Garvey accuses council of overreliance on tourism hotspots

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Small tourism businesses across the county will be forced to close if Clare County Council continues to focus its tourism strategy on a small number of tourist hotspots.
That is according to Clare Senator, Róisín Garvey (GP), who has accused the local authority of focussing on “making money” at three specific locations, rather than benefiting the entire county.
The Inagh politician claims that Clare County Council is too focused on driving tourists to the Cliffs of Moher, Loop Head Lighthouse and Holy Island in East Clare, at the expense of the wider county.
After a series of recent deaths on the county’s roads, Senator Garvey also says that the current tourism strategy is leading to a marked increase in car and bus traffic, without a corresponding increase to bed nights across the county.
“On a local level we need to look at how sustainably tourism is being dealt with by Clare County Council. It can’t all be about the Cliffs of Moher, Loop Head Lighthouse and Holy Island. That is not of benefit to the local people in the small villages across Clare,” she told The Clare Champion.
“Currently we have a big plan to increase visitors to the Cliffs of Moher with very little encouragement for walking or cycling. If we want to have people staying longer and spending money in our local towns, we need to be encouraging more walking and cycling tourism and I just don’t see that happening at the moment.
“People on the ground with small businesses would like people to come to their businesses. And Clare County Council seem to be focussed on two or three specific locations, which is not a benefit to the whole county. The council’s job is not to make money in these three locations, the council’s job has to be sustainable tourism and supporting small businesses as much as they can.
“If you continue to have tourists coming to just three places – the Cliffs of Moher, Loop Head Lighthouse and Holy Island – you just watch as these small businesses close down around the county.
“The Cliffs of Moher is not a town, it is a tourist location. I would like to see places like Kilfenora, Ennistymon, Miltown Malbay and Lisdoonvarna benefiting from this. I would like to see the focus being put on the Greenways, for example, and not so much the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher is causing huge traffic jams and road safety issues. If we are putting people in cars and busses to visit our county, they are not going to stay in our county. We need the county council promoting walking and cycling, promoting things like Local Link. We are missing a trick here.”
Responding to these allegations, a spokesperson from Clare County Council said that the local authority is focussed on promoting tourism in a balanced way, right across the county.
“Clare County Council is in the implementation phase of the Clare Tourism Strategy 2030. The core objective of which is to maximise the potential of tourism to deliver net economic benefit to communities, towns and villages across the county,” said the spokesperson.
“In 2023, with cognisance given to the severe economic challenges to the tourism industry due to the world economy, inflation, energy costs and accommodation provision, Clare County Council delivered a number of actions in collaboration with the established Clare Tourism Advisory Forum.”
Among the actions completed by the local authority in 2023 includes the launch of the new Visit Clare website, hosting a county-wide Tourism Together Networking Event and hosting the ‘Be a Tourist in your own County Clare’ event earlier this year.
“Clare County Council continues to work with the Tourism Advisory Forum, local tourism industry and Fáilte Ireland with a digital marketing campaign being designed especially for winter escapes and shoulder season stays within County Clare. This will be rolled out during quarter three, 2023,” said the spokesperson.
“In addition to the above, Clare County Council in 2023, has designed and printed brochures that engage audiences to market the Attractions and Activities within County Clare as well as a County wide promotional brochure, heavily promoted to the international market.”
Senator Garvey also believes that the loss of hotel beds due to the response to the war in Ukraine is not overly hampering the county’s ability to attract tourism.
“The people is Clare are really resilient. We are down a lot of hotel rooms, the Clare people have been as welcoming as anyone. I don’t think anyone in Clare would begrudge the Ukrainians taking hotel beds,” she said.
“We are seeing people being very innovative. There are a lot of different types of accommodation, such as glamping, being developed across the county.”
Senator Garvey also pointed to a number of government funding schemes to promote local tourism. She says that more use could be made of these schemes by Clare County Council.