Tag Archives: marketing


According to the Irish Times of 27 August 2016

Fáilte Ireland has tendered [sic] for a company to help it develop a new tourism strategy for the swathe of land running down the middle of Ireland that falls outside the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, the two linchpins of the State’s tourism marketing strategy.

The area, generally referred to in tourism marketing circles as “Ireland’s Lakelands” district, takes in parts of east Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim, much of north Tipperary, and runs down as far as the northern reaches of Cork. […]

The tender made no mention of the Lakelands moniker, but Ms Carroll [of Fáilte Ireland] […] said the Lakelands term, which is also used in the Programme for Government’s tourism strategy, may not end up being the final slogan that is used for the region.

I wonder what that does for Waterways Ireland’s Lakelands &  Inland Waterways marketing and product development Initiative and what it says about the success of the Lakelands Strategic Plan [PDF]. I note too that the Irish Times refers to “the State’s tourism marketing strategy” whereas WI’s initiative was a cross-border one and included the Erne as well as the Shannon.

New WI appointments

Mentioned here; can’t yet see the news on the WI website.

Waterways Ireland’s purpose in life

Waterways Ireland is currently (I presume) implementing its Corporate Plan 2011–2013 [PDF], which still has a month to run. That plan set out, inter alia, a mission:

Our mission is to provide a high quality recreational environment centred on the inland waterways in our care, for the benefit of our customers.

It also had core values, which is nice, and a vision:

Our long term vision is to create an interrelated waterways network which will provide accessible recreational benefits and opportunities for all.

We wish to create facilities and services which will attract and impress visitors from home and aboard, supporting and encouraging the tourism and recreational industries in Northern Ireland and Ireland and promoting sustainable economic growth across the island of Ireland. We seek to protect and enhance the natural environment in and along our waterways for the enjoyment of future generations.

For the period of this plan we intend to focus on the consolidation, improvement and promotion of existing waterways in order to maximise their use. We will progress toward our long term vision by focusing development on the Ulster Canal.

And it had strategic objectives:

To deliver the benefits and opportunities the waterways can provide across a range of areas, Waterways Ireland has identified 6 strategic objectives which will drive the delivery of our Mission and Vision and the objectives set out in this Corporate Plan. These Strategic Objectives are to:

1. Manage and maintain a reliable and high quality waterways network.
2. Develop and restore the waterways network.
3. Enhance the existing waterways network to widen its appeal to users.
4. Promote increased use of our waterways resource principally for recreational purposes.
5. Assess, manage and develop the assets of Waterways Ireland.
6. Develop an organisation of excellence.

Reading that lot, it seems to me that the focus was inward rather than outward, perhaps more in line with traditional engineering-led waterways management than with the new and exciting marketing-led organisation of the future.

The mission is de haut en bas, with waterways coming before customers, and the first sentence of the vision continues the theme. The second sentence does mention economic affairs, but “supporting and encouraging the tourism and recreational industries” suggests that tourism and recreation are something that other people do, not something that WI does: it does not seem to see itself as part of the “tourism and recreational industries”.

The intro to the strategic objectives is pure management gobbledegook, but the really revealing bit is the list of objectives. The last two are inward-looking, but note the ordering of the first four and what the balance of elements says about the corporate focus: WI is going to

  • manage and maintain the waterways network
  • develop and restore the waterways network
  • enhance the waterways network
  • and after that promote increased use.

This is what used to be called a sales model: design and build your widgets first; then go and flog them to the punters. There is an alternative approach: start by finding out what the potential punters might want and then design and build your widgets to meet their needs. In reality, of course, you do something in between, because you’re not starting with a blank slate: your factory can make one particular kind of widget, not all possible kinds. And, similarly, WI’s main asset is a collection of waterways, not of (say) amusement parks or bookshops.

But a marketing focus could help an organisation to think about how its widgets are to be used. The result doesn’t have to be as crude as adding the word “solutions” to everything; it can be used to shape how the organisation presents its widgets and to whom it presents them. And, in my view, WI needs to do that because, according to the only reliable (and admittedly inadequate) measure we have, the Shannon traffic figures, waterways usage has been declining for at least ten years. [I know that there are other waterways, and many other types of activities thereon, but I don’t know of any published statistics about the extent of usage.] WI needs to reimagine the waterways.

