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Visitor experience and attractions representative body appoints its first CEO

New AVEA CEO, Catherine Flanagan sets out her vision to showcase the very best that Ireland’s visitor experiences and attractions have to offer

The Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AVEA) has announced the appointment of Catherine Flanagan as its inaugural chief executive. Having worked with AVEA since 2018, Catherine takes on the new role with a vast experience of the tourism, hospitality, and visitor attraction sectors. Her CV is bolstered by a keen interest in early career development, cultural entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Commenting on Catherine’s appointment, Chair of AVEA, Sean Connick said: “The creation of the new chief executive position is an incredibly exciting development for the Association. Since our foundation in 2017, we’ve grown to over 100 members across Ireland, all of whom play a core part of Ireland’s world class visitor experience and tourism offering. In establishing the chief executive role there was strong sentiment among our membership that now is the right time to move AVEA into its next stage of growth.

“In taking up the role, Catherine brings with her a longstanding background in tourism and the visitor experience and attraction sectors to support this growth. This is very much complemented by her unique ability to bring people together. Accolades which no doubt will serve our core purposes of advocacy, member networking, knowledge exchange, careers and education, and research, as well as advancing the sustainable goals of our sector. As Chair, I am delighted that Catherine will lead this important next phase for the Association and our wider membership.”

Employing over 4,500 people, AVEA’s membership base ranges from iconic internationally-renowned sites such as the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, the National Museums of Ireland, and Kylemore Abbey, to strategically located attractions including Birr Castle, Hook Lighthouse, the Rock of Cashel, and Spike Island.

AVEA is the recognised voice for the visitor experience and attraction sector in representing its interests to the national tourism agencies Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, and to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport, Gaeltacht and Media. AVEA is a member of ITIC, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation.

Speaking of her appointment to the role Catherine Flanagan said: “It is a real privilege to be trusted with leading AVEA as its first CEO and support a sector which holds Ireland’s most important strategic tourism assets. Visitor experiences and attractions are such an important part of Ireland’s tourism offering, providing the essential ‘things to see and do’ that create amazing memories and make lasting impressions. As a country, we have wonderful natural attractions, a richness of heritage and culture, and a tapestry of tales to tell our domestic and international visitors.

“My vision is for a sector that works collaboratively and creatively to showcase the very best that Ireland has to offer: one which nurtures and develops the talents and skills of our workforce, and that uses research, data, and knowledge exchange as the foundation for our advocacy. I am invigorated to work closely with AVEA members in building a strong voice for the sector and ensuring that experiences which entertain and engage visitors with Ireland’s unique culture and heritage are well recognised.”