Visit Downings are stirring up a healthy appetite for tourism this year following a food-themed launch for the collaborative tourism group.
Businesses from Carrigart, Glen and Downings gathered at Grape & Grain on Thursday 6th March to sample ‘A Taste of Downings’ and celebrate some of the best food tourism gems they have to offer.
Guests enjoyed a six course tasting experience with premium dishes provided by local restaurants and hotels.
Celebrating the quality food of the region is just one of the many plans of Visit Downings in 2019.
The business group was formed in 2017 as a marketing platform to promote and sustain tourism growth in the area. Members developed a website, Facebook page, What’s On guide and commissioned a video showcasing scenic highlights and amenities.
Visit Downings committee member Susie Coyle said exciting plans are in store for 2019. “We want to further develop our website, we want to increase our exposure on various media and social media channels and we want to increase the distribution and frequency of the What’s On Downings guide,” she said.
Another exciting concept in the pipeline is a Visit Downings coupon book, combining discounts for local restaurants, businesses and activities. It is hoped that the books will be launched next season.
Also in attendance was Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh, who lives in Carrigart.
Mr McHugh said the launch was the “start of something very positive.”
He pointed out that the strength of the Downings community is on the ground, in their collaboration and in their families.
“A lot of the businesses in this area are family businesses. Everybody is in it together but also families are making that investment. They are taking the risk and ensuring that, not alone do they provide employment for this generation, but they are also looking to the next generation,” Minister McHugh said.
Mr McHugh added that the Visit Downings initiative is an opportunity for locals to showcase what they value: “We have ways of threading through the great traditions we have and the great resources here. And the fundamental resource is the people we have.”
Noel McBride, Fine Gael candidate in the upcoming local elections, also commended the group and highlighted the economic benefits and job creation that comes with an extended tourist season.
A key aim of Visit Downings is extending the tourism season beyond the summer months. This was celebrated by Joan Crawford, Client Services Manager of Failte Ireland, who outlined the value of year-round tourism in Donegal.
Ms Crawford said: “People don’t come for a bed anymore, people come for what there is to see and do in an area and this is why Visit Downings is so important because it will showcase that.”
Ms Crawford added that Failte Ireland is looking forward to working with the organisation as it targets visitors from overseas markets, including France, Germany and the US.
Barney McLaughlin from Donegal Tourism was keen to point out that there is so much to savour in Downings:
“People come for an experience, food is a big experience and what you have here is a true taste of what Downings has to offer.”
“It’s great to see businesses coming together a working collaboratively,” he added.
Maria Doherty, Sinn Féin candidate in the May elections, said she would be the biggest advocate of the initiative.
Local county councillor John O’Donnell said that Donegal is entitled to boast about its many attractions.
Cllr O’Donnell said: “People will only visit Downings if we broadcast it throughout the rest of the world. The way we do that is when we travel near and far we tell people that Downings is open for business and we welcome people to all the facilities and amenities that are there.”
There was a strong sense of pride among local businesses at the event. Through celebrating food and hospitality, showcasing scenery and marketing local activities, the group is confident that it will attract and impress many more visitors in the year ahead.
Donegal Daily was there to soak up the atmosphere of the night in Grape & Grain, check out more photos below: