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Making the most of City of Culture’s legacy

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Have you noticed a marked increase in tourists walking
the streets of Limerick in recent months. The official figures will come later
in the year but a recent report from online travel giant Expedia highlighted
Limerick as the fourth most popular destination in Ireland for tourism with a
46% increase in visitor numbers over the past year.
Hotel
operators they are seeing a similar trend, with bed-nights up on previous years
and an increase in the corporate hospitality sector particularly. There is no
doubt that our year as National City of Culture has put us on the map as a
destination of note. What is crucial going forward is that we do not let this
momentum slip.
What
excites me most is the fact that a lot of our ex-pats have returned home for
summer visits all of whom are remarking on the notable sense of confidence evident
in our city at present.
I
spoke to one couple recently who were back in Limerick for a short visit from
Sydney. They both spoke of their time leaving Limerick as one of sadness but
one of necessity. It was a period where these young people felt they had no
other option. Our economy was in tatters, the sense of possibility didn’t
exist. Having spent two weeks back home their perception has now changed. They now
see a vibrant, cheerful, confident and energetic city.
We
would be foolish to be complacent. There are still huge challenges to overcome
but the fact that people are now choosing to visit Limerick either as
holidaymakers, corporate investors or returning ex pats presents us with a huge
opportunity to showcase who and what we are.
Having
key festivals and events especially during the peak tourism season is
particularly vital. Last weekend we saw the first ever World Club Sevens in
Limerick city, an event contracted in Limerick for five years. To meet the many
visiting teams at the Hunt Museum last Friday it was very clear that this event
has the potential to be a massive addition to our annual calendar.
We
also celebrated Sarsfield’s Day last weekend, a fledgling event that has taken
an aspect of Limerick’s history and turned it into a weekend of celebration.
Earlier in the year we saw Culture & Chips, Riverfest, Make a Move, Proms
in the Park and the Tomcat Street Festival. These are all very exciting events
aimed at a diverse audience but all hold one key similarity – they animate our
city, they create a sense of fun and celebration.
We
need to structure our calendar of key events going forward. We need to manage
the great things we offer and package them intelligently. We must recognise
that visitors to our city have good experiences.

We
have a fantastic opportunity to take a huge amount of learning from our City of
Culture designation. The most important legacy for all of us is the emergence
of a city and region that is confident, vibrant and fun not just for those of
us who live here but for the many thousands who chose to come and visit. 

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