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Donegal reaches out to USA


Pictured at an event in Milwaukee from L to R are, Gerry Rabbitt- Owner of Highland Radio, Mayor of Galway - Pearse Flannery, Sarah Meehan - Donegal Tourism, Noel Dempsy - Chairman of Tradfest, Deirdre Mc Glone - Harvey's Point, Sheila Russell - Harveys Point and Barney Mc Laughlin - Head of Tourism for Donegal County Council


Donegal Tourism recently completed a very successful Trade Mission to the US which saw representatives positively engage with members of our Diaspora and International Tour Operators. Three major American cities, all renowned for their strong Irish communities, were visited on the whistle-stop tour, which included Donegal Tourism’s participation in the world’s largest Irish festival.


Barney McLaughlin, Head of Tourism for Donegal County Council and Sarah Meehan, Marketing Officer for Donegal Tourism along with  Deirdre McGlone and Sheila Russell  from Harvey’s Point embarked on the trip that took in New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The New York and Chicago visits were both a one night stay where the trade representatives hosted a Donegal Gathering Evening which was attended by members of the Diaspora, local media, and some very prominent Tour Operators in each city. These events involved presentations outlining the beauty and accessibility of Donegal and emphasising that Donegal is open for business.


Barney McLaughlin states, “The opportunity to meet people face to face in an informal setting proved to be very advantageous in terms of delivering our message and making contact with many tour operators. Obviously, time will tell just how successful this mission was, but based on the positive feedback and interest we encountered, I feel that the business contacts that have been established will bear fruit for many years to come.” he continues, “Up to fifty tour operators attended each evening and the fact that these business people had the opportunity to engage with ordinary members of our Diaspora as they viewed stunning images of Donegal proved to be a selling point that far outweighs any marketing strategy or advertising campaign.”


Donegal Tourism would also like to extend its heartfelt thanks to the owners of both venues used for these evenings. The New York event was hosted in the Rattle and Hum Bar West in Manhattan, a bar owned by Donegal native and current New York Donegal Person of the Year, Joe Donagher from Ballyshannon. The Chicago event was hosted in The Gage Bar and Restaurant, a venue owned by Senator Billy Lawless, a tireless champion of the Irish Undocumented in America.


After Chicago, the delegation made its way to what is reputed to be the largest Irish festival in the world. The Milwaukee Irish Fest is a three day event that attracts over 130,000 visitors. Donegal Tourism hosted a stand for the entire event in the Destinations Area that generated considerable interest among people planning a trip to Ireland. Many Americans tend to use these festivals as a way of generating ideas for upcoming trips and the staff was on hand to provide information and help them to plan their route to visit Donegal. The festival also provided an opportunity for staff to engage with several prominent visitors to the festival including the Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett and Ireland’s Minister of the Diaspora, Ciaran Cannon.


This venture proved to be a great opportunity to invite some of the many tour operators and Diaspora living and working in the US, as well as those with Irish connections or an affinity for Ireland, to consider the “Coolest Place in the Planet for their visit”. 

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