Westport Smarter Travel Bike Buffet makes finals at the first ever Irish Tourism Industry Awards

Kirsten O’Dwyer and Laura Heneghan, Westport Smarter Travel

The Irish Tourism Industry Awards (ITA) 2015 were the first ever national scheme to identify and celebrate those leading lights that are making a difference in the tourism industry and actively contributing to recent growth in the sector. The ITA seek to identify those players in the tourism sector who have made a difference and are setting an example for the rest of the industry.

The inaugural 2015 ITA were presented at a Gala Dinner on 24th April 2015 and showcased Ireland’s most successful and innovative tourism products, services and experiences. Four Mayo finalists were recognised for their contribution to the tourism industry and made it to the final from a very strong field of over 330 entries. They were: Erris Beo for ‘Best Adventure Experience’, Mayo County Council for ‘Best Local Authority Tourism Innovation’, Spirit of Place Discovery Points – Mayo County Council for ‘Best Design in Tourism’, and Westport Smarter Travel Bike Buffet for ‘Best Food Experience’.

In 2014 the Westport Smarter Travel team developed the Bike Buffet, a cycling tour of Westport stopping off at four dining venues along the route. Eleven buffets on and nearly 1,200 people have participated in this innovative event. The Bike Buffet is the first of its kind in Westport and Ireland. The Bike Buffet was up against stiff competition on the night including Fab Food Trails – Dublin, Cork & Kilkenny, Galway – The Food Destination, Kinsale Good Food Circle, Shells Café and Little Shop – Strandhill, The Food Summit with Good Food Ireland, The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. The Food Summit with Good Food Ireland was the winner on the night but Westport Smarter Travel was delighted to be in the finals with such reputable opposition.

“We were absolutely delighted to be nominated for the Best Food Experience. The Bike Buffet has only been operating for a year and it is incredible to be in the same category as Ballymaloe, Fab Food Trails and Kinsale Good Food Circle. The Bike Buffet has been really successful in Westport and we are confident it will continue to grow. It is a really exciting way to explore, travel and eat! Not only do you get to experience great food but people are reminded of how great it feels to travel by bicycle. We even had one participant who bought a bike the week after she attended a Bike Buffet because it reminded her how much fun cycling can be. It’s perfect – good for the environment, people, and the economy!” Kirsten O’Dwyer, Westport Smarter Travel.

The awards were organised by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) along with ITIC’s industry members, Fáilte Ireland, and Tourism Ireland and adjudication was carried out by an independent panel of experts. It is envisaged that the Irish Tourism Industry Awards will be held every two years and, in addition to rewarding best tourism practice, it is planned that each event will have a special themed award which responds to a particular topic for that year.