Attracting British narrowboaters to Ireland

On 2 May 2008, after a discussion with Martin Dennany of Waterways Ireland, an Experienced British Narrowboater and I submitted a paper to Martin with our thoughts on how WI might attract more British narrowboaters to Ireland.

Our paper pointed out that British narrowboaters formed a distinct market segment, who were less likely to be interested in hiring motor-cruisers on lakes than in seeing Irish canals. We said:

We think that there are several canal-based products that could be developed and sold to that market, but the existing operators are relatively small. Direct involvement by Waterways Ireland would be required to kick-start the exploitation of the market.

We defined the Irish canals, for the purposes of the exercise, as the Grand Canal, Royal Canal, River Barrow and Shannon–Erne Waterway (SEW). We said that their basic infrastructure (locks, bridges and so on) was excellent but that, with the possible exception of the SEW, they suffered from under-use. We argued that British narrowboaters could increase usage, but that three problems had to be addressed:

  • “products” had not been properly defined and developed
  • there were some deficiencies in infrastructure
  • promotion was inadequate.

We identified three possible products:

  • weekend trips for people interested in waterways and their heritage
  • holidays on hired boats on the “Irish Ring”: the Royal Canal, the Grand Canal and the section of the Shannon between them. We said that holiday-makers would need a system for getting through Dublin and that small steel “Dutch” barges might be best able to cope with both the canals and Lough Ree
  • medium- to long-term stays for narrowboat owners, still in work or retired, who might like to keep their boats in Ireland for a few years. We pointed to the lack of marinas on the Grand and Royal Canals and the shortage of 60′ spaces in marinas elsewhere.

We recommended that promotion efforts should use the inland-oriented British boat shows, the inland waterways magazines and other relevant media: these in preference to shows and media serving the wider British boating market.

On 11 June 2008, I sent an email asking whether the paper had arrived; I received a phone call and had a brief discussion, and heard nothing more after that.

Judge then of my excitement when I received this press release from Waterways Ireland on 16 February 2011:

Waterways Ireland Exhibits at Boat & Caravan Show

Waterways Ireland is exhibiting for the first time at the Boat & Caravan Show in Birmingham from the 22nd-27th February in Hall 1, stand no 1235.

The stand will present a real opportunity for boat owners and holiday makers to learn about all 1000km of navigable lakes, rivers and still water canals in Ireland’s inland waterways network.

The inland waterways network in Ireland is easily accessible from the UK; a multiple of companies provide a boat transport service. Decreases in airlines fares and the location of regional and international airports makes Ireland’s inland waterways a weekend and short break boating destination with your own boat. Permits are required for boating on the Canal and cost €127 per annum including lock passages.

Waterways Ireland has recently completed the restoration of the main line of the Royal Canal. 2011 will offer the first opportunity in 50 years for boats to travel the 350km loop of the Grand and Royal Canals and the Shannon Navigation. Alternatively visit the lakes, rivers and canals of the Erne, Shannon-Erne Waterway and Shannon Navigation for a superb island hopping experience.

Visit Waterways Ireland at the Boat & Caravan Show Hall 1, Stand 1235 to speak to experienced waterways staff and pick up information about new waterway experiences.

Consultancy fee? No, no: it’s OK.

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