It is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world stretching 2,500 kms along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal to Kinsale in West Cork.
The Wild Atlantic Way project was developed as a reaction to the challenging economic climate since 2008, which had a negative economic impact on tourism in Ireland. A shorter summer season and a decline among coastal communities were also being experienced. In order to overturn this decline, overseas growth in tourism was necessary. The national tourism authority, Fáilte Ireland, thus identified a single, connecting route along the entire west coast of Ireland, from Donegal to Cork. It was deemed that this would create the necessary scale and singularity required for a brand that would be visible in key overseas markets, re-branding the Western region of Ireland, resulting in generating incremental international tourists, increased revenue and job creation.
• Continuous stakeholder collaboration was deemed necessary at all stages of the project, in order to meet its objectives.
• Four Regional Steering Groups established led by consultants to advise on route options including identification of 188 Discovery Points with local authorities being key at all stages.
• Launch of brand
• Publication of a ‘Wild Atlantic Way Operational Programme 2015-2019’ setting out a strategy & implementation framework, the first in a series of strategies, managing installation of discovery points, trade & community engagement, environmental management, visitor management, sales & marketing
Main stakeholders are Fáilte Ireland, Local Authorities, Local tourism businesses, Leader Companies
• A specific dedicated Wild Atlantic Way team was established in 2012 , consisting of 16 Fáilte Ireland staff members and employing consultants as required
• €10 Million capital investment in 2014
Evidence of success
The Wild Atlantic Way is meeting its objectives to boost visitor numbers, revenue and employment. Since its launch in 2014, the project has been a major success story. Less than one year later, Ireland saw its best year ever for overseas tourism, and this has continued as follows:
• 2015 – 11% increase, resulting in €4.2 billion for local economy
• 2016 – 12% increase overall
• 2017 – Further 2.6% increase in visitor numbers
• Employment numbers have also been increasing year-on-year
• Expanding shoulder season - many tourism businesses have continued to be reluctant to extend their opening periods
• Visitor management & congestion at popular sites & dispersion of international tourists to lesser known routes
• Managing special protected areas along the route
Potential for learning or transfer
The Wild Atlantic Way is an over-arching brand which individual destinations and businesses can use to leverage much greater visibility and clarity of message in the international marketplace. The brand has been delivered through the identification of a coastal touring route which joins up a number of pre-existing roads and routes as well as a large number of towns and villages, attractions and experiences. Undoubtedly, this strategy can be considered transferable. A negative impact on tourism generated by the recession is not unique to Ireland and has been experienced by most EU countries. The magnet effect of the Wild Atlantic Way, drawing international attention to potentially untapped coastal areas, resulting in economic gains for that region could be adopted in any area with suitable natural landscape. The unique thing about the Wild Atlantic Way strategy is that rather than building new infrastructures to draw in tourism, it’s about showcasing what Ireland already has to offer.
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