Burren Ecotourism Network Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary
The Burren Ecotourism Network is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The network, which currently consists of nearly 70 tourism businesses, has grown from 18 founding members when it was launched by Darina Allen and the then mayor of Clare, Councillor Christy Curtin, at Gregans Castle Hotel in March of 2011.
The network's members range from operators such as Burren Fine Wine & Foods and Marie McGauran's Burren Walks to iconic tourist attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher. Businesses include those from the hospitality, food, farming, activities, culture and heritage sectors, all of which are committed to sustainable tourism in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.
Burren Ecotourism Network History
The Burren Ecotourism Network story began in 2008 when exploratory meetings were held by the Burren Connect project with a variety of state organisations and Burren based tourism businesses to explore creating a unique ecotourism destination.
On long winter evenings, the group gathered at places such as the Michael Cusack Centre and the Burren Centre to develop the structure and rules of operation, delineate the Burren catchment area and establish the overall vision of the network.
In 2009, Fáilte Ireland invited the group to become the "pilot" for the promotion and expansion of ecotourism in Ireland. The aim was that the tourism business network could be used as a template for ecotourism development, with an accreditation that could be used nationally. The launch event in 2011 saw the 18 founder members presented with certificates by Mary Mulvey of Ecotourism Ireland.
The Burren Connect project became the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark in 2011 and achieved UNESCO status in 2015.
During the 10 years that followed 2011, the network continued to develop, with new members joining and innovative initiatives in food and sustainability.
Burren And Cliffs Of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark Manager Statement
Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark manager Carol Gleeson stated, "The development of the network involved a lot of time, thought and effort from the businesses and huge support from Clare County Council, Shannon Development, Fáilte Ireland and Clare Local Development Company. It was a very good example of ground up collaboration, but the real glue that keeps it together and makes the Network the success it is today is the deep love for the place and for its future that is shared by all members. Long may it thrive!"
Burren Ecotourism Network CEO Statement
Burren Ecotourism Network CEO Jarlath O'Dwyer stated, "The Burren has attracted global attention due to our having such a practical and holistic approach to sustainable destination management, especially now that ecotourism and sustainability have become such high priorities, worldwide."
Code Of Practice For Sustainable Tourism
O'Dwyer said that one of the key factors in the success of the network is the Geopark's Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism, to which all member businesses must adhere.
The Geopark's Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism was developed with EU LIFE funding and promotes slow tourism, local engagement and greater responsibility for a sustainable future. As part of the code, each business is encouraged to measure environmental output and make reductions in these areas as well as promoting local produce, conservation and taking part in community outreach and advocacy initiatives. These include regular clean-ups including the "Adopt a Hedgerow" programme, networking events, site visits to one another's businesses and green purchasing. There is also a healthy social aspect to the network with regular bring and share parties and celebration events. Many members talk about the network ethos and strong support of fellow members as critical during the last year of the pandemic.
It was this community ethos that contributed to the network scooping the Lonely Planet Best in Travel "Best Community Tourism Project" in November of 2020, with the group being described as "a global leader for sustainable tourism".
The Lonely Planet accolade is one of a host of awards the Burren Ecotourism Network and Burren Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark has received over the years. In 2014, the Geopark was named "Best Destination for Responsible Tourism" at the Irish Responsible Travel & Tourism Awards. In 2015, the Burren Food Trail received the "European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award for Tourism and Gastronomy", closely followed by winning "Foodie Towns of Ireland", also in 2015. In 2016 the "National Geographic World Legacy Award for Destination Leadership" was awarded to the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
Food has been a key part of the success story, with the establishment of a "Burren Food Trail" in 2013, as well as the annual "Burren Food Fayre" and the "Burren Slow Food Festival". These events are run annually and attract high profile chefs from Ireland and the UK. In 2018, the highly successful Burren Long Table events were launched with five Long Table events having been held since. In 2019, the network collaborated with Chef Trevis L. Gleason to publish the Burren Dinners Cookbook, which features food, chefs and producers from the Burren area.
Burren Ecotourism Network Board Of Directors Chair Statement
Burren Ecotourism Network board of directors chair George Quinn stated, "The maturity of our network has been the underpin of support for members during the pandemic and the members in turn have continued to contribute generously with their time and money, even in these most challenging times for our industry.
"We would also like to acknowledge the vital funding for the network over the years that has been received from Clare Local Development Company, Clare County Council, Fáilte Ireland and others."
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.