A delegation of 30 Chinese students was hosted by Wicklow County Council recently. The visit to Wicklow County Campus was part of a two-week study programme, in conjunction with Dublin Institute of Technology, undertaken by the group from Hainan University in southern China in November.
Interest in the Garden County by the tourism-major undergraduates was initiated following a visit made earlier this year by a delegation representing Wicklow County Council members, management, and Wicklow Tourism to Hainan University. An invitation was extended by them through Professor Wang Lin, Director of International Relations at Hainan University.
Since 2013, this group of students has been studying a range of subjects including local tourism planning, sustainable tourism, government-industry relationships and tourism marketing strategies. During their visit the students were aiming to understand how Ireland has become the most popular tourist destination in Europe. They also hoped to learn how local government in this country assists, promotes and supports the local tourism industry.
The international visitors were welcomed by Cllr Pat Fitzgerald, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, who said: “I am delighted to take the opportunity to enrich further, the friendship between Hainan Province and its people and the people of County Wicklow. Despite having an ancient culture, we are a young, modern, vibrant country.” He also emphasised the significant strategic advantage of being the only English speaking country in the Euro zone.
Mr Bryan Doyle, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, described Wicklow County Campus as the county’s first dedicated higher education facility, developed in partnership with the Institute of Technology Carlow. He stated: “Our mission is to develop Wicklow County Campus as a Centre of Excellence in Enterprise, Education and Innovation and to act as a catalyst for economic development in the county.” He also offered support for the hospitality and tourism initiative between Hainan University and Dublin Institute of Technology.
Ms Emeir O’Connell gave a presentation on Wicklow Gaol as one of the top tourist attractions in the county and how they have embraced the “Ireland’s Ancient East” campaign currently being promoted via the national tourist agency Fáilte Ireland.
Mr. Fred Verdier of Wicklow County Tourism gave a presentation showcasing Wicklow as Ireland’s premier outdoor destination with stunning photography promoting the beauty of Wicklow’s hills, lakes, coastline and cultural heritage and a true microcosm of the Garden of Ireland.
The students from around the table were encouraged to table tourism-related questions, managing very well with their command of the English language. Cllr Brendan Thornhill delighted the group by offering his greetings and best wishes in Mandarin.
Cllr Gerry Walsh, Chair of the Economic Development and Enterprise Support Strategic Policy Committee, spoke about tourism being only a small part of the very broad remit of Wicklow County Council. “Our strength is in the network of agencies and organisations that we work with on many different levels”, he explained.
Wicklow County Council hopes to host an official delegation from Hainan Province during 2017 in order to sign a formal Friendship Agreement that will facilitate future exchanges in diverse fields such as forestry, science, technology, tourism, environmental protection and ecology. Cllr Walsh extended regards and best wishes to Professor Wang Lin at Hainan University and said: “We look forward to welcoming her to Wicklow next year.”
Prior to their departure, the students enjoyed a second outing to the county with visits to Greystones, Glendalough and Wicklow Gaol.