Pictured at the Bridges of Ross to mark the virtual launch of the ‘County Clare Tourism Strategy 2030’ were: (front) Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Mary Howard; and (back, l-r) Leonard Cleary, Director of Rural Development, Clare County Council; Deirdre O’Shea, Head of Tourism, Clare County Council; and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council.
Clare County Council, supported by Fáilte Ireland, is today (22nd April, 2021) unveiling an ambitious roadmap for the development of tourism in County Clare post-Covid and over the next decade.
The ‘County Clare Tourism Strategy 2030’ will be officially launched by Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, at 10.00am.
The prioritised strategic directions of the Strategy focus on strengthening leadership and collaboration, improving connectivity, building vibrant experiences, enhancing supporting infrastructure and knowledge, and creating awareness.
29 Strategic priorities set out in the plan include working collaboratively to develop the profile, experiences and infrastructure of Ennis as a core hub attraction and gateway to the county as well as working with community partners to strengthen the role of towns and villages as destination hubs. Other strategic priorities include working with Shannon Airport to secure and sustain new routes, prioritising the development of the West Clare Rail Greenway, promoting the Lower Lough Derg as a signature destination, establishing sustainable travel options designed to support tourism, elevating the international significance of the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
Commenting on the Strategy, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Mary Howard, said: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic brought a sudden and catastrophic halt to travel, it is estimated that the tourism sector supported over 6,600 jobs in Clare. It is, therefore, essential that every effort is made to bring about tourism’s recovery and to support businesses that are affected now and during their journey back to growth.”
“While the recovery efforts are underway, devising sustainable long-term approaches to tourism development is imperative,” added Cllr Howard. “We want to attract more visitors to Clare in the future and spread the benefits of tourism across the county in a way that enriches our communities while, at the same time, maintaining our distinctive identity and protecting our natural environment.”
Developed on behalf of Clare County Council by consultancy firm TEAM Tourism, the 10-year strategy has been overseen by a Steering Group comprising the Clare County Council Tourism Department, Fáilte Ireland, Shannon Group, Shannon Heritage, Accolades Marketing and the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience. Over the past two years, extensive consultation has been undertaken with the public, Elected Members, Oireachtas Members, local tourism industry and community network groups.
“While the Strategy was prepared for Clare County Council, it is designed to be a roadmap for all businesses, communities, and government partners and agencies, and the success of its implementation will be dependent on a collaborative approach,” outlined Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council.
“During public consultation, the key message that was heard across the county was that tourism had to be about communities and their wellbeing. It had to be about sustainability in the truest meaning of the word,” stated Mr Dowling.
He continued: “The onset of the pandemic accentuated the importance of getting the direction right. Everything was re-evaluated with a new level of rigour, which was time well spent. The aspirations of the entire spectrum of stakeholders have shaped the goals and the strategic priorities. The Clare Tourism Strategy sets the stage for Clare to be at the forefront of sustainability and innovation in rural tourism within Ireland, and indeed beyond.”
“Our 2030 vision is for Clare to be globally-renowned sustainable and vibrant destination, easily reached and traversed, and recognised for its rich cultural assets, its stunning and open-space landscapes, its compelling array of remarkable experiences, and for its welcome and exceptional hospitality,” added Mr Dowling. “Achieving this vision will require all tourism interests in Clare, supported by government and national agencies, to work collaboratively to deliver an outcome that enriches all communities across our county.”
Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said: “The Clare Tourism Strategy 2030 sets out a comprehensive roadmap for tourism development in Clare over the next 10 years which will be critical for the recovery of tourism across the county.”
Mr Kelly added:
“Fáilte Ireland is committed to the sustainable development of tourism in County Clare, working hand in hand with Clare County Council to progress a number of initiatives including the Masterplan for the Cliffs of Moher, The Shannon Tourism Master Plan, the Burren, Cliff Coast and Lough Derg Destination and Experience Development Plans and two new trails off the Wild Atlantic Way, the Shannon Estuary Way and The Burren Discovery Trail.
Last week, we also announced a €19 million investment to develop state-of-the-art facilities for water-based activities. In Clare, two locations will be developed under this scheme, in partnership with Clare County Council – Ballycuggeran Sports Activity Facility, Ogonnelloe, Killaloe, and Waterworld, East End, Kilkee. We look forward to continuing to work together to develop the destination; increasing visitor numbers, dwell time and visitor spend, and ensuring that Clare is well established on the bucket list of Irish destinations, with a sustainable tourism model that benefits all.”
Leonard Cleary, Director of Rural Development, Clare County Council, said the new Tourism Department structure of Clare County Council as well as the new Clare Tourism Advisory Forum, working strongly with Fáilte Ireland, will “play a critical role in providing leadership in these immediate challenging times”.
Mr Cleary pointed out that the Strategy contains a “clear focus on developing tourism as a driver for economic development and rural development”.
“The value for the county as a whole is considerably lower than its market size rankings given a low average spend per overseas visitor and a high level of seasonality, and the distinctly uneven geographical spread of benefits,” he explained.
“The Strategy aims to redress this by working collaboratively with local and national stakeholders to deliver compelling quality experiences that reflect and leverage Clare’s unique identity, becoming globally recognised as a sustainable destination of the West of Ireland, and by spreading the benefits of tourism across the county and throughout the seasons in a way that enriches our communities,” concluded Mr Cleary.
Deirdre O’Shea, A/Head of Tourism, Clare County Council, said the Strategy will facilitate increased length of stay and visitor spend, and a dispersal of benefits to the wider community.
“The Strategy contains an Action Plan that will guide our immediate activities at any given time and will ensure that the Strategy remains highly relevant and responsive to new opportunities and challenges,” she added.
Ms O’Shea continued: “In recognition of the requirement for enhanced tourism products within the county, there are significant capital projects, which have been progressing by the Tourism Department and directorate colleagues, include the renovations to Loophead Lighthouse, Vandeleur Walled Gardens and development of a visitor experience for Inis Cealtra (Holy Island). In addition, and through Fáilte Ireland funding, Ennistymon Tourism Destination Town is progressing. This is all in addition to three Fáilte Ireland Destination and Experience Destination Plans that are in progress across the county.”
“Another one of the key strategic priorities identified within the strategy is to establish a county-wide Tourism Advisory Forum to strengthen governance and act as an advisory group for Clare County Council and a spokes-group for Tourism. This Tourism Advisory Forum is now well established with a keen focus on Clare’s recovery post the Covid-19 pandemic as well as implementation of the action plan set out” added Ms O’Shea.
A virtual launch of the Strategy will take place today on Clare County Council’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels. The ‘County Clare Tourism Strategy 2030’ is available to view on www.clarecoco.ie.