‘Traffic bottlenecks’ are developing on the Wild Atlantic Way tourist route in peak season. Fáilte Ireland has said long delays and capacity issues are “negatively affecting the visitor experience”, according to an internal brief.
The documents, prepared for senior management, explain how the tourism agency hopes to send visitors further inland to take pressure off the busiest routes.
Described as a major challenge, in the brief for management, Fáilte Ireland said they needed to make sure they could “future-proof [their] hero asset”.
The “bottlenecks” are on the most popular part of the route, from the Cliffs of Moher, in Clare, down towards Dingle, as well as the Ring of Kerry.
The briefing said: “This presents an opportunity to take advantage of existing geographies, with a strong tourist offering, that are adjacent to the Wild Atlantic Way.” In Clare, visitors should be coaxed into exploring the Burren landscape to take the pressure off Doolin and other towns.
For Kerry, they discussed creating a feature called ‘The Landscapes that inspired Star Wars’ to “spread visitors wider” along the route to Skellig Michael, which had a cameo in the latest instalment of the movie saga.
“These ‘drives’ will not be branded Wild Atlantic Way,” the brief said. “However, they will be presented based on their own story or attraction to potential visitors, as a visitor experience in proximity to the [route].”
They hoped to have four new drives and two themed itineraries and trails in place by the end of this year to ease the pressures on Counties Clare and Kerry.
Fáilte Ireland said they wanted a better regional spread of tourism and less seasonality.
A spokesman said: “Otherwise, if numbers simply continue to grow into the usual hotspots during high season, we will have greater congestion, less value-for-money, and a diminished visitor experience.
“In terms of the Wild Atlantic Way, our domestic marketing, over the last year, has created greater emphasis on the northern stretch of the route.” For instance, Slieve League, in Donegal, with its 600-metre tall cliffs, was as spectacular as the Cliffs of Moher, but far less visited. The Ireland’s Ancient East campaign was, in part, intended to spread growth around the country and “avoid bottlenecks”.
Separately, internal records also reveal how Fáilte Ireland came under intense pressure to extend the Wild Atlantic Way, but was wary any such decision could “open the floodgates” for other areas wanting to be included.
Campaigners had been lobbying to have the route signage brought to Courtmacsherry, in Cork, and the Seven Heads Peninsula.
Internal documents explain that including the area around the peninsula had originally been considered problematic, because the roads were too narrow for two-way traffic.
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