Armagh’s unique link to St Patrick is to be built upon to draw tens of thousands of tourists each year.
With plans for an international festival next month kick-starting proceedings, the council also hopes to work closely with both St Patrick’s Cathedrals to explore how to deliver the “highest possible visitor experience” at each.
It is expected that £1.6 million will be spent over the next number of years to capitalise on the St Patrick story.
This expenditure will be taking in the cathedrals, and what has been termed peace and reconciliation, visitor management and attraction enhancement.
The unique selling point around St Patrick’s is flagged up in a new five-year tourism strategy and action plan drawing on the ABC borough’s key strengths, and with Armagh City itself described as the ‘hook’ for bringing in visitors.
Both St Patrick’s Cathedrals have already undertaken extensive work on their own and are major attractions individually.
But collectively marketed as part of the St Patrick’s story, the ABC council and tourism consultants are identifying much more than can be done.
Work is currently underway in repairing the roof of St Patrick’s RC Cathedral.
And as Armagh I recently revealed, a heritage lottery grant will allow a feasibility study to be conducted into the possibility of opening up the crypt there.
The international festival, meanwhile, is being run again in conjunction with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, with three years of funding ensuring it will go ahead again both this year and next.
But more can be done, according to the authors of the tourism strategy.
They state: “Whilst Saint Patrick is a global ‘brand’ there is little recognition in international markets of the patron saint’s association with Armagh.
“There is an opportunity to reinforce this authentic association and to highlight the impact he had on the spread of Christianity throughout Europe, together with relevance of his teachings in the modern day world through a series of measures.
“The two St Patrick’s Cathedrals represent the physical manifestation of his presence in this city and opportunities to ensure the highest possible visitor experience at these two centres will be explored in conjunction with the church authorities.”