RURAL tourism can play a significant role in helping job creation and the country’s economic recovery, especially in rural communities.
That’s the view of Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin and Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan, who have launched an initiative to further develop rural tourism.
Mr Bryan, speaking yesterday in Upperchurch, Co Tipperary, said the development of the local Eamon a’Chnoic walking trail is an example of farmers and the rural community coming together and creating a visitor attraction through co-operation.
“This kind of initiative, which has seen 2,000 farmers around the country participate, can with proper promotion double the number of visitors to Ireland.”
The walk is one of 200 looped walks already established and developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs countrywide.
These walks link up with a network of National Waymarked trails, forest walks and coastal trails.
Mr Bryan said the potential of the Upperchurch area has increased with the creation of the 9km walk as part of the Walkways Scheme introduced in 2008.
He said rural tourism countrywide provides vital additional income for farm families, drives the development of rural services and assists in the creation of rural jobs.
There are over 2,000 options for various types of accommodation and nearly 100 caravan and camping sites as well as other unique tourism products.
Mr Bryan said the beauty of the rural landscape, protected and enhanced by farmers over many generations, adds hugely to the development and promotion of rural tourism.
More than 60,000 farmers have since the mid-1990s participated in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS). This has driven investment by farmers in improving the landscape and rural environment.
“IFA, Fáilte Ireland and rural communities will work together to maximise the potential of rural tourism to attract visitors from both Ireland and abroad who want to enjoy a peaceful holiday in a rural setting,” he said.
Fáilte Ireland is currently developing an additional 40 looped walks this year. The Walkways Scheme alone has created 1,500km of scenic trails. A further 26 walks which are being developed will create another 426km.
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