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The Burren. Photograph by John Kelly.

Geopark shortlisted for international tourism award

THE management and promotion of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark as a sustainable destination has been officially recognised by one of the world’s foremost tourism and travel award schemes.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has confirmed the Geopark is one of 18 finalists for its 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, just two months after the Clare destination was shortlisted for a top honour in the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are one of the highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry, recognising sustainable tourism best practices in businesses and destinations worldwide, ranging from local destinations to global hotel groups, international airlines, luxury tour operators and small eco-lodges.
Award applications were received this year from 56 countries, representing all continents.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark has been shortlisted alongside Bonito (Brazil) and Temes SA in Costa Navarino (Greece) as Destination Award finalists for “showing commitment to supporting and delivering sustainable tourism best practices in their destinations”.

Winners and finalists will be recognised during a gala evening at WTTC’s annual global summit, to be held in Hainan, China on April 24. Ahead of the ceremony, an independent panel of expert judges from around the world will conduct an on-site evaluation of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark during February.

The news has been welcomed by Mayor of Clare Joe Arkins who said, “Being shortlisted for the Destination Award of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards will greatly help the efforts of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark team, and their partners the Burren Ecotourism Network, in communicating the wonder and diversity of the destination to the worldwide visitor.”

Carol Gleeson, manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, said the award nomination is testament to the partnership approach to promoting sustainable tourism in the Burren that has been developed by regional development agencies and the local community.

She explained, “Since 2008, Clare County Council has been working in the Burren to develop a truly sustainable tourism destination that gives direct benefits to the local community, promotes and celebrates local culture and produce, preserves the environment and provides a great experience for our visitors. This has been achieved with great support and partnership from local communities and businesses and agencies responsible for tourism and conservation and local development.

“This work includes establishing the Burren Ecotourism Network as far back as 2008, achieving UNESCO recognised Global Geopark status in 2011 and providing environmental and business training, developing a destination brand, promoting certification and, importantly, linking high responsible tourism standards with economic benefit to the area. The Geopark has also attracted €2.2m funding through the EU Life Programme to develop an international sustainable tourism destination model,” Ms Gleeson added.

According to Costas Christ, chairman of the judging panel, “Each year, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards recognize sustainable tourism best practices in action, helping to transform the travel and tourism industry based upon the principles of environmentally-friendly operations, support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage and direct benefits to the social and economic well-being of local people in travel destinations around the world. This year’s finalists continue to demonstrate that when carefully managed, tourism can be a powerful force for improving livelihoods and protecting our planet for future generations.”

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