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Connecting the Wild Atlantic Way Digital Conference - A Great Success!

The cutting edge digital conference, hosted by Donegal County Council in association with Fáilte Ireland, took place on Thursday, 25th September 2014 in Solis Lough Eske Castle. It was attended by over 150 tourism providers from across the County. The organisers made every effort to invite top speakers from the leading digital companies in Ireland – Google, Facebook, Digital Ambition, Wolfgang Digital, as we as Customer Service Excellence Ireland.

After a short welcome by Michael O’hEeanaigh, Director of Service, Donegal County Council and the opening speech by Deputy Mayor – Nicholas Crossan.

Fiona Monaghan
The first speaker  - Fiona Monaghan of Fáilte Ireland took the stage. Fiona, as a Head of the Wild Atlantic Way Project, spoke about the work completed to date by Fáilte Ireland, the vision of the WAW, long term ambition of putting WAW on the top 10 list of experiences to do globally, as well as project components and its complexity.  Fiona also emphasised the importance of working together saying: ‘The WAW is about co-operation, collaboration, all the agencies working together from a tourism perspective to do the best we can to put the West of Ireland in the international shop window’.

Charlie Boyle
Charlie Boyle from Customer Service Excellence Ireland followed and explained the importance of good customer service in making a Wild Atlantic Way visit to Donegal more memorable, something that visitors take home and tell their friends and family.

Alan Coleman

The first of the expert panel of Digital Marketing speakers was Alan Coleman of Wolfgang Digital who provided a very entertaining and insightful presentation on SEO vs PPC and the power of search marketing in promoting tourism. He explained the 22-step Customer online Path to Purchase and importance of Paid Search alongside the SEO optimised content.

Jill Rob
Jill Robb from Ambition Digital, who said she was renaming the Wild Atlantic Way to Wild Atlantic Wow, followed Alan with her excellent delivery of the top 12 tips on Digital Marketing on a Shoe String. Jill emphasised the importance of education to keep up with the fast changing online environment, understanding your audience and where they come from and how to interact with them, blogging and writing effective content online. She encouraged her listeners to make the most of Social Media using creativity, good imagery and videos to create relevant and interesting story for fans and followers.

Andrew Weld-Moore
Andrew Weld Moore from Facebook offered a fascinating look at the changes taking place online in terms of Facebook promotions and in particular the huge increase in the use of mobile technology which creates an opportunity for marketers to connect to their customers through a very intimate medium that is their personal mobile phone. The most powerful message Andrew shared was: ‘if you’re not thinking about mobile strategy you will be left behind because mobile is right here in front of us’. Facebook has realised that potential and is currently the most effective marketing platform in the world helping businesses to tap into a huge market and reach their target audience at scale using instant mobile strategy.

During the afternoon, groups were invited to listen to three practical case studies from local tourism businesses that have already been using the Wild Atlantic Way to increase business and bring visitors to Donegal.  Representatives from the WildAtlantic Camp in Creeslough, Donegal Tours and the Silver Tassie Hotel & Spa shared their marketing experiences and the work that they have been doing to incorporate the Wild Atlantic Way into marketing plans.

Conference attendees were invited to fill in a question sheet for the expert panel to answer during the Q&A Session at the end of the day.

Claire Walsh
Presentation by a much anticipated Claire Walsh from Google followed the Q&A session. Claire provided the audience with a keen insight into the world of Google, including fresh ideas on using Google Tools, Ad Words, SEO and of course the power of video in particular for the tourism sector.

Seamus Neely
The finale of the conference was delivered by Seamus Neely, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council who talked about the increasingly important role that tourism plays in the economic development of Donegal.
The conference ignited ambition amongst tourism providers who went home feeling motivated to introduce changes to their traditional marketing plans incorporating both digital techniques and the Wild Atlantic Way. 

The message of the day was that Digital Marketing delivers real results and if tourism providers embrace new technology then a bright future for tourism exists in County Donegal. Digital has the power to bring visitors from all over the world to the very top of the Wild Atlantic Way at Malin Head and to travel throughout Donegal, creating lasting memories of our county on the Wild Atlantic Way that will reach international audiences online for years to come. 

Speakers' profiles and further details about the Conference are available here

Conference Speakers L-R: Seamus Neely, Fiona Monaghan, Alan Coleman, Charlie Boyle, Nicholas Crossan,
Andrew Weld-Moore, Jill Robb