An investigation of the potential of genealogy tourism as a catalyst for regional development in County Galway
This thesis is concerned with the challenges now faced by genealogy tourism in county Galway, situated on Ireland’s Western seaboard. It is a response to a 50% decline in the overall number of genealogy tourists visiting Ireland between 2000 and 2005. The fieldwork combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies, namely recorded focus-group and one-to-one interviews (18 interviews with 23 interviewees), participant observation (4 sessions with 6 participants), diaries (2 participants) and a questionnaire survey (302 respondents). Together with conceptual work, the empirical work assisted in producing a comprehensive cross-sectoral snapshot of genealogy tourism in the region which enabled the generation of answers to three pertinent questions: What are the reasons behind the 50% decline in the overall number of genealogy tourists to Ireland? What are the profiles, needs and expectations of genealogy tourists to Ireland and how do they differ from those of general tourists? Can the genealogy tourism market be recovered and - if yes - how can this be achieved? Finally, the Investigation brought fresh perspectives on the marketing of Irish genealogy and the need to incorporate it into new heritage tourism products that respect local needs, but respond to the competitive environment of a globalised world, in which the tourism industry continuously re-defines its roles. The overall message that emerged from this investigation is clear. A specialist, rather affluent and dedicated market of pure genealogy tourists to Ireland, even if ageing and relatively small in number, will exist for many years to come, although it is likely to gradually decline in time. However, a more broadly perceived ancestry-related tourism market, comprising the wider Diaspora who are interested in visiting Ireland as the homeland of their ancestors (and who may, to a certain degree, engage in some aspects of genealogical research), has a good chance to develop and grow. These markets need to be given a wide access to the genealogy tourism products offered by the Irish Family History Foundation societies, providing high-quality, customerorientated and reasonably-priced genealogical research services. The marketing campaigns should promote the themes of ‘ancestral visits’, ‘constructing family trees’ and ‘stories about ancestors’, as these are some of the ultimate rewards for the genealogy tourist. Finally, genealogy as a part of Ireland’s cultural heritage should nurture novel generic heritage tourism products, aimed at both - the genealogy and the general overseas tourist. A high-degree of co-ordination, co-operation, team work and joint funding should be employed among the principal stakeholders to bring this uneasy task of re-juvenation and re-vitalisation of genealogy tourism in Ireland to fruition.
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