Clonakilty, increasingly renowned for its ‘green image’, now rubs shoulders with places such as Canada’s Niagara Falls, Jackson Hole and Vermont in the USA, Cape Town in South Africa, Montepisano in Tuscany, and Tung Dap village in Thailand.
They were among the destinations named at an event in Ljubljana Castle in Slovenia on Tuesday night, in a competition run by some of the world’s leading authorities on sustainable tourism.
The award comes on foot of Clonakilty collecting, this week, another gold medal in the 2016 Tidy Towns awards and its ranking, last year, among the top 10 tourist towns in Ireland by Failte Ireland.
“It’s fantastic, this award places us amongst the top sustainable destinations in the world,” said hotelier Michael O’Neill Jr, a director of Sustainable Clonakilty and Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce. “It’ll be a huge attraction to green-conscious visitors and great for the branding of the town abroad, as well as acting as an inspiration to local residents to make an ever bigger effort to emphasise the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle.
“The global sustainable tourism market is steadily increasing — people like to go to places where they know their impact on the local environment will be as insignificant as possible. Winning this award means that we will be increasingly attractive to this sector of the market. At the end of the day, while we want more visitors to come to Clonakilty, we also want Clonakilty to retain its soul — and this is what sustainable tourism is all about.”
The awards celebrate the efforts of tourism destinations’ responsible and sustainable tourism initiatives.
The judges were reportedly impressed by Clonakilty’s array of eco-friendly initiatives, which include a community bicycle scheme, a community vegetable garden, a state of the art waste-water treatment plant and a community ‘better energy’ scheme which had successfully promoted energy reduction initiatives such as solar panels, LED lightbulbs and sustainable, solid fuel heating systems in businesses and community organisations within the town. The efforts of local schools which had won a variety of green flags and planted kitchen gardens had also been included in the application.
“The award comes as a result of the hard work and dedication of the many volunteer groups in Clonakilty,” said Mr O’Neill, adding that much credit was also due to Cork County Council and its local municipal district personnel. “Sustainable tourism is growing every year and is integral to the image of Clonakilty. Focusing on sustainable tourism also ensures that we protect the beauty of Clonakilty for future generations.”