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I once asked someone in an interview what Inishowen attraction they would recommend for a tourist to visit. “Can I say the Giant’s Causeway?”, they replied. Sadly, that response wasn’t the only one of its kind throughout interviews that day. I became aware that there is a lack of local knowledge and pride among some of the general public, particularly in the younger generation.

This weekend, Matt le Blanc and Chris Evans visited the Ring of Kerry for their TV show, ‘Top Gear’. I wondered why they chose this over the Inishowen 100 or equally scenic drives elsewhere in Ireland. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that someone from Kerry invited them there. As simple as that.

Tourism bodies aside, the everyday Kerry people are truly magnificent ambassadors for their county. Spend 10 minutes with anyone from Kerry and they will not only tell you about Killarney, Dingle and more, but they’ll also ask you if you’ve visited. And if not, why not?!

Do we do that? Do we, the people of Donegal, realise that our county’s beauty is something spectacular and worthy of boasting about? Regardless of the industry we work in, do we recognise the positive impact of tourism on a region? Do we actively talk about our county with pride and invite people to visit and see what we have to offer?

As we approach Summer 2016, I think our challenge is twofold…

  1. As groups of friends, couples, or families, be a tourist in our own area, to realise what we have on our doorstep. Drive the Donegal leg of the Wild Atlantic Way. Visit Malin Head, Fanad Lighthouse, Slieve League, Glenveagh National Park, Oakfield Park or any of the many excellent attractions we have in County Donegal.
  2. Secondly, talk about our experiences. Share our photos and videos on our social media platforms so that our friends in the rest of the country and worldwide can see what they’re missing and perhaps plan to visit some day. A tourist won’t necessarily ask for information at the tourist office. They’ll ask the shopkeeper, the petrol pump attendant and the person walking their dog along the road. Be prepared. Impress them with our local knowledge, even if it is only good directions.

Tourism can be a lucrative industry and one that you, your sibling, your son or daughter could find a lifelong rewarding career in. Whoever we are, let’s help create jobs and stop emigration from our county. Let’s make tourism a booming industry in Donegal. Start by inviting people to come here.

Thanks for reading.
Leanne Doohan

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