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Coastal Tourism in the West of Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) is Ireland’s first long-distance coastal touring route, covering over 2,500 km along the West coast of Ireland. Launched in 2014 by Fáilte Ireland, the goal of the WAW is to further develop Ireland as a high-quality and competitive tourism destination in overseas tourist markets. This case study aims to use the Wild Atlantic Way as a living lab for a Blue Growth Pathway that will generate guidelines for the development of sustainable coastal tourism trails. Interviews will be conducted with tourists along the route and with business and community stakeholders. Data from the interviews will be analysed using a number of social science modelling techniques. . The results of the case study will be reviewed against the European Strategy for more Growth and Jobs in Coastal and Maritime Tourism in order to develop and suggest transition plans and pathways for Blue Growth in tourism, specifically coastal tourism trails. This case study is being led by SEMRU at NUI Galway.

Blue Growth pathway for coastal tourism trails

As part of the EU’s Blue Growth strategy, marine and coastal tourism is viewed as one of five focus maritime areas with the potential to foster “a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe”. However, while marine and coastal tourism are vital economic activities for a wide range of coastal regions across the EU Atlantic Arc, the sector faces increasing sustainability challenges due to increasing demand and the accompanying social consequences for local communities and environmental consequences for local coastal and marine resources.

Adopting transition management as a broad analytical framework through which to understand existing marine management regimes and to stimulate thinking about how more sustainable regimes may be realized in the future, this study reports on research conducted on the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), a 2500 km coastal touring route along the west coast of Ireland. Following a brief review of the marine and coastal tourism management regime in Ireland and the niche and landscape pressures that the sector faces, this study outlines the multi-method approach adopted for this study which was carried out between 2018- 2020. The MOSES project team in NUI Galway in Ireland developed an extensive tourist survey and conducted in-depth collaborative research with a local community situated on the WAW to identify the pressures, preferences and development trends relevant to coastal tourism and sustainable pathways for the growth of the tourism trail sector.

The study suggests that to support sustainable coastal tourism close collaboration at the community level is required. Locals at tourist destinations not only drive the tourism product itself, but live with the consequences of tourist activities in the area, and, therefore, have an increased motivation to develop and promote sustainable pathways. The study presents a community-generated collaborative framework that can overcome barriers and maximise opportunities in sustainable coastal tourism trail development. It concludes by highlighting key recommendations and policy advice that other European regions may wish to consider if this sector is to lead to sustainable Blue Growth.

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