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Innovative All Ireland Artisan Producer Network Established

Teagasc, together with the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust from Northern Ireland, hosted the Économusée All Ireland Business and Networking Forum in the Ballinahown Craft Village, Co. Westmeath, today March 11th at which the All Ireland Économusée Network was established.

At the Forum, a brochure and a specially designed web based sales platform for the newly established All Ireland Économusée Network were launched by Carl-Éric Guertin, CEO of the International Économusée Network Society which is based in Québec (Canada). An Économusée is an artisan business that opens its doors to the public to provide a learning and interpretive experience for visitors

The Forum was the culmination of a two and a half year innovative rural enterprise support project called Craft International, which was funded by the EU Northern Periphery Programme. Together with 7 partners from around Europe and Canada, Teagasc and the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust supported the development of rural artisan producers on the island of Ireland.

The project provided business support advice, mentoring and funding to artisan producers who wished to diversify by developing a tourism aspect to their business and join an expanding national and international network of similar businesses. By the end of 2014, there will be 93 Économusées, from Canada to Northern Europe, in this international network. There are 7 Économusées on the island of Ireland: Celtic Roots (Westmeath); St. Tola Goats Cheese (Clare); Connemara Smokehouse (Galway); Breeogue Pottery (Sligo); Steensons Jewellers, Glenarm, (Antrim); Broighter Gold Rapesed Oil (Derry) and Scullion Hurls (Antrim).

Launching the Économusée All Ireland Network brochure and international sales platform, Carl-Éric Guertin said: “It is exciting to see the Économusée network expanding internationally supported by initiatives such as the sales platform and brochure which seek to add value to the Économusée brand. We are confident that the network members will reap noticeable benefits from these developments”.

The network is based on a successful model developed in Québec (Canada), Canada over twenty years ago where rural artisan businesses that are supported to develop a tourism aspect to their operations are called Économusée. These Économusées form a tourism-based network, or trail, which assists the businesses expand sales, sustain employment and offer an enhanced visitor experience.

Speaking at the Forum, Dr Kevin Heanue who led the project for Teagasc said: “The Économusée concept and project is an innovative model of rural enterprise support which helps artisan producers diversify their businesses into the cultural tourism market by providing them with a 6 step template to help them structure the visitor experience. There is potential for the model and network to be expanded further in Ireland.”

Maxime Sizaret, CEO of the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, congratulated the artisans, North and South, who had the vision to get involved with the network. “An Économusée is an important cultural tourism attraction which allows visitors to experience at first hand our heritage and contributes to the sustainability of rural areas through the creation of direct employment and by providing opportunities for visitors to discover rural regions”, said Maxime.

Speaking about the afternoon session of the Forum, Magne Haugseng, Craft International Project Manager, said that “The network members have the opportunity today to discuss a strategy for their network and outline collective objectives for the medium term”. As an input to that strategy, Fáilte Ireland addressed the network and outlined the forthcoming 3 year strategy for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland concentrating on specific tourist segments.