Councilor urges Wicklow County Council to support the development of more hotels in the county

Local councilors have urged Wicklow County Council to support the development of hotels and accommodation in the county to encourage visitors to spend more time in the county.

Elected members of Wicklow County Council received a presentation from Fred Verdier, Tourism Officer, gave an update at their January meeting.

Mr. Verdier noted that hosts, in particular, had been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. A review of accommodation types in the county is offered, as a lack of hostels and hybrid accommodations had previously been identified.

The presentation also highlighted the progress made towards achieving the goals set out in the county’s tourism strategy. These include the development of cities as visitor centres.

Mr Verdier said the Abbey Grounds project in the town of Wicklow is expected to start in 2022 and provide a new center for the town. Other projects included the Wicklow Heritage Trail, the development of outdoor spaces in Arklow and Wicklow, and business grants to create outdoor spaces.

Mr Verdier said another of the strategy’s aims is to highlight Wicklow as an outdoor destination through events such as the Ecotrail. These types of events provide images and media coverage which can then be used to introduce Wicklow to international visitors.

Golf is fast becoming another outdoor activity to pursue in Wicklow. Mr Verdier said he hoped a major event would be held in the county, providing international exposure.

The development of the Wicklow Naturally brand is also considered a success. Over 10,000 Wicklow Passports have been distributed and another 2,500 have been sold. There are proposals to further develop these tourist offers.

A strategy is also being developed to maximize the tourism potential of the county’s links with the film industry. Advisers heard 75 applications were made to film at public properties in 2022, up from 20 in 2021.

Social media channels and the county’s website also received strong engagement, Verdier said, and it is hoped this can be extended. Press trips and influencer visits are also likely to be organised. These trips can provide content that can be used on social media by the board and the influencer.

Mr Verdier said Wicklow’s involvement in the Celtic Routes project would also provide opportunities to market the county to overseas visitors, but progress has been slow here due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic . There are also plans to develop the county as a destination for sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism.

Cllr Edward Timmins (FG) said: “One of the problems in Wicklow is that we cannot get people to stay in the county. They come on a day trip and come back. They don’t spend any money or time here.

He suggested that AirBnBs could help solve this problem and had already helped attract people to West Wicklow. While acknowledging there is a housing shortage, Cllr Timmins said AirBnBs could be encouraged as a possible solution to the housing problem.

Cllr Paul O’Brien (Lab) agreed that housing is a big issue for the county, but the council could not build hotels. He said he was working with other advisers to develop overnight stopover points for mobile homes, caravans and motorhomes.

Cllr Melanie Corrigan (FG) said overnight stopover points could be a huge opportunity for the county and could also help reduce wild camping.

“There is an opportunity there for us to exploit, regulate and enjoy, and then keep the environment clean,” she said.

Cllr Avril Cronin (FG) asked about the potential for areas of West Wicklow, including Kilranelagh, to be developed as heritage attractions. She also raised concerns about visitor accommodation in the county, particularly west of Wicklow due to the development of the Blessington Greenway.

Mr Verdier said West Wicklow is “incredible in terms of heritage” and agreed there is huge tourism potential in the area.

Cllr Peir Leonard (Ind) suggested putting more emphasis on the county’s marine spaces and their tourism potential. The ports of Greystones and Arklow could attract maritime visitors and people vacationing on yachts from the UK market.

Cllr Leonard asked if more could be done to promote county artists and artisans who could provide unique experiences for visitors. She also asked if Wicklow Naturally’s October party could be dispersed more widely across the county.

Mr. Verdier has agreed to consider whether steps can be taken to develop the county as a destination for the yachting community.

Cllr Erika Doyle (Green) also pointed to the lack of accommodation in the county and suggested North Wicklow needs more family hotels with leisure activities. She asked what steps council can take to encourage the development of these facilities.

Cllr Doyle noted that there was no caravan holiday park in Bray, adding that tourists seemed “appalled” when they heard this.

She warned against the development of AirBnBs in the county, adding that the sector is strictly regulated.

“We don’t want to encourage tourism at the expense of people within our own community who might find a place to live or rent,” she said.

Cllr Gerry Walsh (FG) said Wicklow has a lot to offer visitors and the county is well placed to bounce back from the impact of Covid-19. He backed calls for the council to encourage more housing in the county.

Responding to questions from advisers, Mr Verdier agreed there were concerns about AirBnBs, but they are part of the accommodation offer in Wicklow. A review of accommodation and the possibility of providing budget facilities would be revisited when the Covid-19 situation has stabilised.

Mr Verdier said more night stops for caravans would be welcome, but warned that existing regulations may need to be revised.

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