Tuesday, 24th April 2018
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Michael Garland, bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

It’s time to make

"A Holy Show of Oneself!”

Believe it or not and despite the very recent unseasonably bad weather, we are nearly in the middle of Spring. Summer time will be here before we know it, allowing us time to look forward to the visiting hordes, descending on Waterford City and County, in their tens of thousands. To ensure that these visitors come back, we must ALL play our part in making our tourists welcome. After all, the best type of holiday-maker is the one who comes back!

Hopefully they bring with them three or four family members, other relatives or a bus load of friends! Repeat business, as our Waterford Hotels will attest, is the easiest sell, offering the best value for money, in terms of communicating, marketing and securing bed nights.

A long time ago, whilst running Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre, in Scotland, I attended a tourism conference. Speaking at one of the seminars, was the then Governor of HM Prison Barlinnie, Glasgow. A prison which has housed the likes of the Dragons’ Den Duncan Bannatyne, artist Jimmy Boyle and footballer Duncan Ferguson. They visit one of the many "Luxury suites” and spent time at her Majesty’s pleasure. The Governor, whose name escapes me, was delighted to boast, to a room full of the great and the good of Scotland’s very best hotels, that he had an unenviable return rate. Or "Rebooking rate”, as he put it. His occupancy rate was constantly near enough to 100%!!! He apparently knew most of the inmates "Holiday habits” and when they were likely to be back to him for a visit.

Repeat business for Waterford City and County cannot be under-estimated. It is word of mouth recommendations that make a relatively easy sell. If people have good experiences, whilst on their "Holliers”, they are likely to come back. Of course, have a poor experience and dozens will hear about it. That means significant numbers will NOT consider Waterford as a destination.

Collective marketing of Waterford is alive and well, helping ALL our annual visitors enjoy spending their hard-earned cash, right here in the Deise. It was on the back of this, that a number of Waterford business attractors, attended the recent consumer show at the RDS Dublin. The brand new, "Outdoor Revolution Show” took place on 24th/25th March.

Waterford Camino Tours, along with Dunmore East Adventure Centre, Waterford Greenway Bike Hire (Durrow) and Wilder Wander, were in attendance, as part of Waterford Council’s Waterford Greenway exhibit. This was a collaborative approach to marketing our Greenway as a destination of substance. By that I mean, that you can now create a holiday itinerary around the Greenway for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days - a real vacation, escape and retreat. There undoubtedly is so much to do right across our City and our County.

The key to securing more overnight stays, will of course be promotion. We need to see an end to the one stop, one night trippers, creating experiences which will invite them to stay longer. Using and exploiting Waterford City and County as the base to discover the "Sunny South East”. Tour operators, bus companies and independent travellers, need to change their current view of Waterford, not as a mere one night destination, or one night stopover.

Responsibility for this, lies with all our tourism partners working closer together, cross-promoting and building relationships, based on trust. We must be able to recommend a provider, knowing that said provider will deliver to the very highest standards.

Waterford generously receives a liberal amount of RTE coverage, from the institution that is Nationwide. This is in part due, to the tireless work on our behalf, of Suzanne and Brian at Hi-Lite TV, featuring the recent Viking Festival, a whole programme on Waterford Camino Tours and so much more.

However the caveat to future support, is the need for those being featured to "Self-promote”, likewise their partners to "Cross-promote”. The bean-counters in RTE will doubtless return to the regions, where viewing figures justify the programme costs. It’s not just a case of, "We’ll produce a show and you sit back and reap the rewards.” We must all play our own supporting roles.

So, say it loud – "I’m Waterford and I’m proud!”

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