THE dispersal of tourists from the Wild Atlantic Way to other parts of Clare is one of the main aims of the new tourism strategy, according to a local tourism chief.
Speaking at a recent Killaloe Municipal District meeting, Shannon Heritage managing director, Niall O’Callaghan said one of the objectives of the new strategy is to disperse the tourism traffic movement from the Wild Atlantic Way onto Loop Head, North Clare, Bunratty and East Clare.
“No other county in Ireland has the range of attractions that Clare has. Shannon Heritage is working with the council executive to build a strategy to disrupt the flow, not take from the Wild Atlantic Way and keep these people in Clare for as long as possible.
“Getting more tourists to the likes of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is also a key focus for Shannon Heritage.
“It is fantastic to see the Cliffs of Moher getting 1.5 million visitors a year. But how many of these visitors go back to Dublin the same day and don’t spend a cent in Clare? Clearly we know this is a challenge.
“Attracting free independent travellers to stay in the region is clearly going to be a focus for Shannon Heritage’s perspective,” he said.
Working with Clare County Council on the development of the new tourism strategy, he said Shannon Heritage is happy to look at potential options to increase its portfolio with the assistance of the council or any other public authority.
“Shannon Heritage has a suite of expertise it can bring to certain visitor attractions. That is up to the owner to decide whether this is something they have an interest in or not,” he said.
Killaloe Municipal District chairman, Councillor Pat Burke expressed concern about the huge imbalance between the number of tourists visiting the Cliffs of Moher versus those who were staying on to enjoy the wide range of amenities in East Clare.
“We hear North Clare councillors talking about traffic congestion and all the problems associated with the success of the Cliffs of Moher.
“We need to siphon these visitors to some of the attractions in East Clare,” he said.
Councillor Alan O’Callaghan said the lack of bed nights from people attending the Cliffs of Moher was a major issue as visitors were arriving in the morning and not staying at night.
Councillor Joe Cooney said he hoped the new tourism strategy would attract more tourists to East Clare.
Despite the increase in the number of tourists coming through Shannon from 400,000 to 900,000 over the last seven years, he said very few of these are coming to East Clare.
Council chairman, Councillor Michael Begley said he was disturbed to see a newspaper report describing Clare as a “poor relation” of the Wild Atlantic Way in terms of bed nights.
“That is very sad considering the amount of tourist attractions in Clare,” he said.
Mr O’Callaghan confirmed Shannon Heritage in association with Failte Ireland is implementing a masterplan to bring Bunratty Folk Park from a conservation and interpretation perspective up to 21st century standards for a visitor attraction of its size.
Citing the Ceide Fields in Mayo as an example of a visitor attraction that has lost its appeal, Councillor Begley stressed that nothing stands still for these facilities that require regular upgrading.