In 2013, Ireland welcomed an estimated 8 million overseas visitors to the island, delivering revenue of approximately €5.7 billion. Overseas tourism business accounts for 59% of all tourism revenue. Overseas visitor numbers are up +8.2% for November to January – or 100,000 additional visitors from North America, Canada, Mainland Europe, The UK, Australia & the Far East Developing Markets.
This morning, Fáilte Ireland (the Irish National Tourism Development Authority) along with it's Tourism partners all over the west coast of Ireland and around the world, officially launched it's latest signature project to rejuvenate Irish tourism: the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Irish Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring T.D. today promised visitors the “Journey of a Lifetime”, as he launched the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance driving route. Stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, the route will offer visitors an opportunity to truly discover the West Coast. Fáilte Ireland is investing €10 million in developing tourism related infrastructure along the route during 2014.
The Wild Atlantic Way has been developed "from the bottom up" through public meetings at local level all across the western region and following this comprehensive consultation process, the 2,500km route has now been finalised and includes 159 discovery points along the way. At this stage of its development, the route comprises of a main 'spine' but in time a series of looped itineraries will be created to further develop the experience for visitors.
|Minister Michael Ring launches the Wild Atlantic Way with Fiona Monaghan of Fáilte Ireland|
Speaking today, Minister Ring said: “The Wild Atlantic Way is a really exciting project which I’m delighted to launch here today. It’s the world’s longest touring route through some of Ireland’s most beautiful places and is already proving a hit in our key overseas markets like Britain, the US, France and Germany. It has massive potential to bring more visitors and more jobs to rural communities right along the western seaboard."
For Irish people living along it, the route is opening up new opportunities to get involved in developing new tourism products for visitors to their area. The objective of the project is to get tourism guests to stay longer by having more options, to learn more about our culture and heritage, to enjoy the beauty that we do living on these western Atlantic shores and ultimately to spend more money in the regions that they visit.
|Slieve League in County Donegal- part of the Wild Atlantic Way|
The Wild Atlantic Way offers the traveller a huge amount to see and do including over 500 Visitor Attractions, more than 1,500 activities to pursue, 580 festivals and events throughout the year, 17 trails and 50 looped walks, 53 Blue Flag beaches and 120 Golf Courses including some of the best ‘links’ golf in the world.
It is anticipated that as opportunities to start new tourism businesses become realised, that a new generation of tourism entrepreneurs will grow on the west coast of Ireland. The involvement of the communities along the western seaboard will be critical to the success of the Wild Atlantic Way project.
Fiona Monaghan, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, emphasised this point. “The enthusiasm out there for this project is impressive, not only amongst tourism businesses but also in the wider community. The key to success for this initiative will be its authenticity – not just the places but also the people of the Wild Atlantic Way," she said. “Fáilte Ireland is working with tourism operators and local communities to ensure that they can engage with the opportunities offered by the project and to assist them in ‘telling and selling’ and in bringing their stories to life along the route.”
The Wild Atlantic Way will also feature 159 'Discovery Points'. Along the route, these points are distinct sites, large and small, each chosen for their potential to offer visitors an authentic and intimate experience of the natural and wild landscape and seascape. A Discovery Point is a viewing point at which the visitor can stop off along the route and learn more about that place by means of on-site information and interpretation.
|Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway - part of the Wild Atlantic Way|
15 of these 'Discovery Points' have been identified as being “Signature Discovery Points” – in other words, iconic must-see sights along Ireland’s west coast. Of these 15 iconic sites, three are already well-established visitor attractions and will require minimal work to play their part - Sliabh Liag in Co Donegal, the Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare and Mizen Head, Co Cork.
Donegal, Leitrim & Sligo
Inishowen Peninsula– Derry to Letterkenny
Fanad Head-Letterkenny to Bunbeg
Distance: 163 km
The Slieve League Coast-Bunbeg to Donegal Town
Donegal Bays & Sligo– Donegal Town to Ballina
Slieve League Coast
Mayo & Galway
Erris- Ballina to Belmullet
Clew Bay & Achill Island-Belmullet to Westport
Killary Harbour-Westport to Clifden
Connemara-Clifden to Galway City
Clare & Limerick
West Clare & The Burren-Galway to Kilkee
The Shannon Estuary-Kilkee to Tralee
Cliffs of Moher
Loop Head Drive
Kerry & Cork
The Dingle Peninsula-Tralee to Castlemaine
Ring of Kerry-Castlemaine to Kenmare
Beara to Sheep’s Head-Kenmare to Durrus
West Cork– Durrus to Kinsale
Fáilte Ireland is currently developing a specially designed Wild Atlantic Way App which will be available for visitors at the end of June. This app - which is being designed for both Apple and Android devices - will be a key resource for visitors as they travel along the route and will be a very important tool in ensuring that visitors spread out to discover all to see and do off-route as well as on it.
|Poulnabrone Dolmen in The Burren, Co Clare - part of the Wild Atlantic Way|
“Unlike The Gathering, the Wild Atlantic Way is not a ‘one-off’ but rather an evolving project which will build and develop over the years", said Minister Ring. "The Wild Atlantic Way is set to be one of the most significant developments in modern Irish tourism and to be a significant engine of regeneration for rural Ireland.”
You can Follow Failte Ireland on Twitter @Failte_Ireland
To keep right up to date with all new information, foodie finds and secret gems discovered along the route Search out the Twitter hashtag #WildAtlanticWay