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Other social sciences, Cultural and economic geography
Building co-operation between Tourism and Culture in the West of Ireland Paper presented at the 9th Annual Tourism & Hospitality Research in Ireland Conference (THRIC), GMIT Galway, 6 & 7th June 2013
Redressing regional imbalance is now a key challenge in Ireland. Dublin is the destination of choice for more than two fifths of the market and the number of visitors holidaying outside of the Dublin region has declined significantly between 2003 and 2009. One way of redressing regional imbalance is to harness the tourism potential of the cultural sector. Spread throughout the regions is a wealth of cultural activity and a well developed infrastructure of venues staging vibrant arts activity of international calibre, be it in visual arts, film, literature or the performing arts. This activity engages 2.3 million Irish citizens (66% of the adult population), who participate in the arts annually. Currently, however, this cultural activity is only modestly engaging visitor populations. It is not effectively integrated into the offerings of the tourism sector.
The tourism literature that has investigated co-operation and networking between firms and stakeholders has predominantly focused on co-operation within the tourism sector. However the nature of the tourism sector means that there are significant linkages between the tourism sectors and others such as retail and the arts. In current difficult economic times the necessity of maximising the economic benefits of international tourists in rural destinations is greater than ever. And yet there are challenges for firms attempting to cross the rubric of distinctive sectors to develop inter-firm relationships.
Galway is a hive of artistic activity but the development of cultural tourism in Galway as a concept, product and brand is hampered by poor connectivity between the tourism and arts sectors. This paper reports on the initial findings of a project which has identified the level and type of collaboration that exists between tourism and arts providers in Galway, the obstacles that need to be overcome and initiatives that will be instigated to foster inter-sectoral relationships. The research involved key informant interviews and a survey across both sectors. The findings are especially relevant for Galway, but they also have implications and are relevant for many rural destinations. From a national and policy perspective the findings should inform discussions on how to harness linkages between these two sectors to encourage the further development of tourism and the arts in the regions around Ireland.