Blueways

Longford Tourism and Waterways Ireland are holding an information meeting about Blueways in Longford tomorrow. It’s in the Backstage Theatre on Tuesday 24 March 2015 at 7.00pm. The blurb reads:

Are you an activity provider, accommodation provider, walker, boater, canoeist, outdoor enthusiasts?

Longford Tourism, in conjunction with Waterways Ireland is delighted to invite you to a Public Information Meeting regarding exciting new recreation and tourism products called Blueways.

Blueways are a series of innovative, safe and easy to use water and land-based trails. These provide for guided and unguided paddling, walking and cycling. Visitors can opt to paddle along the Shannon Blueway, on a 10km looped trail along the Camlin and Shannon Rivers, while the Royal Blueway provides 16km of off road walking and cycling from Cloondara to Longford Town.

To celebrate this exciting trails development, Longford Tourism will host the inaugural Longford Blueways Festival in April. So, come along and hear how you can get involved. All are welcome to attend.

I wish them well and I hope this initiative works. I think that the Blueways are more likely to be successful than any attempted revival of the cruiser-hire business (although I’d like that to work too). However, I would like to learn more about the Blueways business model (if that’s the right term). Who has to invest how much and who gets what returns? Clearly, Waterways Ireland spends money up front, but far less (I presume) than (say) canal restoration would require. But are there viable businesses, or at least viable supplementary income-generating activities, for small local service providers? How do they reach overseas markets? Or is the focus on domestic markets?

One point that strikes me is that Blueways allow for more interaction between tourists and locals: something that used to be a strength of the Irish tourism offering (I’m trying to keep up with modern marketing jargon here) until we decided we were too busy being rich and successful to waste time chatting to tourists (or, if you prefer, providing unpaid support services to the tourism industry). Indeed we felt that even paid employment in tourist enterprises was beneath us: we could get nice people from overseas to do that work instead. Did we, I wonder, hollow out Ireland, removing the Irishness, the distinctiveness (whatever it was) from the tourist experience?

If so, the Blueways’ opportunities for interaction with small-scale and local enterprises might put them back again. There are difficulties in making a living from small-scale operations, but there are benefits too. And the Blueways might tap into other local, small-scale developments: for instance, the recent startling growth in the number of craft breweries. The Lough Allen and Longford Blueways each have a local brewery — St Mel’s in Longford and Carrig in Drumshanbo — and the products of at least one other brewery, Co Roscommon’s Black Donkey, are available on the North Shannon. Maybe, now that KMcG is back, “Places to find good beer” might be added to places to stay, eat and go on the Blueways website.

A Blueway is defined there as

a recreational water activity trail that is developed for use by non-motorised water activity enthusiasts. It is defined by trail heads, put in and take out points and readily available trail information. Blueways can be developed on canals, rivers, lakes or along the coast and can incorporate other associated land base​d trails adjacent to the water trail.

So what about a Blueway for Lough Oughter, with sailing, canoeing and camping?

[h/t Carthach O’Maonaigh]

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