Mr Don Wilmont, Chairperson and Mr Odhran Dunne, General Manager of Visit Derry attended the meeting and provided an update on the roles and functions of Visit Derry.
Mr Wilmont firstly paid tribute to the contribution that the Director of Business and Culture made in his role as Company Secretary and to Councillor’s Cusack and Cooper as Members of the Board. He also acknowledged the work of Alderman Ramsey who had subsequently retired from the Board in June 2019.
Both Mr Dunne and Mr Wilmont proceeded to make the presentation
(a copy of which was previously circulated to Members) the presentation also included a video of key activities.
The Members noted the following:
About Visit Derry
· Visit Derry (formerly DVCB) is a not for profit public-private sector tourism partnership with a membership based delivery model and a company limited by guarantee.
· The partnership was established in 1995 by the Council as the first of its kind established in Ireland and modelled on the Boston Visitor and Convention Bureau.
· The Company was established to lead on destination marketing to promote the city and region to the national and international tourism markets and deliver visitor servicing through its gateway visitor information centre via a Service Level Agreement with DCSDC.
· The membership of Visit Derry is open to any tourism related business and it currently attracts a membership of 280 businesses that support the companies efforts to grow tourism to the region.
Roles and Functions
· Destination marketing to national and international markets
· Visitor servicing (delivery of an international standard gateway visitor information centre and associated services welcoming 100k visitors per annum)
· Industry Engagement /Business Development
· Influence and Advocacy of tourism proposition
Re-location of Visit Derry
New centre opening Spring 2020:to create a new international standard state of the art Visitor Centre welcome experience that will service the needs of locals and international visitors
Our Vision for the Destination
· A recognised international tourism destination on the island of Ireland
· A confident, vibrant, forward looking City and District that provides the best of all worlds, offering city, coastal and countryside experiences
A destination recognised as:
- hosting Ireland’s only completely walled city
- providing opportunities to spend time exploring areas of outstanding natural beauty in the region
- a vibrant ‘city of culture’ that is friendly and welcoming with new stories to tell
Key Actions for Growth
DCSDC to implement the findings of its Independent Review of Visit Derry commissioned in 2018 to support Visit Derry’s delivery of relevant Tourism Strategy targets and actions
· The report findings ‘Clearly identified that Visit Derry is under resourced and there is a need to increase investment in order to reach the objectives set both by the Tourism Strategy and the Strategic Growth Plan.
· Increase the investment in tourism for the city region
· Support the Strategic Investment and operational delivery of a new International Gateway Visitor Information Centre
· Support key deliverables within the New Tourism Strategy
· Deliver a successful public-private sector partnership for the benefit of both the city and wider region
· The Deputy Chair invited Members to seek points of clarification if they so wished;
Alderman McClintock thanked the representatives for their
presentation. She referred to the video footage and said that it
made one proud to be a citizen of the City and District. She said
that the visitor numbers to the City was phenomenal and she
was delighted to see the growth of the market product. She
sought assurance that the tour guide offering was enough to
cover all areas of the City tourist attractions.
Councillor McLaughlin thanked the representatives for the
presentation. She said that she was encouraged by the significant increase in the number of bed night occupancy throughout the City and District. She also recognised the significant amount of work achieved by Visit Derry despite tight budget pressures. She praised the collaborative work achieved in bringing a major conference to the City next week. She also said that she would be keen to see more private sector investment as local businesses benefited economically due to the increase in visitors to the area.
Councillor Cooper thanked the representatives for the update. He concurred with the previous speakers comments. He added that there needed to be more development of the product in rural areas throughout the District. He referred to the connection to the Wild Atlantic Way for example that provided an opportunity to promote the District as a base for visitors to stayover. He referred to the major festivals planned in the City and District that attracted thousands of visitors to the area and would provide a much needed boost to the economy. He also referred to the development opportunity at the Ebrington site and he had every confidence that the targets set would be achieved by 2025. He wished Visit Derry continued success with the future delivery of its product to grow tourism throughout the national and international tourism markets.
Alderman Devenney thanked the representatives for the update. He referred to the video presentation provided at the Meeting and said that he was most proud to be associated with the City given the tourism attractions on offer. He added that he was encouraged to note that the rural areas were promoted as part of the tourism product by Visit Derry.
Councillor Farrell referred to his recent visit to Dubrovnik and how he had purchased a combined ticket to visit the numerous tourist attractions which proved most cost effective. He suggested that Visit Derry consider a similar tourism offering for site visits throughout the City and District.
Councillor Kelly referred to the Council’s Planning Committee wherein applications presented for tourism accommodation be recommended for refusal because of no demonstrable need for what was applied for. He queried if Visit Derry had any influence in the Local Development Planning (LDP) process so to address this issue from a tourism perspective. He also referred to tourism advertisements as seen on television and the lack of reference made to the tourism offering west of the band and in that regard would be keen to receive an update from Tourism NI.
Councillor McCann commented that the Derry Walls tourist attraction represented cutting edge European history and there was an opportunity to promote the Derry Walls as part of a tourist trail of walled cities right across Europe.
The representatives responded to Members comments/queries as follows:
· Visit Derry continued to encourage an increase in private sector funding towards the initiative.
· Visit Derry is not a statutory consultee in terms of the Planning process but would be content to provide statistical information if requested.
· Visit Derry was included in discussions in the development of a tourism project with North West partners funded by the North West Development Group. (Council Officers confirmed this).
· Guided tours offer is generated by the private sector and community groups are also encouraged to become involved.
· Visit Derry was currently working with the Council’s Tourism Development team on a Walled City Tourist Pass so to integrate the visitor experience, however the progress of the initiative was funding dependent at present.
· Representation on the European Walled Network was confirmed.
The Deputy Chair thanked the representatives for their contribution to discussion and for providing points of clarification to Members.