WITH fresh hopes that Limerick city may join the official route of the Wild Atlantic Way, the now well-established brand is winning National accolades and awards but more importantly, it is gaining traction having carved initial international awareness.
While the city and county benefit from indirect revenue from the WAW, the key challenges now being addressed in 2016 include increasing route awareness, shoulder season extension and attaining regional spread of visitors.
This was the overview given at a Shannon Chamber briefing on the project, hosted in the Viewing Gallery at Shannon Airport, with guest speakers Suzanne Treahy, client services manager, Fáilte Ireland and Mark Nolan, managing director, Dromoland Castle Hotel.
Designed to attract domestic and international tourists, particularly from the UK, US, Germany and France and in two specific segments – the curiously cultural and the great escaper – the 2,500 kilometre route stretching from Donegal to Cork, has already been visited by over 800 journalists from 20 countries, which has helped to spread the message about its uniqueness. Social media platforms, which include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a new APP, have already gained almost 300,000 followers.
Speaking at the event, Suzanne Treahy said: “We’ve had a busy two years with €12million invested in tourism capital infrastructure along the route: signage has been installed from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in Co Cork; 188 discovery points have been sited along the route including 15 signature discovery points and; a fully dedicated consumer and trade website and app have been launched.
“Further development of the Wild Atlantic Way will continue this year with the intention of bringing each site to life and encouraging visitor engagement, photo-friendly marker points already installed and interpretation panels (explaining the significance of each point ) are due to be installed this year.
“Activating the Wild Atlantic Way LinkedIn Forum is a key priority for 2016, to get the business community more involved with and interactive with the project,” added Ms Treahy.
Dromoland Castle Hotel’s managing director Mark Nolan said 2016 looks very promising for tourism in the region but called for greater joined-up thinking on how to address off-season issues impacting the West of Ireland.
“Contrary to popular belief, the West of Ireland does not close down in September and reopen in April,” he said.
“Visitors need a compelling reason to stay in an area at any time of year and The Wild Atlantic Way will greatly assist our endeavours to attract visitors to the region off season; its beauty is not season bound. Increasing awareness in not an instant process but it has now started and we now need to get greater traction.”
Encouraging members to promote this incredible asset for the West of Ireland, Shannon Chamber’s chief executive Helen Downes said: “The Wild Atlantic Way is an amazing product concept and an additional attractor for encouraging businesses to locate here. The value of having the longest defined coastal tourism route in the world on our doorsteps cannot be underestimated; it enhances the quality of life offering in the region.”
The 2,500 km Wild Atlantic Way route incorporates 200 towns and villages, 188 discovery points, 15 signature discovery points, 5 national parks, 6 Gaeltacht regions, and 26 offshore islands.