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Rural Tourism Boosted by Council Support Programme

08 December 2015

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Elisha McCallion, has praised the outcomes of a recent programme offering mentoring and support for rural tourism enterprises across the district.

The Rural Tourism Development Programme ran from January 2014 to June 2015 and was part financed by Derry City and Strabane District Council, with matched funding from Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund.

Figures following the programme indicate a significant rise in visitor numbers in local rural areas with 86% of participating businesses seeing up to a 10% increase, and the additional 14% of companies showing an increase of over 30%.

Mayor McCallion said she was delighted that the positive impact of the programme is already being felt in rural communities. “I’m delighted that local companies have engaged so successfully with the project. Our new council district has a wide rural area and it’s a key priority of the council that we support and develop our rural tourism industry. The results are already tangible in terms of the increase in visitor numbers and job creation.

“I’m also really impressed at the innovative new tourism products which have been developed with a view to improving the rural tourism offering in the district which will have a direct impact on the local economy.”

Throughout the scheme 38 rural tourism businesses benefitted from the expertise of 27 mentors who were able to assist in improving businesses capabilities and the creation of new product developments and diversifications. Rural Tourism Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Jennifer O’Donnell, said: “We were delighted that so many local companies availed of the support and that so many of them reported a significant jump in visitor numbers in such a short space of time. The number of new tourism products launched will have a long-term impact on the rural tourism industry and we hope to see them build on this success in the coming years.”

The programme supported 52 Rural Tourism Businesses in terms of innovation and growth of tourism in the Rural Derry area across all sectors including accommodation, cuisine, activity tourism, slow tourism and visitor attraction development. Some of the key focus areas included product development, Capital Project Development, E Commerce, digital marketing and general business planning.

One local company who are already reaping the rewards is Cutting Edge Helicopters, as owner Jason Porter explained. “This support has helped us increase our sales by tapping into new markets and establishing our tours as a must do activity for visitors to the region. It also supported the development of our new ‘Game of Thrones Tour’ which we hope to add to our flight options very soon.

“The programme provided fantastic promotional platforms for rural businesses and as a result we have developed new partnerships such as Excursions Ireland which resulted in work with the cruise ships and taking the richest woman in the World on a local flight.”

Following on from the programme’s success steps are now being taken to scope out further Rural Tourism projects to incorporate the new council’s rural area.

Tourism Officer with the council, Mary Blake, is delighted to report that legacy programmes for this project are already underway, as council have recently secured €235,000 for the new Slow Adventures in the Northern Territories Programme. This programme will run through until 2018 and includes the development of Slow Food; Canoe Trails and Landscape Heritage. The forthcoming Rural Development Programme will also provide opportunities for individuals and collectives to develop rural tourism initiatives going forwards.

For further information on the SAINT programme please contact Jennifer O’Donnell on 02871 253253 Extension 6921.