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Tourism on Wild Atlantic Way worth over €3bn a year

A report by Fáilte Ireland on the economic impact of the Wild Atlantic Way, which was created by the National Tourism Development Authority, has found it is worth more than €3 billion per year in tourism revenue to communities along the western seaboard.

Fáilte Ireland said it has led to the creation of an additional 35,000 jobs.

The Wild Atlantic Way was launched by Fáilte Ireland in 2014 as the country’s first defined touring route.

Stretching 2,500km, from Kinsale in Co Cork to the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal, the aim of the Wild Atlantic Way is to create greater visibility for the west coast of Ireland in overseas tourist markets.

Sliabh Liag in Co Donegal forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way

Fáilte Ireland said it has measured the economic impact of the Wild Atlantic Way.

The company says tourism is worth €3bn per year to communities along the route, an increase of almost 60% on a decade ago.

Fáilte Ireland is publishing its report on the economic impact of the Wild Atlantic Way at Meitheal.

Meitheal is an event taking place in Killarney today and tomorrow where 380 Irish tourism businesses will pitch to 240 international buyers.

Meitheal is Fáilte Ireland’s flagship trade event, and has been running for almost 50 years.

Among those pitching at Meitheal today is John Fitzgerald, who is based in Derrynane on the Ring of Kerry and on the Wild Atlantic Way.

John and his wife, Kerryann O’Farrell, set up their business – Atlantic Irish Seaweed – 14 years ago.

The company offers bespoke sustainable coastal food tours to groups of as few as two people, to as many as 100 people.

John Fitzgerald and Kerryann O’Farrell giving a tour at Derrynane Beach on the Wild Atlantic Way to Missy and Stevie Smith, from Baltimore in the US

There are more than 600 varieties of seaweed growing in the waters around the Irish coast. None of them are toxic, 20 of them are edible, nutritious and full of protein.

John and Kerryann’s tours focus on the different types of seaweed and how to harvest it sustainably, as well as on algae and on other coastal plants.

They have seen the number of people taking their tours increased significantly since the Wild Atlantic Way was developed.

“It has really helped drive our business forward,” Mr Fitzegerald said.

“The establishment and the branding of the Wild Atlantic Way has really driven footfall. People always came around the Ring of Kerry, but now they are willing to engage and, as it says on our business card, come ‘graze’ the Wild Atlantic Way. Don’t just look at it from your vehicle; step out and come and explore it. Learn about its history and get to taste it,” he said.

Among those taking the tour were mother and daughter Missy and Stevie Smith, from Baltimore in the US. They are spending a fortnight in Ireland.

Stevie says it has always been her dream to visit Ireland, and Missy says she heard about the Wild Atlantic Way even before she came to Ireland.

“I heard that the Wild Atlantic Way was a great place to go, see where the people settled – it was super to come,” Missy told RTÉ News.

Further along the coast, Elizabeth McCooey and her husband, Brendan Curtin, have established Kerry Aqua Terra boat tours on Valentia Island in Co Kerry.

Ms McCooey credits the Wild Atlantic Way with helping Kerry Aqua Terra to expand.

Elizabeth McCooey runs Kerry Aqua Terra boat tours with her husband, Brendan Curtin, on Valentia Island, on the Wild Atlantic Way

“We had the ideas and the Wild Atlantic Way actually launched, and we were able to showcase our tours through that Wild Atlantic Way stretch,” Ms McCooey said.

“It’s been absolutely massive for our business.”

Fáilte Ireland says almost two million more tourist visits were made to the Wild Atlantic Way last year than in 2013, leading to the creation of 35,000 jobs.

It said tourism now accounts for 121,000 jobs along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.

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