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Benefits of campervan tourism questioned

LOW-BUDGET tourism was debated by the council’s Rural Committee this week when members heard that some visitors are going so far as to dispose of the contents of campervan sewage tanks in public toilets.
Councillor Cillian Murphy said one particular blog had advice on travelling the Wild Atlantic Way without spending a penny.
“This includes a guide on how to dump the contents of a sewage box,” he said. “It talks about walking into a shopping centre with a bag in order to do so. Explain to me the economic value of that.”
The Fianna Fáil member made his remarks when asked by Councillor Pat Burke about the experience in West Clare last summer. It followed a presentation to the Rural Committee of The County Clare Tourism Strategy 2030.
Councillor Burke welcomed positive tourism developments for East Clare, but raised concerns about the restriction of services due to the pandemic.
“We had a number of campers arrive at Dromaan Harbour over the weekend,” he said.
“Designated sites are closed because of Covid and visitors are very welcome provided they respect the area. People are getting ready to hit the road and a lot of them have found County Clare and Dromaan Harbour.
“They’re taking drone footage and shooting videos and sending them on to friends so we can expect more people.
“These people are respectful and not undesirable in any way. My concern is that if undesirables do arrive, we could have a problem.”
Councillor Murphy, who called previously for a management strategy for motorhome tourism, raised questions over capacity.
“The issue was very obvious last summer,” he said. “I accept that resources are needed as part of a management strategy, but the cost of dealing with issues could outweigh the cost having a plan.”
He also cited the example of Cobh in County Cork where public carparks are designated for motorhome visitors.
“People are more than welcome if they come to the designated facilities and pay the standard fee, but need to realise that parking elsewhere is illegal,” he said.
“The impact on Spanish Point and Fanore last summer is very well documented. There was no set of rules and no policing. New Zealand and Australia do this very well and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
The Fianna Fáil member also told Councillor Burke, “I feel your pain, but it’s going to get more painful this year”. “People will shoot amazing drone footage and you are going to be overrun,” he added.
“I have yet to be convinced of the economic value of this. I did MA research on the economic impact of campervan tourism and I couldn’t get information on the spend per night. The jury is still out on the value versus the cost, however it is a market segment and we need to keep that in mind.”
Councillor Mary Howard noted that motorhome owners would, in normal times, be on the continent.
“It’s only become popular to stay in Ireland because of Covid,” she said.
“In Cobh, they bring an economic boost to the town centre. We need to identify parks here where the situation can be controlled.”
Director of Services Leonard Cleary noted that the tourism plan had focused first on getting the product right. “We’re now addressing the outdoor experience at beaches,” he said.
Committee chairperson Councillor Pat Hayes added that many tourism operators depend on motorhome visitors and he looked forward to a strategy being developed.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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