Internationally recognised certification in Ecotourism standards have been presented to a group of Galway tourism businesses.
Athenry based Fidelma Ray of Cycle West Ireland received a Gold award as an ‘Ecotourism Operator’. Slieve Aughty Riding Centre attained a Gold award for their ‘Walking with a Donkey and Family Green Holidays’. Silver awards were presented to Peter Downey of Riverside Paradise of Esker, Banagher, Co. Galway and Flor Burke of Crann óg Eco Farm, Drummin, Gort, Co. Galway. The programme was co-ordinated by Ecotourism Ireland, which is one of only fourteen such organisations worldwide recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The programme was initiated and funded through the Rural Development Programme by Galway Rural Development Company.
‘Under the Rural Development Programme (LEADER ) Galway Rural Development initiated training over the last three years to encourage the development of ecotourism in East Galway. Businesses that have participated are at the forefront in terms of incorporating eco principles into the tourism experiences they offer to customers,’ commented Patricia Kelly, Enterprise Officer, Galway Rural Development.
Ecotourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society TIES as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” focuses on ecologically and socially responsible, nature-based tourism that fosters environmental appreciation and understanding while contributing to the local economy.
Gold Award recipient CycleWest Ireland is an authentic Irish Bike Tour Company and holds the title of Ecotourism Operator. Established in 1997, CycleWest Ireland is a family run Bike Tour Company that offers tailor made family adventures, guided, independent tours throughout the West Coast of Ireland concentrating on Connemara, The Burren Region and The Aran islands. www.cyclewest.ie; The Slieve Aughty Centre based at Kylebrack, Loughrea, Co. Galway received the Gold Award for it’s ‘Walking with a Donkey’ and ‘Family Green Holidays’ and are now certified ecotourism experiences! View www.riding-centre.com for more information.
Crann Óg based at Drummin, Gort, Co. Galway offers a form of low budget ecotourism that is really down-to-earth, in comfortable wood cabins or yurts, incorporating yoga, nature, local flora and fauna, birds and wildlife. This silver ecotourism award was awarded for their Children’s Eco Yoga and Nature Experience. Crann Óg is a place of sustainable living, incorporating alternative energy sources and organic farming, with a community-orientated attitude. www.crann-og.net The Riverside Paradise luxury self catering house situated on the bank of the River Shannon at Banagher, Esker, Co. Galway is an approved 4 star rated. This deserving recipient of the silver awards offers 6 stunning bedrooms, 5 bathrooms as well as private water front garden- all the essentials for relaxation, rest and retreat. www.riversideparadise.com
Other participants in the Ecotourism training programme who attended the awards presentation were Gary Gorman of Lakeview Holidays, Dolores O’Shea of Ireland Reaching Out, Stan Cahill of Coole Park, Gort, Alan Burgess of Athenry Heritage Centre and Maria McNamara of Raheen Woods Hotel, Athenry,
The Rural Development Programme (LEADER ) runs until the end of 2013 and businesses with innovative tourism ideas that are based East of the Corrib in County Galway are invited to contact Galway Rural Development regarding supports and grants available for the development of their product.
A new Galway Ecotourism Network has now been formed and attendees at the ecotourism awards ceremony are committed to working together to provide a platform for ecotourism in Galway. Providers want to share knowledge as well as harness marketing opportunities as a collective so as to strengthen their businesses and attract tourists to the region. Tourism businesses who may be interested in becoming involved with this Network or seeking advice on potential LEADER funding are invited to contact Sue Clarke or Patricia Kelly, Enterprise Officers with Galway Rural Development by calling 091 844335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; View www.grd.ie