed towns received €1,000 grants to accompany their certificates of merit.
This new award was piloted as part of the National Tidy Towns Competition. All the towns that finished among the top 100 Tidy Towns in last year’s competition were deemed to have met the basic criteria for eligibility and were invited to take part in this new tourism award scheme. Following a long-listing process, 46 towns were chosen for assessment. A panel of independent assessors, as well as a team of ‘secret shoppers’, visited the town to measure their tourism performance and the level of welcome to visitors.
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring congratulated Portmagee on winning the first year of the competition.
“This is a great award, and Portmagee is a great town. Portmagee is a deserving winner, and has made huge strides in terms of tourism in recent years.  This award will do much to put Portmagee even more firmly on the map. I also want to congratulate Fáilte Ireland for devising this award, which is just the sort of initiative we need to further promote domestic and international tourism in Ireland.”
The judges found the sense of place in Portmagee to be palpable with its location facing Valentia Island making it unique. Its rich and colourful history is well recognised and the village’s tradition of fishing is evident at every turn. This translates into a seafood ethic which is important and local restaurants provide a superb service in facilitating the needs of visitors seeking good food and drink.
The judges were also struck by the enthusiasm of the local community with a wide array of tourism projects embarked upon by locals. The Portmagee approach is one of hard work and cooperation within all the various sectors in the community and these have resulted in creating a place that is very special to residents and visitors.
The judges also noted the importance of the local Skellig Experience Interpretative Centre as well as the attraction of local wildlife, cliff walks, flora and fauna and landscapes which feature strongly in the visitor experience to be had. Retail outlets offer a wide selection of souvenirs including local craft and the village boasts of its own chocolate factory.
Most of all, the town boasts a great community spirit. The local Community Hall is a vital ingredient in the promotion of tourism and is used extensively all year round to facilitate the expectations of visitors and locals.
Congratulating Portmagee, Chairman of Fáilte Ireland, Redmond O’Donoghue said:
“I would like to commend all the community in Portmagee for winning the inaugural Fáilte Ireland National Tourism Town award. Your unity of approach, passion and innovation shone through in your commitment to tourism and visitors.
“I would also like to congratulate the other members of our top ten towns. You are all examples of what can be achieved in tourism when all the local elements are aligned with a common purpose. We always envisaged this new award as recognition for those Irish towns and villages which are working hardest to make Ireland even more attractive for tourists - invaluable work which also benefits their communities and the local economy. I hope that the towns and villages recognised today will inspire other communities across Ireland to take similar steps.”
The Tourism Town award focuses on how participating towns have developed their local area in the following key tourism areas:
• Sense of place – How the town tells its own unique story to visitors, what’s special about it, and what distinguishes it from other towns.   
• Local involvement - How the local community works together to provide an authentic visitor experience.
• Tourism products available – What the town has to offer visitors.
• Development and promotion of the town – How the town takes a unified approach to marketing and developing the town into a “tourism town”.
Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, emphasising the essential characteristics of a tourism town, commended all of today’s towns for ticking all the right boxes:
“When visitors arrive at a town in Ireland, they are curious and they like to know the back-story to their destination. Does this town have a colourful history? What makes this place different? What is the essence of this town? These towns have shown, in the way that they present themselves, that they have answered this question in a compelling and attractive fashion.   
“Crucially, these towns have also shown a high degree of local involvement in – and passion for - tourism. In many ways, tourism is too important to be left just to tourism businesses. Indeed, tourism should be the business of everybody as everyone benefits in the local economy from increased visitors and tourism revenue. As these towns have shown, true ‘Tourism Towns’ are important economic engines for a local economy”.

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