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Chinese delegation bring hopes for new business and tourism opportunities

7th August 2018

WHAT does Tullamore and Luzhou in China have  in common? At first glance, very little.

We are a small rural town with a population of 14,607, Luzhou boasts 1.2million people and is ranked 6th out of 21 cities in the Sichuan province. It is a busy port city on the Yangtze river, we are an inland town.

Yet we share two common denominators, Luzhou is famous for its production of an alcoholic drink called Luzhou Laojiao. we have Tullamore DEW. A key industry for Luzhou is

pharmaceuticals and likewise a large number of people in Tullamore are employed in the pharmaceutical sector.

Last Monday morning, July 30, a delegation led by Guo Qing, the Vice Mayor of Luzhou Municipal People's Government, was welcomed to Tullamore Town Hall, by Councillor Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach of Tullamore Municipal District and Councillor Danny Owens  Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council. Also present was Barry Cowen TD, Ann Starling, the President of Tullamore Chamber of Commerce, Dominic Doheny, President of the Construction Industry Federation and executive members of Offaly county council.

Newly appointed Tourism Officer, Olive Farrelly, gave a presentation highlighting some of the top tourist attractions in the county, including Clonmacnoise, Lough Boora Parklands, Birr Castle, Tullamore DEW and other places of interest around Offaly.  This was followed with a video by the Chinese delegation of the vibrant city of Luzhou,

The visit was organised by Patrick Parsons, Lord Oxmantown of Birr Castle. Mr Parsons, lived in China for 20 years and is married to a Chinese woman.  Addressing the delegation in their native tongue, a skill which obviously impressed the visitors, Mr Parsons said, he chose Luzhou because he felt it was a ''good match'' for Tullamore. He said he hoped that the meeting would be beneficial.

''We strongly want to promote Ireland in areas such as tourism which is very important. This is the first year there are two direct flights from China to Ireland, one from Beijing and one from Hong Kong, I'm sure that is going to encourage more Chinese to come here,'' he said. 

He went  on to say that currently 70,000 Chinese people visit Ireland annually and with the  addition of the two direct flights this is expected to grow to 175,000 plus.

''China is looking very much to develop business relationships with Ireland and Tullamore has a lot to offer. So I hope there will be good business opportunities. If we have a twinning, I think it will help focus the attention and it will be putting Tullamore far ahead in Ireland as a place to do business with,'' commented Mr Parsons. 

Barry Cowen, TD thanked Mr  Parsons, for his foresight in bringing the delegation to Tullamore .

He said it was important, ''to explore the potential that may exist and that is there to be tapped into in relation to our two jurisdictions.''

Councillor Danny Owens echoed what Deputy Cowen said, saying, it was a ''huge opportunity'' with ''massive potential,'' in the area of business and tourism. ''I would encourage everyone to put their heads together and try and explore all the possibilities,'' he urged.

Vice Mayor, Guo Qing, told those present that ''Chinese people do not have much knowledge of Ireland. So for us, Ireland is a mystery and we need more knowledge.''

He proposed a friendship between the two cities. Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Qing invited members of the Tullamore Municipal District, Offaly County Council and Chamber of Commerce to visit the city for the International Alcoholic Drinks Exposition and the International Cultural Fair.

In  turn he said they would like to come to learn about Tullamore Show and the National Ploughing Championships.

Councillor Tony McCormack said, as President of the Tullamore Chandler Sisters cities committee  and a local businessman, he sees first hand the benefits of the cultural, heritage and educational exchanges between Chandler and Tullamore.

''It's a great opportunity for us at the moment to look at somewhere else in the world and China being a huge powerhouse in the global economic market, I think it would be very good for us to explore the opportunities that may arise between the two areas,''

Cllr Tommy McKeigue, told the visitors Ireland was a  ''young nation, in may ways. We were under British rule for many years. We are a very friendly nation and we welcome all nations particularly tourists. I think good can only come out of this. I hope you enjoy your stay in Offaly go around and see some of the sites,''  he encouraged.

President of the Construction Industry Federation, Dominic Doheny said:

''We are a very proud people, proud of our heritage, very proud of our industrial heritage and very  proud of our industrial manufacturing base.''

He told the delegation the Chamber of Commerce was there to help and to answer any questions they may have now or when they return home. ''We are very keen to engage with your delegation,'' he stressed.

President of the Chamber of Commerce, Ann Starling told the Chinese group that Tullamore was a very friendly town. She said in 2016 it was nominated as the friendliest town in Ireland. However, she feels the town doesn't promote itself as well as it could. She wished them well ''I hope we can work with you in the coming months and years.'' she said.

Ending the formal proceedings,  Director of Services with Offaly County Council, Frank Heslin, thanked Patrick Parsons for initiating the contact. ''I hope the relationship will flourish,'' he concluded.

There followed an exchange of gifts before refreshments were served. The delegation were then taken on a tour of the town.

 

Camilla McLoughlin

 

 

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