On Tuesday 14 November 37 participants gathered at The Spool Factory, a new co-working hub in Boyle, Co Roscommon (Ireland), to learn about how creative enterprises can tap into the tourist potential of their region, while enhancing the region’s competitive advantage.
This Creative Exchange information and networking event was organised by the Western Development Commission (WDC) through ‘a creative momentum project’, which funds MyCreativeEdge.eu. The day kicked off with an overview of the project and its activities, including the current digital marketing campaign promoting MyCreativeEdge.eu to international markets in Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, the UK, US and Canada.
Dr Aisling Murtagh, Post-Doctoral Researcher at NUI Galway, is undertaking research on the creative industries sector across Europe’s Northern Edge as part of ‘a creative momentum project’. She gave an overview of current trends in creative tourism, including the move to ‘co-creation’ where tourists actively engage in the creative process. The importance of marketing the ‘experience’ and not only the ‘product’, as a way of differentiating yourself in a market increasingly monopolised by large intermediaries e.g. Amazon, Apple. She outlined a number of examples from the partner countries, including some collective marketing approaches; Finland’s Ilahu Boards , Made in Medelpad from Sweden and Boom Studios from Northern Ireland.
We then heard three business stories of varying approaches to harnessing the link between the creative sector and tourism.
Gerry Brannigan of Blackfield Surf School & Coding Academy explained how circumstances drove him to diversify his surf school business. Bad weather in summer 2015 led Gerry to establish a coding academy where kids can learn to code, working on drones and games. He emphasised the importance of putting the ‘fun’ into these experiences, for kids and for adults.
Following her training in textile art, Lorna Watkins first became an entrepreneur by establishing a soap-making business which she ran for six years. But she felt that she really wanted to return to her art. As well as her original paintings, Lorna produces cards and prints which she sells through selected shops, online and at Fairs. Very quickly Lorna realised that she wanted to run art workshops which were about creativity and really enjoying space. She now runs workshops at her ‘Studio Near the Sea’ which take place indoors and also outside on the beautiful Sligo coastline.
Emily Sachs-Eldridge is co-owner of Artwood, a Leitrim-based craft business designing and making wood and crystal suncatchers. Emily explained how their business emerged during the recession when her husband Giolla, a carpenter, began looking for new opportunities. Beginning at markets, their products are now stocked in 18 retail shops, many of which have a strong tourist focus. Their suncatchers inscribed with Yeats poetry are particularly popular with tourists. They sell online and are now expanding overseas.
"Pass on your passion. Profitably"
After the break, Nicola Doran, Retail Programme Manager with the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland outlined the services provided by DCCoI to their 3,400 clients focusing on how Irish craft is marketed in a contemporary way at home and abroad. Nicola noted the new Design Ireland website which features the best of Irish design and aims to link consumers with retailers and showcase why Irish craft is worth the price premium compared with mass produced items. The Irish Craft Studio Experience is an important opportunity for Irish craft businesses running open studios who want to connect with tourists.
Mike Hourigan, cinematographer and owner of Mimar Media explained how they relocated from Cork to Roscommon in 2011 at a time when there was a huge dip in spending by businesses on promotional video. This is now reversing. Mike emphasised how videos can tell a lot in a short space of time and that there are a lot of different approaches – ‘how to’ guides, testimonials, behind-the-scenes – which can help ‘put a face to the name’ for your business. He also noted how important video is for tourists doing research before their visit, looking at options for different activities in an area. In his presentation Mike outlined his top 10 tips for good video.
Participants then split into two discussion groups:
- How to successfully bring products/services to market, led by Nicola Doran
- Creating DIY video content, led by Mike Hourigan
The discussion groups allowed participants to share their experiences and advice. And a Facebook Group has now been established to continue the conversation and expand it to those with experience in creative tourism in the other MyCreativeEdge.eu partner regions.
So if you’re interested in learning and sharing your experience of creative tourism, why not join our Facebook Group.
"It’s all about story"