ICBAN has recently appointed Susan Heffernan and Hugh Trayer to design and deliver the Literary Tourism Product Incubation Programme for regional SMEs and cultural associations, as part of the Spot-lit Project.

The Spot-lit Project aims to grow the literary tourism sector in the Northern Periphery and Arctic of the EU by supporting businesses and cultural organisations in this culturally-rich region to grow, collaborate and better engage audiences together. The Vision of the project is “To grow entrepreneurship and SME reach beyond local markets by developing and marketing literary tourism products”.  The project began in October 2018 and will run until September 2021.

The Product Incubation Programme (PIP) in Northern Ireland and Counties Cavan and Monaghan is being led by ICBAN (the Western Development Commission has responsibility for delivery in Counties Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim). The PIP aims to support SMEs and cultural organisations to increase their market reach beyond local markets through transnational engagements, support workshops, and assisting in developing new and market-ready literary tourism focussed products and services.

Susan Heffernan, MPRII, is an independent marketing and project management consultant working in the tourism, arts and heritage sectors and with tourism and local development agencies on developing sustainable destinations. Susan has previously spent many years working with an inbound tour operator and leading Fáilte Ireland’s publicity department. She shares the expertise she has gained with many small and growing tourism businesses through her mentoring, a key part of her work.

Hugh Trayer is the Manager of the North Mayo Heritage Centre at Enniscoe House with a staff of 16. The centre includes a family history unit, library, museum, cafe, book shop, exhibition area, conference centre, organic garden & ornamental gardens and a bog train. Hugh is responsible for all aspects of the business including funding, programming and HR. Since 2016 visitor numbers have increased from 7,500 to over 24,000 in 2019.

Speaking on their appointment, Susan Heffernan said, “We are delighted to be involved with the Spot-lit Product Incubation Programme and to work with the various literary tourism SMEs to help with the delivery of their exciting projects. Given recent global events it will take much energy and determination to get their projects off the ground. Never has it been more important to support tourism SMEs, and we believe this programme will play an important role in developing innovative literary tourism offerings and sustainable businesses that can have economic impact. It is clear that there is a real appetite and a growing appreciation among domestic and overseas tourists for quality, place-based literary tourism experiences on this island.”

Spot-lit Coordinator and ICBAN Innovation Officer, Andy Hallewell commented, “ICBAN is delighted to offer this opportunity for small businesses across our region, at a time when the tourism sector is looking for ways and means to plan for its recovery. In the coming days we will be appointing SMEs and cultural organisations who have applied for programme places. Those participating will have opportunities to examine how best they can harness the rich place-based literary tourism assets there are to hand. What is most encouraging, is the clear commitment from the businesses to develop new products that inspire visitors to make connections to other local services and attractions, which will in turn boost local economies.”

In tandem with the Literary Business Support Programme, a new Literary Tourism Model known as ‘Wilde Things’ will be developed by fellow Northern Ireland Spot-lit partner, Arts over Borders. Wilde Things is based around the schooldays of Oscar Wilde in Enniskillen and is another opportunity for local businesses to develop new literary tourism products and services through the project.

For further information on the Spot-lit project, please visit https://www.spot-lit.eu/