When Jimmy Deenihan spoke in the Dáil on 16 October 2013, he said:

The [budgetary] provision will enable Waterways Ireland to deliver on its core activities and targets, which include keeping the waterways open for navigation during the main boating season and promoting increased use of the waterways resource for recreational purposes. This expenditure should also assist in developing and promoting the waterways, attracting increased numbers of overseas visitors and stimulating business and regeneration in these areas. Capital funding of almost €4 million will be made available to Waterways Ireland to facilitate the ongoing maintenance and restoration of Ireland’s inland waterways, thereby increasing recreational access along the routes of waterways.

My attention was attracted by the phrase about keeping waterways open “during the main boating season”, which suggests a new, restrictive policy. However, the rest of the list is pretty much in line with the existing objectives. I hope that something more radical will come out of the corporate planning process in which WI tells me it is currently engaged.

By the way, note that there was no mention of either heritage, which was the excuse for nicking the waterways from the OPW, or northsouthery.

WI on the wireless?

I heard several ads today on 2RN (or Radio Athlone, as the young folk say) for, er, “fun” on the Shannon and the Erne. Folk were encouraged to visit a Discover Ireland website, which I think is run by one of the bits of what used to be Bord Fáilte.

The site in question might be this one, where the Lough Derg offers include a hotel in Thurles, which is miles away from Lough Derg. The insistence on “fun” and “family adventure” suggests that that site is aimed at the members of the moronic community, and it is difficult to find any information apart from the prepackaged “family breaks”. And I’m not sure that the slogan “Discover Fermanagh: Where the days seem longer …” is a winner: why travel to Fermanagh to be bored when you could do it at home?

But what is most interesting is the sudden increase in the amount of advertising on the wireless; I don’t yet know whether it is matched by an increase in that on other media. I assume that tourism folk don’t spend money unless they are short of visitors. So have the numbers of overseas, foreign and domestic holiday-makers been disappointing so far this year? I don’t know, and the Tourism Barometer for April 2012 [PDF] suggested that service providers were optimistic at least at that stage.

I am aware that Waterways Ireland, which contributes to the lakelands marketing effort, has pulled advertising from some media; is it diverting its spending in an effort to boost tourism, or is that simply a change of policy consequent on a change of management? I would welcome information.

I would also welcome a proper analysis of the success of WI’s Lakelands and Inland Waterways marketign initiative.


Troll on over to WI’s website where you can download the Draft Marketing Strategy 2011–2016. The current version has no images (thank goodness) — and no (or very few) numbers for tangible outcomes.

The annual marketing spend by Waterways Ireland is approximately €1million per annum with additional funding of approximately €2million being leveraged from other organisations to support the inland waterways sector.

“But what good came of it at last?” quoth Little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he, “but ’twas a famous victory.”




Consultancy fee? No, it’s OK, thanks ….

How A N Other and I saved the Irish waterways … or at least suggested how Waterways Ireland should approach British narrowboaters.

Ephemera 15: consultation

The most recent version of Waterways Ireland’s plan for the Ulster Canal has a section (3.1 in the contents list, 3.3 in the document) on “Engaging with the Public”. It says:

The development of this Restoration Plan and accompanying SEA and AA are iterative processes that  enable both environmental authorities and the general public to get involved early on in the process in order to give submissions and comments before any final decisions are adopted.

To fully engage with the public the draft Restoration Plan and associated SEA and AA were:
– put on public display,
– sent to the prescribed regulators and environmental authorities; and
– written submissions were invited on both the Environmental Reports and draft Plan.

Waterways Ireland also took the proactive step of placing all documentation associated with every step of the Restoration Plan and SEA process on their website: http://www.waterwaysireland.org

That doesn’t mention any public meetings, but there is an illustration of such a meeting, with earnest members of the public being consulted.

Folk being consulted

Hmm. Looks like Mike and Rosaleen Miller at the back on the left: no doubt visiting from France. But that red decor looks familiar ….

My photo of the same event

WI consultation meeting about its marketing strategy: Shannon Oaks Hotel, Portumna, 27 January 2003.