Wild Atlantic Way used as research model for sustainable coastal tourism in Europe

The Wild Atlantic Way has been used as a research model to establish best practice for the development of marine and coastal tourism trails in the EU without having a detrimental effect on local communities or the environment.

The research forms part of the Moses Project which aims to further the EU’s Blue Growth strategy in five focus maritime areas with the potential to accelerate learning across Europe. The five maritime areas are aquaculture, marine and coastal tourism, offshore renewable energy, ports and fisheries.

Blue Growth is defined as growth that does not interfere with the marine environment’s long-term ability to continue to deliver ecosystem services.The Moses Project, which is concluding this year, has eight partners in five countries, comprising a mixture of research centres/universities, regional government and a public body representing marine-based activities. The project is funded through the innovative EU INTERREG Programme called Atlantic Area.

The research on the 2,500 km Wild Atlantic Way was carried out between 2018 and 2020 by a project team in the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU ) based at NUI Galway following a brief review of the marine and coastal tourism management regime in Ireland.

The Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA ) was also a partner in the two-year project. It stresses that sustainable coastal tourism can only be achieved through close collaboration at the community level and offers key recommendations for other European regions to consider if the sector is to lead to sustainable Blue Growth.

The Moses Project research has identified a need to:

— improve infrastructure.

— Identify and develop the unique experiences and draws that entice visitors to stay longer.—

— Reduce some pressures by developing policies aimed at extending the tourist season.• Identify and reduce environmental pressures and damages early

The Moses survey work suggests that tourists taking part in marine-related activities spend more and stay longer than the average tourist. Regional authorities and tourism agencies should provide supports for the development of niche marine tourism product offerings in areas outside the main destination points of the trail.

They should reduce emphasis on daytrips (where tourist money is often diverted from locals ). This will keep jobs local where possible and foster community engagement by supporting cultural and traditional experiences as visitor experiences.• Encourage ICT uptake in sustainable tourism trail usage.• Encourage tourist operators to shorten their supply chains by using locally sourced inputs, and to consider their waste management strategies and use of alternative materials.

Commenting on the project, Dr Liam M. Carr of NUI Galway said that Ireland’s tourism destinations reflect the community there.

“Their initiatives create the identity that brings tourists in. At the same time, these communities are also changed by their success. That is their motivation behind developing and promoting sustainability within their tourism sector. They’re looking to find the balance between drawing tourists year to year while keeping what makes them intact.”

Noel Ballantyne, GIS Manager with the Northern & Western Regional Assembly, said Tourism is vital to the Irish economy and nowhere more so than in the northern and western region, but tourism is changing.

“There is an increasing demand for sustainable visitor experiences. Moses interpreted these changes, accelerated by Covid-19. It is important that we understand the strategic space open to our tourism sector but particularly our marine service providers.“

Using the Wild Atlantic Way as a best practice model, this Blue Growth pathway recommends actions on how to further develop costal tourism with greater community involvement and ecological/environmental sustainability,” he concluded.


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