Sixteen new tourism experiences have just been launched in Newry, Mourne and Down thanks to the completion of the Atlantic CultureScape project, adding to the incredible tourism offering already established within the district.
The pioneering initiative, which was led by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in collaboration with six other global partners, first launched in 2019 to develop Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) experiences that would boost the tourism offer across the Atlantic area. Co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the INTERREG Atlantic Area programme, this project is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and has opened up new opportunities for tourism businesses to compete in global markets.
To celebrate the end of the project, a special day was organised by the Council on Tuesday 9 August for the global partners, tourism industry stakeholders and guests, so that they could come together to reflect on the success of the project and review what this will mean for the tourism industry in Newry, Mourne and Down as well as across the wider Atlantic area, where partners have also launched their own specially developed ICH experiences.
At the beautiful Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, local ICH experience providers had a chance to showcase their products and guests were treated to the best of local cuisine and drinks from our craft breweries and distilleries. The day finished off at the Green Holiday Cottages in Kilkeel where a secret culture night was organised around the new Intangible Cultural Heritage experiences now on offer here.
The event was attended by some of the project partners from Spain, Portugal and Cork. In total 60 ICH experiences were launched at the event. The ‘intangible’ element of cultural heritage has received relatively little attention in the Atlantic Area in recent years. This project set out to address this imbalance by identifying and enhancing enjoyment of authentic cultural experiences, leading to increased visits.
In Newry, Mourne and Down the programme has delivered multiple learnings such as how tourism can preserve culture and heritage through experience creation, to the delivery of sustainable tourism experiences by the sharing of stories, people and place.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Michael Savage said, “Atlantic CultureScape has been a fantastic project and has allowed us to take the lead in the world of Intangible Cultural Heritage tourism experiences. It’s been a real pleasure following the progress of this project over this past three years and watch the 16 businesses flourish due to the vision of the project partners from across the Atlantic Areas of Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK”
Chairperson, Cllr Michael Savage continued, “This project served to identify and develop Intangible Cultural Heritage experiences to boost tourism and enhance community spirit and a sense of local pride. The aim was to provide an understanding of the abundant Intangible Cultural Heritage in this area. Now 16 compelling experiences indigenous to this region have emerged, from stone wall building to lace making and oriel singing, along with activities that share stories, myths and legends told by generations past.
“Deemed a resounding success this has been an exciting project for all involved and sets Newry, Mourne and Down apart as a vibrant hub of culture and heritage, ready to be shared and enjoyed by locals and visitors while safeguarding this important heritage for future generations.”
Through research and working with local businesses, the project set out to identify what ICH each country could offer. The participants, most of whom had never worked in tourism before, were then selected for the programme to enhance and develop their ICH offering, each underwent training and mentoring over a three year period.
Commenting on her experience, Rosie Bell of Lace, Love & Forget-me-nots said, “One of the greatest takeaways from being involved in the Atlantic CultureScape programme is the realisation that we have so much to be proud of here in Mourne, Gullion and Strangford and that it can hold its own with any other destination in the world.”