Despite the success of the Wild Atlantic Way, "there are much lower numbers heading north" and "the challenge really is giving them motivating reasons to come", according to Fáilte Ireland’s head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan.
The likes of Donegal and Sligo have not been reaping the benefits of the Fáilte Ireland campaign, with the latter being the least-visited county on the route and Donegal only welcoming 289,000 visitors in 2015 as "70 per cent of visitors go left and down through Clare and Limerick and into north Kerry" says Monaghan. In comparison, Cork and Kerry welcomed 1.4 million and one million visitors respectively, reports Thejournal.ie.
To help improve visitor numbers at less visited areas, Fáilte Ireland has been inviting local tourism businesses, community and tourism group members to help improve growth at the likes of Connemara and the Aran Islands by formulating a new visitor experience development plan for the areas.
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"The Cliffs of Moher are renowned internationally, but Slieve Liag could equally become the new Cliffs of Moher. It has the potential. We have to present things in a way that visitors will want to make the trek," she commented. As for Sligo, there are plans to portray it as being a “hub for good, local seafood” with beach foraging expeditions in search of cockles and mussels.
2017 will see Fáilte Ireland make Germany its priority market, describing German visitors as being "good tourers" who are looking to avoid tourist hotspots, saying, "They don’t want to meet 40 coaches at the Cliffs of Moher. They want their own intimate experience at lesser known places."
"A lot of the accommodation providers are starting to stay open either year-round or longer in the winter, but a lot of the activities and attractions close, so there’s very little for visitors to do when they get here," said Monaghan, pointing out a problem facing Irish tourism.
Fáilte Ireland will also be hosting workshops for businesses with the aim of showing the importance of marketing and longer opening hours as well as a 'champions' programme that will educate businesses about the Wild Atlantic Way brand so that they can recommend attractions to visitors.
Discussing Fáilte Ireland's new four-week €500,000 Wild Atlantic Way advertising campaign to attract British visitors to Galway, Sligo and Donegal, Monaghan said it was "a first effort" to attract visitors for shoulder-season trips and that "an area has to be of interest to domestic visitors before overseas visitors will happen upon it", as a result a planned future domestic campaign will be "over-emphasising places north of Galway".