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A North Clare community tourism network has been recognised as one of the world’s top thirty places, people and tourism projects for 2021.

On Tuesday, the Lonely Planet announced the winners of the coveted Best in Travel awards for 2021. The Burren Ecotourism Network was named as one of ten winners in the new category ‘Best in Community’. It was described as “an impressive community collaboration of local enterprises which has transformed Ireland’s Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark into a global leader for sustainable tourism”. It takes pride of place among Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer train and Italy’s 245-mile Vie di Dante.

Places and people demonstrating a genuine commitment to community, diversity and sustainability across the world were recognised in this year’s awards on account of the huge alteration to the travelling trends this year.

Tourism Ireland have confirmed they will be undertaking promotional activity to highlight the accolade. This includes a new video that will focus on the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher Geopark that they will endeavour to share across the world.

Over a decade’s work was acknowledged, a thrilled CEO of the Buren Ecotourism Network, Jarlath O’Dwyer remarked. He recalled the weekly Zoom meetings held since March in an attempt to maximise the staycation season with proved to be a resounding success. Well-known visitors to the area included Paul O’Connell, Roz Purcell and Shane Filan, “once they put out their photos, it’s very influential.”

Sustainability is highlighted by O’Dwyer as the bedrock for all members. Among its varied group of members are the Cliffs of Moher and Aillwee Caves, the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon and a host of smaller operators.

CEO of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons said the award was “well-deserved which recognised “all of their hard work to become a global leader for sustainable tourism”. He added, “In what has been a devastating year for travel and tourism, this accolade is really good news and will surely inspire travellers everywhere to put the Burren, Co Clare and the island of Ireland on their holiday wish-list – when the time is right.”

Nóirín Hegarty, Lonely Planet; Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media; and Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, at the announcement that Burren Ecotourism Network has been named a ‘Best Community Tourism Project’ by Lonely Planet.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin (GP) stated, “In such a challenging year for the tourism industry, I am heartened to see Ireland and, in particular, the Burren Ecotourism Network become world leaders in sustainable tourism. When the time is right, I would encourage both domestic and international tourists alike to visit Co Clare and view the wonderful community activism on show, which helps protect this stunning part of our island”.

Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) hailed the announcement as “fantastic news”. He praised all personnel involved with the network for “rising above adversity with collective excellence and resilience”. He commented, “One of our greatest challenges and opportunities in these times is to build a really sustainable future where our towns, villages and communities thrive and grow alongside what is clearly one of Ireland’s leading tourism destinations”.

Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) felt the accolade had “County Clare rightly taking its place among the best places in the world to visit”.

Magic has always been associated with the area, Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) acknowledged. She said the Burren Ecotourism Network has always linked to businesses “to promote a destination for super food, walks, geology, botany, dolmens, clints, grykes and over all magic”.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the Shannon Municipal District, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) maintained the entire county would reap the benefits of the recognition. “This will help the overall attraction to our wonderful county”.

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