The tourist office is based at the Market House in Mullingar.

Dismay as Fáilte Ireland confirms that tourist office to close till next summer

Eilís Ryan

Mullingar’s tourist office is to close at the end of September, as part of a move that will leave not just Westmeath but the entire midlands without a tourist office for the autumn, winter and spring seasons.

Of 25 tourist information centres across the country, just 10 are to remain open beyond September 30. Mullingar’s tourist information office –and also Athlone’s – has been deemed seasonal.

The news has been greeted by dismay locally: Chamber of Commerce president John Geoghegan questioned the wisdom of the closure while local hotel chiefs described it as “disappointing”.

Confirming the decision, Fáilte Ireland explained that it is “implementing a new approach to providing Local Tourism Information nationwide”.

It continued: “In Mullingar, the strategy uses multiple touchpoints, including the seasonal tourist information centre, that will reach 12 times more visitors in the area”.

The ‘touchpoints’ include what the organisation describes as a significantly enhanced web presence for Mullingar town and County Westmeath and attractions, activities and places are currently listed on

It is also to invest in a new network of ’local high-impact tourist information kiosks’ in high-footfall Mullingar locations, including at Belvedere House and Gardens and Kinnegad Plaza.

“Discussions are ongoing with Westmeath County Council in relation to additional tourist information kiosks,” the Fáilte Ireland statement continued, adding that new Mullingar town maps and Westmeath regional maps are being distributed free of charge to all hotels across the county and that an enhanced contact call-centre service will be operational seven days a week, including extended evening hours.

John Geoghegan said Mullingar Chamber’s view is that the tourism office in the centre of town should operate on a full year-round basis and be staffed during that period.

“We feel this office, particularly its location on the Market Square, offers an outstanding focal point opportunity to provide information to tourists who may attend it and enquire,” he stated, adding that the staff on duty there could also work on other initiatives during off-peak times and when the office is not busy.

John Cochrane, manager of The Greville Arms Hotel, said he is “very concerned” at the decision to close the tourist office, which is located in the Market House.

“It’s in the centre of the town and it’s very important for the tourists – and especially this year in light of the fleadh in Mullingar being such a success,” he said, explaining that there is both a hope and an expectation that there would be an ongoing tourism boost as a result of the positive fleadh publicity.

Even apart from the fleadh, Mullingar has been having a good year in terms of visitor numbers.

When the tourist office is not open, staff at The Greville become aware immediately: “We would notice it straight away, because we are in the centre of the town, and we get a huge amount of inquiries at reception from people looking for tourism information.”

When the public hear the word ‘tourist’, they often think immediately of foreign visitors, but in fact, John said, Mullingar does quite well from home-grown tourists as well – and they are just as much in need of the services of the tourist office as are visitors from farther afield.

“This year from January February our accommodation is running at 90% per cent capacity: it’s our best year ever. That is everything from business people traveling during the weeks to Irish people travelling at weekends and looking for breaks.”

The opening of the greenways has been a huge boost – and those coming are also seeking out other locations such as Belvedere House or Tullynally Castle.

“It’s a massive attraction,” he says.

Historian Ruth Illingworth, who runs guided walks of Mullingar for visitors, is opposed to the closure: “I was kind of quite disappointed at the news that they’re going to close at the end of September because the office was closed up for two years and when the Covid restrictions were lifted, it was still closed.

“I think it’s really important to have a tourist office in the town and I know that the main tourist season winds down from the beginning of October, but there are still tourists coming in and people visiting Mullingar pretty much all year round.”

Also disappointed at the decision is Cllr Andrew Duncan, who described the decision as a retrograde step, particularly in light of the numbers who visited Mullingar during the fleadh.

“Mullingar finally has a chance to become a bona fide tourist destination – and just as it does so, they decide to close the tourist office: it doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.

Continuing, he said he would like to hear the rationale behind the decision to close so many offices.

“I think Mullingar should feel disappointed about what’s happening in light of how things went during the fleadh.”

Matt O’Connor, manager of The Mullingar Park Hotel, was also disappointed at the decision, but took the view that there might not be a demand for the service in winter, and most of the information tourists are likely to need is currently online.

“I wouldn’t hear a lot of our guests who stay here asking ‘where’s the tourist office?’. They Google everything now. I wouldn’t think they run into the tourist office, unless they drop in while walking by. But it is a fantastic facility and I am disappointed that it’s closing.”

