The €233m Center Parcs Longford Forest resort welcomes its first paying guests next Monday, July 29. Center Parcs Longford Forest will drive and inspire a tourism brand for Longford
Anybody who has been fortunate to visit Center Parcs Longford Forest has been bowled over by the scale but also the absolute attention to detail at Longford Forest.
Much has been made of the potential economic impact for the rest of the county and how can we benefit as communities and businesses. We need only to look at the transformative effect on the town of Ballymahon.
It is bright; it is breezy and the townspeople are walking with a swagger and a new found and well placed sense of optimism and a belief in a better future.
But the big change that comes with Longford Forest is psychological. For the first time ever we will have two thousand plus people saying that they are holidaying in Longford each week. Its changing the narrative, the perception and is worth an absolute fortune in marketing for us.
Post 2008 and the towns and communities which managed best through the recession were those with large export led employers or those towns that were established tourism players. You immediately think of the likes of Westport.
The analogy wasn't lost on our local authority who ten years ago really took the bit between their teeth and started to develop a series of walkways and recreational spaces across the county.
As a small county we quickly realised that collaboration is the best and quickest route to success and in this regard Longford has excelled.
The recent announcement of €640,000 for the Norman interpretative centre at the Motte in Granard was a perfect example of this.
A hard working community group, the Council and Failte Ireland worked together and diligently to bring it to fruition and in time it will become an important tool in our tourism armoury.
So we now have a niche and truly immersive experience to sell here in Longford. With a network of walkways, cycle ways and a myriad of lakes and rivers all conveniently located in the heart of Ireland, we should be an obvious destination for lovers of activity based holidays and outdoor pursuits. We have a fledgling tourism brand with real growth potential.
But there are still challenges; there are still deficiencies in the offering, primarily in the area of accommodation and marketing. The evolution of the Hidden Heartlands brand has been a break-through for us and Failte Ireland are actively working with and assisting local stakeholders.
Brands and destinations aren't built overnight. It has taken nature itself millennia to cultivate our natural surrounds.
But we have been gifted a wonderful product and the onus is now on us to foster brand Longford – a brand that can resonate with people and a brand and experience that can capture their hearts and imaginations.
This is a momentous time for Longford insofar as the arrival of Center Parcs has shone a national and international light on our county. But more importantly the advent of Longford Forest has underscored and re-enforces the efforts and commitment of community groups and businesses across the county.
We are on the cusp of something special for Co Longford.
The work of the past decade and the investments and projects for the years ahead with inform and create brand Longford – a brand that can truly capture hearts and imaginations.
- Niamh Donlon, Longford Chamber of Commerce President