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Photo: Julie Tillett

‘Experience Clare’ passport a way of increasing county spread of tourists

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*Photograph: Julie Tillett

‘An Experience Clare’ passport is in the pipeline which will encourage tourists to sample the numerous attractions in the county as opposed to one-stop visits to certain locations.

It comes off the back of a motion from Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF), co-signed by Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) and Cllr Shane Talty (FF) to the March meeting of the West Clare Municipal District. They called on the County Council to undertake the development of an “Experience Clare passport” which would “improve on the principle” of the Wild Atlantic Way equivalent by Fáilte Ireland. Their aim is “to leverage the global recognition of the Cliffs of Moher to create a wider, measurable positive impact across the county”.

Acting Head of Tourism within the Council, Deirdre O’Shea committed to supporting the concept and noted that a meeting between the three councillors and key stakeholders was required “in order to explore and research this further”.

Of the Wild Atlantic Way passport, Cllr Murphy acknowledged it was “a great idea” but felt “it has become a product that encourages a faster use of the Wild Atlantic Way” by stopping at designated sites, taking a photograph and moving, “it is missing the trick of not getting people to do something that connects them to where they are”.

A tourism consultant, Murphy outlined that ‘honeypot sites’ had the problem where large numbers of visitors were arriving, taking a photo and leaving. The Cliffs of Moher is one such site and he believed the ‘Experience Clare Passport’ could provide “much more far reaching local benefit”. He explained that it was “based on the idea that you can only truly experience Clare by doing, for example, these ten activities based across the whole county. Each one should be a paid activity taking at least a half a day, but preferably a full day, so a boat trip, surfing lesson, a guided hike or off road cycle tour, an educational or cultural experience, like learning to dance a set.

“Having completed the activity or experience, the participant gets the stamp from whomever is the activity provider, so each stamp comes at a price. It could be done on a two week holiday or it can be done over a year or two years, think the Camino, but by its nature, most taking part will have to stay overnight, they will have to eat so it becomes a package the accommodation sector in the locality can take to market. Once the customer has the 10 activities completed they send the passport back to the Cliffs of Moher management team in order to claim their reward, a specially commissioned medal or sculpture, a piece of original local art who make a production of the awarding of it”.

He acknowledged there would be a cost to the Cliffs of Moher for developing and marketing the product but was adamant, “the economic benefit to the local community is multiples of this. “The beauty for the Cliffs of Moher is that it has access to all the data on the passport, they know exactly the localised value of each customer to the area, what they did, who they did it with, how long they stayed, and where”.

It reminded Cllr Killeen of his days as a school principal organising tours and the Kerry brochure which listed “five activities combined” sprung to mind. “Cillian is talking about a co-ordinated approach to tourism in the county, using the Wild Atlantic Way particularly the Cliffs of Moher as a centre point”. He added that there are lots of cars and people travelling to the Cliffs but a cohesive package was required. “We need to have the transport in place so that people can get from one activity to the next, it encourages slow tourism”.

“Everytime we talk about tourism in Clare, we talk about how we can slow them down and keep them in Clare,” Cllr Talty stated. He believed this was one such way of doing so, “I look forward to developing this further”.

NOTE: This meeting and discussion took place prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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