Happily, he continues, it’s been a good year for tourism: “It’s been fantastic; it’s back 100 per cent,” he says.

“A lot of it is the home market and then German and French, and some American, but a lot of it will be home market.”

The fleadh was a huge boost, he added, going on to compliment all those involved in organising it.

John Geoghegan said Mullingar Chamber is committed to the promotion of Westmeath and Mullingar as a tourism destination and, to this end, it submitted a 5,698-word submission to Westmeath County Council on July 20, 2021 when they were open to public consultation on this subject.

The submission identified 23 items where the chamber said improvements could be made: “We feel there is a major opportunity in Westmeath, particularly Mullingar, to promote the lakes further and other amenities such as Belvedere and Mullaghmeen Forest, Tullynally Castle and Fore, to name but a few, as well as a greater emphasis on the greenway and the Royal Canal.

“Longer term, with the success of the fleadh, we see an opportunity for Mullingar to become the music capital of Ireland and to run several music festivals throughout the year, in the town centre, and Belvedere.

“This would assist greatly in making Mullingar a tourism destination and increasing dwell times of tourists beyond one day or two, with obvious knock-on effects for the local economy.”

Fáilte Ireland says move is response to changing trends

Fáilte Ireland stated this week that a review it carried out last year found identified a need for a response to changing consumer behaviours, digital trends, and declining visitor numbers to tourist information offices.

Numbers calling to the tourist office in Mullingar fell 16 per cent in the years between 2016 and 2019 – at a time when tourist numbers nationally were up.

“As part of Fáilte Ireland’s new plan for local tourist information, 10 tourist information centres with the highest footfall (greater than 40K visitors in 2019) will be maintained year-round and 15 tourist information centres, including Mullingar (which only recorded 5,470 visitors in 2019), will open on a seasonal basis (June-September) each year.

“None of the 25 offices are closing permanently,” it stated, adding that the Mullingar office will reopen on June 1, 2023.

The organisation insisted that it is “very committed” to the development of tourism in Mullingar and the wider Hidden Heartlands.

“How visitors access tourist information has evolved and our new approach to visitor servicing, which focuses on providing visitor information through multiple channels, will better meet our visitors’ needs.

“We know people rely increasingly on their digital devices to access information and tourist information is no exception. Traditionally, visitors have used guidebooks and tourist offices to find tourism information in a destination, but visitors’ habits and expectations have changed due to the growth of digital and the desire for convenient and quick access to information.”

Outlining its new strategy, the organisation said it has a significantly enhanced web presence for Mullingar town and County Westmeath with attractions, activities and places currently listed on

“This will be continuously updated to include local highlights, reasons to visit, recommended visit duration, hidden gems and suggested itineraries.”

Fleadh Cheoil

Fáilte Ireland said it was pleased to support Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar and hopes it creates an even greater focus on the tourism offering in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

In response to queries from the Westmeath Examiner, Fáilte Ireland stated that it engaged extensively with Comhaltas and Westmeath County Council in the months leading up to the fleadh to ensure Mullingar and the broader Westmeath area could leverage the opportunity.

Its involvement included extending the opening of the tourist information office in Mullingar for 14 consecutive days from July 25 to August 7; working with Westmeath County Council to develop specific itineraries promoting Mullingar and the wider Westmeath area and region during the fleadh and encourage interest in the region for future bookings (leveraging the success of the fleadh).

It also supported the Float to the Fleadh initiative in conjunction with Waterways Ireland and Inland Waterways Ireland, which brought the Mullingar Harbour area alive for the duration of the fleadh, and promoting Mullingar as the hub of the Royal Canal Greenway and Old Rail Trail Greenways to a wider audience.


Continuing, the organisation stated that for the month of August, with Fáilte Ireland and Westmeath County Council, in collaboration with TFI Local Link Longford Westmeath Roscommon (LWR), it had provided a bus link from Mullingar to key heritage sites in the area, and in July Fáilte Ireland launched the Activating the Royal Canal Greenway initiative.

The project is to run through spring 2023 and will involve working with suppliers along the length of the greenway, to promote networking and marketing.

“Mullingar is a critical anchor point on the route,” Fáilte Ireland stated.