Council’s US trip to promote Gobbins cliff path project

The interactive exhibition at the Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee.  INLT 13-681-CON
The interactive exhibition at the Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee. INLT 13-681-CON

The multi-million pound Gobbins project could be promoted to thousands of would-be visitors during a major cultural event in the United States.

The Milwaukee Irish Festival, due to take place in August, is hailed as the world’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture.

With representatives from Larne Borough Council having attended the event in 2013 and 2014, the Mid and East Antrim authority is considering sending a delegation to this year’s festival.

Held just two hours from a key tourism market in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan, the annual event attracts about 150,000 visitors a day.

In a report presented at last Monday night’s meeting of the Economic Growth and Development Committee, members were told the festival provided a key opportunity to “promote (the Gobbins) to tour operators and tourism professionals”.

Councillor Maureen Morrow, who represented Larne Borough Council during the 2013 conference, said: “You are on the go from about 7:30 in the morning to midnight, talking to members of the public and tour operators, and going to meetings. It’s hard work.”

Cllr Morrow added it had been “difficult to quantify” the level of interest the festival had previously generated in the Gobbins.

“I would suggest we have some sort of special offer or promotional code available at (this year’s) conference, so that when the Gobbins does open, we know how many visitors have actually come there because of Milwaukee,” she said.

Five elected members were nominated to attend, including former delegates Maureen Morrow, Gregg McKeen, and Mark McKinty, along with Audrey Wales and Jim Brown.

It was proposed that one council officer also attend, with Cllr Cheryl Johnston nominated as a reserve member.

Reminding those present there was currently no provision in the budget for the trip, MEA Chief Executive Anne Donaghy indicated that the cost of attendance for two representatives at the promotion would be around £5,200- £5500, dependant on cost of flights and currency exchange rates. The cost per additional representative would be approximately £1,450.

Meanwhile, an application for a new bridge and two new stair structure additions to the Gobbins path was discussed during last week’s meeting of the Mid and East Antrim Planning Committee.

Councillors voted to accept that the application be approved, subject to a number of environmental conditions.