Patrick Kielty & Bertie Ahern among speakers at Major Tourism Conference

Friday, August 25, 2023. 11:50am
Elaina Fitzgerald Kane Chair of ITIC, Eoghan O’Mara Walsh CEO of ITIC and Orla Carroll Director of Failte Ireland

Midlands set for €68 million investment in tourism infrastructure by 2026

  • New report identified the Midlands as the region with the most acute deficit of hotel rooms
  • Tourism Industry conference in Radisson Blu Athlone on September 18th is “an unmissable event for local stakeholders” according to Fáilte Ireland and Westmeath County Council

A major tourism conference is coming to Athlone on Monday, September 18th and will feature new Late Late Show host Patrick Kielty, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, UN Special Advisor Anita Mendiratta and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin amongst others.

The conference entitled “Tourism: Big Impact, Small Footprint” will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel and is organised by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC). The launch of this conference also includes the unveiling of a fresh report, which presents a shortage of 11,500 hotel rooms in Ireland to adequately address the anticipated demand within the upcoming decade. Conducted by economist Jim Power, the report underscores the absence of a hotel development pipeline in various regions across the country. Notably, the Midlands stands out as the area facing the most severe deficiency, accounting for just 5% of the total national hotel room capacity.

Elaina Fitzgerald-Kane, Chair of ITIC, warned that the EU Just Transition tourism funding of €68 million for the region would be seriously undermined, “if there’s not a complimentary uplift in tourism accommodation” saying “The Midlands will remain a transit zone rather than a touring zone to the severe detriment of local economies throughout the region. We are delighted to being our annual conference to Athlone to highlight these topics and hope many of the local hospitality business in the region will join us”.

The conference is sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, AIB and Westmeath County Council and Mayor of Athlone, Councillor Louise Heavin said “I am delighted to welcome the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation conference to Athlone and showcase this vibrant, central destination to delegates. A thriving tourism industry is essential to growing our potential as a key hub for visitors exploring Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and beyond. The Municipal District here in Athlone and Westmeath County Council are glad to support this vital event.”

Recent data from the CSO confirms tourism as the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer.

Tickets to the tourism conference cost €125 + Vat and the event will be hosted by broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald and will be opened by Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, Chair of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation. Other speakers and panellists include economist Jim Power, Failte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly, Sean O’Driscoll of iNua hotel group, Director of the Cliffs of Moher Geraldine Enright, and interim CEO of Tourism Ireland Siobhan McManamy. A Special Recognition Award will also be presented to a tourism hero.

Patrick Kielty will speak about tourism as a force for good and Bertie Ahern will be in conversation with Dearbhail McDonald about 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and how tourism was chosen at the time as an all-island sector.

All who are working or simply have an interest in the hospitality industry are encouraged to book a ticket. Registration starts at 9.15am and event runs until 4pm with lunch and light refreshments included. Book at

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