Monday, May 25, 2020

A striking and idyllic study of the River Moy overlooking the world renowned salmon weirs and upper Ham Bridge framed by St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina earlier this month. Picture: David Farrell Photography

While tourism activity may have come to a standstill in recent weeks, as the eyes of the industry turn to the future after Covid-19, the Mayo North Promotions Office and members of its collaborative marketing initiatives are re-adjusting plans for this year and using the time to create a solid platform to re-launch marketing activity when the time is right.

A new, revitalised website has just been launched, and the team has been assisting a number of local businesses to upskill during the closure using Zoom and WhatsApp to hold one-to-one sessions.

Manager Anne-Marie Flynn says: “The timing of the lockdown was unfortunate for us, as we had a series of press trips planned for the following weekend, with a view to really raising our domestic profile in the national media for the year ahead. Visitor numbers to the area had been rising significantly in recent years, and after Other Voices, we had started to gain momentum nationally.

“We’ve had to pause that activity, but when restrictions are lifted and people start to feel safe travelling again, there is a great opportunity for us here in Ballina and North Mayo to talk about how we can offer the ideal break in a quieter region that facilitates social distancing and a great visitor experience, and we will be working hard to get that message out there.”

The focus of the office for now has switched to growing its online presence. The new website. www.mayonorth.ie, has been developed in co-operation with Darkblue Design, who as a contribution to the collaborative effort built the new site at a nominal fee and gave a substantial amount of time to the project.

New content is added daily, with a special focus on highlighting some of the area’s hidden gems or off-the-beaten-track attractions. On social media, the team has been encouraging its 25,000-strong following by using strong imagery and video content. They are liaising with a number of US tour operators who are looking to bring groups into the region in 2021.

Businesses are understandably worried about the future, but many are using the time to upskill and prepare to go again when the time is right. The Mayo North team, supported by Moy Valley Resources IRD, has done a number of one-to-one Zoom sessions with smaller businesses to help improve their online content and social media skills, and they still have slots available for people needing help. Community groups have also sought advice on funding applications or festival planning. The office plans in the coming weeks to conduct online consultations with businesses to see where they might need additional assistance in the coming months.

Ceide Fields

The Ceide Fields between Ballycastle and Belderrig are regarded as one of the world’s most extensive Stone Age monuments.

The industry is awaiting re-opening guidelines, and a decision from government on a proposed VAT rate cut is being canvassed but the feeling is that a more substantial intervention will be needed at a national level, while local support will be vital too.

Ms Flynn says: “Tourism and hospitality has been a lifeline for North Mayo over the past decade, and the industry has proved resilient in the past, but will need support now more than ever to bounce back after Covid.

“At a local level festivals and groups working to enhance the townscape support the industry in their activities, and these relatively small investments in what is often voluntary activity make a huge difference to the overall image of the region, so we hope that local funding will be retained for these groups.”

This year’s planned PR activity had been made possible due to collaboration and contributions from member businesses in Ballina and across North Mayo and West Sligo, including accommodation providers, restaurants, cafés and even retailers, all keen to play their part in promoting the area. Monthly membership payments have started to decline due to the financial pressure businesses are now under, but membership on a sliding scale is still open to all types of businesses, starting from €15 per month. An online payment facility is now available at www.mayonorth.ie.

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