40 new and improved tourism websites for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
40 tourism businesses across Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands are unveiling new and improved websites following funding and development support from Fáilte Ireland through the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Website Improvement Programme.
The training and investment programme (grant scheme) was launched in Summer 2019 and was designed especially for visitor attractions and activity providers to help improve the digital shop window of visitor experiences across the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands region.
Mark McGovern, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Manager at Fáilte Ireland, said:
“We launched our Website Improvement Programme to increase the attractiveness of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands by improving the websites of visitor attractions and activity providers in the region. The digital footprint of a tourism business is one of the most powerful tools for attracting visitors and enabling visitors to book experiences online is an important next step. Each website really is the shop window for people planning a visit to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and now, as we look towards recovery, the digitalisation of the tourism sector is more important than ever.
Over the last two years, we have worked closely with businesses to enhance the design and user experience of their websites across all devices, increase online booking capability, improve sales conversion rates and drive revenue. It is fantastic to see these websites come to fruition.”
Participating businesses were provided with a full digital audit of their website, training by some of the leading Digital Marketers in Ireland, one to one feedback and support and funding of up to €40,000 for website development.
Speaking about the impact of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Website Improvement Programme on their businesses:
Steve Conlon, Irish Boat Rental Association (IBRA), said:
“This was a brilliant initiative from Fáilte Ireland combining specialist workshops, tutoring on how to write the perfect design brief, expert help and advice throughout the design and development process and the end result – fit for purpose, robust, well designed and technically competent websites that deliver new business. In the case of the Irish Boat Rental Association (IBRA), which is a portal site, the numbers visiting in the first 3 months have increased by 400%, the bounce rate is below 25% and the conversion rate, people actually visiting the booking sites of our members is over 30%.
The new website gave us an opportunity to align our industry collectively with the two most significant initiatives to take place in our region, the creation of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands destination brand and the publication of the Shannon Tourism Masterplan. We now have an industry marketing tool that fully aligns our sector with both initiatives that will drive future growth and economic development in the region.”
Richie O’Hara, Baysports, Hodson Bay, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, said:
“The results were really exciting. The number of users for our website doubled from 53,667 in the 2019 season to 118,862 in the 2020 season and the page views increased from 227,334 to 1,150,918. Also, our referral acquisitions from the traffic generated by visitors referred by links on other websites increased by 1,344.17% during the same periods.
The Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Website Improvement Programme also helped us with our covid compliance measures, rostering and staffing arrangements and eliminating traffic peaks and troughs on a daily basis. The knowledge and learnings the team at Baysports have gained from the programme has been significant and our usage of digital systems has streamlined our processes and enhanced connectivity both within our operations and externally.”
Patricia Farrell, Wilde Irish Chocolates, Tuamgraney, East Clare, said:
“Previously, we had a very old website with no information for visitors wishing to come to the factory or to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, so we were missing out on potential visitors. By participating in the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Website Improvement Programme, we were able to develop a fabulous new website with lots of functionality, search engine optimisation and an online booking facility. Now people making travel plans from anywhere in the world can see what we have to offer and the other great things to do in the Lough Derg region.”
Eileen Gibbons, Electric Bike Trails, Leitrim Village, Carrick On Shannon, Co. Leitrim, said:
“I learned a lot regarding the technical aspects of good website development and the programme helped steer us through the process of getting the right web developer to meet our needs. We now have a crisp, clear website with very professional images and videos. The website traffic is increasing each month and the most recent report shows traffic up by 48%. We have received eight 5 Star reviews on Google my Business in the last two weeks with page views increasing each month also.
Through the process we kept our third-party booking system but made valuable improvements by reducing the number of steps in the booking process with secure inventory control. This has resulted in easier management of day-to-day operations and online bookings has increased by approx. 90% from summer 2019. The Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands Website Improvement Programme has definitely brought increased revenue to our business and has been a fantastic boost to our business profile.”
The digitalisation of the tourism sector is vital to improving Ireland’s ability to compete as a tourist destination on a global level in a post-COVID market and is a key priority for Fáilte Ireland moving forward.