DONEGAL TIMES

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April 26th 2006

Tourism rules ok!

Tourism has always been important to Donegal Town - and indeed the county in general. When I came home in 1970, there was probably about 40 hotel beds in town and none on the periphery. Now overall, it’s more like 500 - and that is not counting B&B and guesthouse capacity.
Judging by our survey alongside, this Easter seems to have been a mixed bag in town. While no-one disputes that there were a large number of day-trippers around, there didn’t seem to be any undue pressure on the accommodation providers - though most managed to fill. In the old days, the two biggest periods of the year were the Easter and August weekends - demand was so severe you could often ring places 50-60 miles away to try and get a place for people to lay their heads.
This seems to have changed - all weekends are now busy but things have evened out. Irish people now can as easily, and cheaply, head abroad as stay in their native country.
The enormous numbers that turned up for the vintage car sale at the Mill Park on Sunday shows what happens when an attraction is in place. That is why the upcoming launch of the new Waterbus is so important - also why other enticements to draw people to the area are vital.
The Railway Society’s ambition to lay a mile of track should be encouraged - no matter what commercial development takes place in this area, a way should be left clear for this group to achieve its objective of running a train out to Gorrells, possibly linking up to Bennett’s Drumlonagher site. Indeed it would be no harm for the Westmeath philanthropist to throw a few bob in the direction of this admirable venture.
The jewel in Donegal Town’s crown is undoubtedly the castle and it is admirably kept and run by head-man, Sean McLoone. But it has more potential. The Manor House needs to be roofed so that entertainments can be run there - Bunratty style. This would be a tremendous magnet in attracting a night crowd to town.
The Diamond needs to become a more vibrant area. When something like the French Market situates there, the whole town lights up and the buzz is palpable! It’s a unique urban centre setting - but for 350 days of the year it lies empty.
The sewerage scheme must get under way as quickly as possible. If the bay area was cleaned up there would be no natural amenity in the country to match it. Marina, boating, water sports - there is no end to its possibilities. We also need the ancillary facilities in the quay area.
Killybegs is expanding its maritime traditions - Ardara has discovered a festival niche - the naturalness of the terrain and scenery ‘in-thro’ sells itself - it is what people want when they travel west. Donegal Town must also play to its strengths.
Tourists and internal visitors have multi-choice, a lot of them cheaper and more varied than staying at home. If we are to hold our reputation as a holiday and short-stay destination, we will have to work at it and must provide the attractions that will draw and hold our guests. The day of Donegal sitting back and expecting the visitors to just arrive in numbers is gone forever.

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Duck...Duck....Goose!!! - Having a good time on the Diamond

Young English tourists enjoy themselves on the Diamond during the recent good weather

Photo: Jason McGarrigle

Easter in Donegal Town

Traders tell us how it was for them

By Margaret Gallagher
The Easter Bunny has come and gone, delivering on the way a mixed basket to Donegal Town.
Jim White said that both the Abbey and Central were busy, with bars and food slightly up on last year. However he admitted that accommodation suffered slightly from the amount of people taking cheap flights abroad “However, there was a lot of day trippers to the town over the weekend” he commented.
Noreen McGinty of ‘The Arches’ Bed and Breakfast, Lough Eske, said even though she was busy, she didn’t have to turn any guests away - but commented that it was much better than last year.
Caroline Timoney of the Forget-Me-Not craft shop on the Diamond said that figures were down on last year and felt that though there were a lot of people around, they didn’t seem to be spending as much as usual.
The Railway Restoration Centre wasn’t open over the weekend with a spokesperson saying it wouldn’t have been viable.
Donegal Castle had a very busy Easter, with admissions up on last year. “Visitor numbers to the castle, even in this early part of the season, are in excess of a thousand per week. The castle is now open all the year round with shorter opening hours during the winter period, from November to mid-March. Donegal Castle welcomes visitors seven days per week, with hourly guided tours. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admission at 5.15pm” a spokesperson told the Times.
Tony McDermott of the Mill Park Hotel said that Good Friday was the only night they didn’t fill, but were booked out for the weekend with a lot of guests staying for the week. “Easter was much better this year than last - and that is probably down to it falling later. We didn’t have as many northerners as last year as we are marketing more for the southern customer. Our mix was 45% Northern, 35% Southern and 20% overseas.” Tony went on to say that the season is looking good and, to date, he has in the region of 135 weddings booked over the extended season.
The Waterbus had just one daily sailing due to tides. Each day the trip was full, with some passengers having to be left behind on Monday.
McGettigan butchers had a good Easter with Ernan saying it was slow to start but turned into a very busy weekend - on par with last year. “There was a slight drop in poultry sales but nothing drastic”
Michael Breslin of Pier 1 had a very busy Easter with food sales up on last year - and the bar packed every night.
Paul Diver of the The Sandhouse, Rossnowlagh, said they were slow to fill but were booked out on the Saturday and Sunday. “The trend has changed - where before it was a block booking for the four nights - it is now only a two night stay. The food and bar were very busy - there seemed to be more day trippers than overnight stays”.
Tony Foody of Classic Casuals on the Diamond reported a very busy Easter with turnover up 35% on last year.

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