Fáilte Ireland has published its shortlist of 15 Irish towns and villages being considered for the 2015 Tourism Towns Awards. The competition, which is now in its fourth year, is designed to recognize Irish towns and villages where the local community goes the extra mile to enhance their appeal to tourists. 

Over the next few weeks, the towns will be subjected to a series of unannounced inspections form a team of independent ‘secret shoppers’ looking for evidence of a high quality visitor experience and local community involvement. The competition will focus on how participating towns have developed their local area in the following key tourism areas: Sense of Place, Local Involvement, Tourism Products Available, and Development and Promotion.

“This award is all about recognizing those Irish towns and villages which are really doing something special to make Ireland even more attractive for tourists,” said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, TD.

“Each year the standard gets better and better and I am very much looking forward to hearing which towns make it into the top ten and who the overall winner will be later in the year. I want to express a sincere thanks to all those towns and communities involved and wish them the best of luck with the next stage of the competition.” 

The shortlist of 15 will be whittled down to a final list of 10 “Highly Commended Tourism Towns” to be announced at the National Tidy Town Awards later this year. The winners for the Best Large and Best Small Tourism Town awards will be announced in November.

Last year, Westport won the ‘Best Large Town’ award, while Kinsale took home the ‘Best Small Town’ accolade.

Paddy Mathews, from Fáilte Ireland, said: “The Tourism Towns competition works because it involves towns that are willing to go the extra mile in the manner in which they present themselves to visitors. Crucially, this award is all about recognizing those local businesses and communities who work well together.  Recognizing community spirit, innovation and a commitment to the friendly ‘Fáilte’, the Tourism Towns Award seeks to acknowledge not necessarily those towns who do well out of tourism but rather those who do tourism well.”

Here is the list of this year’s 15 Tourism Towns:

1 Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny

2 Lismore, Co Waterford

3 Killarney, Co Kerry

4 Clonakilty, Co Cork

5 Belmullet (Beal an Mhurtaigh), Co Mayo

6 Ardmore, Co Waterford

7 Tralee, Co Kerry

8 Adare, Co Limerick

9 Sneem, Co Kerry

10 Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim

11 Kenmare, Co Kerry

12 Portmagee, Co Kerry

13 Cobh, Co Cork

14 Youghal, Co Cork

15 Mountshannon, Co Clare