Responsible Tourism Conference 2015

Well Done To James Chilton and Howard Goodwin of ICRT.ie who held a very successful conference in Dublin for Responsible Tourism on Wednesday last. The variety and quality of speakers were second to none and the wealth of information vast!
I arrived at lunchtime as I had a prior engagement so the first speaker I saw was Caroline Warburton, National strategy delivery coordinator for The Scottish Tourism Alliance. She highlighted how tourists do not differentiate between providers of activities or accommodation when they are looking for things to do, they just want to know what there is to do and do it. Tourism is everyones’ business and the TS2020 initiative aims to bring all the seperate initiatives together under one common strategy. Whilst a work in progress Caroline confirmed that already there is a distinct change in the culture of tourism in Scotland with collaboration being key.
I also enjoyed Joanna Hayes‘ of ThisIsCavan.ie who spoke about how their Accessibility Initiative turned into a tourism initiative by chance as the benefits of raising awareness and providing better services attract a new market to the area. She pointed out that in many cases it is our attitude to disability more than anything that needs to change.
Rina Garrett of Errisbeo has whet my appetite for a visit to this Wild Atlantic hugging place with tales of Corncrakes, Trails and Arts to enjoy.
It was a day for the ladies as Siobhan Burke of Living The Sheep’s Head Way gave a rousing talk on how they focused on the collective advantage and cross promotion amongst themselves to create a place that people can enjoy for short breaks including a focus on foodie tours supported by the ‘Eating the Sheeps head Way’ book and much more besides.
The Sheep’s Head peninsula has been recognised as a European Destination of Excellence in recognition of the sustainable tourism on offer in this unspoilt part of the world.
Silva Dorang spoke on behalf of the Aviva Stadium who place strong importance on sustainability using rainwater systems, (the water from which is then used to irrigate the pitch)and waterless urinals for example! Silva confirmed that they saved over €1m in one year along from implementation of sustainable practices. Currently they are working with their local community – Sandymount Village , to create a ‘place to be’ community hub. Watch this space…
Dr Xavier Font had us all in stitches as he ran through some examples of ‘How To Sell‘ case studies. We now know that he is petrified of staying in a place with more than 5 recycling bins for fear of putting the wrong refuse into the wrong bin! 😉
He suggested that an eco tourism business, when preparing a sentence for copy, might focus less on promoting their sustainability practices and instead put what’s good for the customer at the start of the sentence and only end with how this was achieved sustainably (if at all). He likened the potential customers’ interest in a business’ sustainability practices akin to watching someone else’s wedding video… This caused some debate amongst the attendees yet is certainly worth consideration at the very least.
Collaboration and Story based trails were a recurring theme and no less so than with Martin Carey of the Mournes Heritage Trust who introduced us to the Trails and Tales available in the area including how they have created a Narnia walk (author C. S. Lewis apparently spent some time here), The fabulous Tollymore Forest, Stone Men trail and much more.
Cillian Murphy showed how ambition, collaboration and passion can create great things with the Loop Head Peninsula  (cool website by the way!) in Co Clare, explaining how they decided they needed to turn ‘The’ Wild Atlantic  Way’ into ‘Our’ Wild Atlantic Way!
Cillian cited the importance of differentiating between areas on The Wild Atlantic Way and the importance of involving the local communities so they feel part of it. Carefully collecting data and uploading every piece of information they collated they plan to create a widget that can perhaps be plugged into other sites including www.wildatlanticway.com
All in all it was a super day and the lunch sponsored by Failte Ireland was fabulous too. I shall definitely be going along next year!
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Responsible Tourism Awards Winners

Of course the 2015 Responsible Tourism Awards also took place on Wednesday evening and whilst I was unable to attend I could see on Twitter how exciting it was. The judges reasoning for their decisions can be found at /media/50639/irishrtawards2015_final_10.03.15.doc

Best Tour Operator for Responsible Tourism

  • GOLD:Connemara Wild Escapes (Co. Galway)
  • SILVER:Cycle Inishowen (Co. Donegal), Whale Watch West Cork (Co. Cork)

Best Small Hotel or Accommodation for Responsible Tourism

  • GOLD:Hotel Doolin (Co. Clare)
  • SILVER:Pure Camping (Co. Clare), Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat (Co. Leitrim), Tory Bush Cottages (Co. Down)

Best Transport Initiative for Responsible Tourism

  • GOLD:An Taisce Green Schools Travel and Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark Partnership (Co. Clare)
  • SILVER:Cycle Inishowen (Co. Donegal), Rock Farm Slane (Co. Meath)

Best in a Marine or Coastal Environment

  • GOLD:Dolphin Watch (Co. Clare)
  • SILVER:Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours (Co. Kerry) and Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre & Nature Reserve (Co. Kerry)

Best Destination for Responsible Tourism

  • GOLD:Loop Head Peninsula (Co. Clare),
  • SILVER:Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark (Co. Clare), Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Cooperative (Co. Cork), Mulranny, Co. Mayo (Co. Mayo)

Best Cultural Heritage Attraction

  • GOLD:Cnoc Suain (Co. Galway)
  • SILVER:Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange & Knowth) (Co. Meath), Mizen Head Signal Station & Visitor Centre (Co. Cork)

Best Local Food Initiative

  • GOLD:Archways B&B (Co. Wexford)
  • SILVER:Burren Smokehouse (Co. Clare), Orchard Acre Farm (Co. Fermanagh)

Best Adventure Activity Provider for Responsible Tourism

  • GOLD:Atlantic Sea Kayaking and Wild Atlantic Walks (Co. Cork)
  • SILVER:Life Adventure Centre (Co. Down), Boyne Valley Activities (Co. Meath)

Overall Winner: Atlantic Sea Kayaking and Wild Atlantic Walks (Co. Cork)

Congratulations to all winners!