Savannah visitors talk tourism at a meeting in the National Opera House in Wexford

By Amy Lewis

Published 15/10/2016 | 00:00

Colm Neville, Wexford Tourism; Joe Marinelli, Savannah; Bill Miles, Savannah; Cllr Michael Sheehan, chairman, ESBC); Jo Piani, Savannah rep in London; and Howard Keeley.
Colm Neville, Wexford Tourism; Joe Marinelli, Savannah; Bill Miles, Savannah; Cllr Michael Sheehan, chairman, ESBC); Jo Piani, Savannah rep in London; and Howard Keeley.

Tourism representatives jetted in from Savannah last week to discuss how they can join forces with Wexford to boost their tourism numbers.

At a meeting in the National Opera House, Chair of the Council's Economic SPC Cllr Michael Sheehan welcomed the guests to the county and said that he hoped they can work together to bring tourists into both regions.

'We want to encourage people to go to the Southeast, irrespective of who wins the election,' he said.

Howard Keely of Georgia Southern University brought the idea of "WexSav" to the table - a new website detailing the historic links between the two places that will soon go live.

'Using this site, we can take people to Wexford while they are in Savannah. We would like to get it here so that it serves both communities,' he said.

Mr Keely underlined the benefits that strengthening links could have for both places.

'Wexford owns Savannah in a unique way and no other Southern city can claim Irishness like Savannah,' he said, 'And Savannah's Irishness is big-time Wexford. As Savannah is a fast-growing region, it could be an amazing footprint for Wexford in the US.'

Taking the audience back in time, he then spoke about how the links between Savannah and Wexford were first formed. The story began in the 1850s, when Wexford natives set sail on ships from Wexford and New Ross to the US. These journey's brought many influential people from Wexford to Savannah, including Fr Peter Whelan from Clongeen and the Kehoe family from Monamolin.

'Wexford people are still welcome in Savannah, more so now than ever,' said Mr Keely.

President of Visit Savannah Joseph Marinelli reiterated this remark in a presentation encouraging people to make a trip to the city. He said that the things that entice those from Savannah to Ireland are much the same as those that bring the Irish people to Savannah.

'Irish culture, the St Patrick's Day Parade, genealogy, golf, Irish pubs and Irish hospitality are what brings American's here and it's virtually the same for the Irish coming to Savannah,' he said.

Mr Marinelli also acknowledged what Ireland's sunny southeast had offered him since he arrived 27 hours previously.

'I have been here for 27 hours and it still hasn't rained,' he joked. 'I'm not convinced it rains here. I think it's just a myth to try to keep the place all to yourselves.'

Marinelli and Keely were joined by London representative of Visit Savannah Jo Pianni and Hilton Head Chamber President Bill Miles, who also made a speech. Their visit marked the beginning of a week of events between themselves and Wexford representatives from across the board. The programme included a Civic Reception in the Heritage Park and a visit to Enniscorthy Castle, where ideas regarding tourism were also discussed.

Wexford People

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