One of the most successful Irish tourism campaigns in recent memory is the Wild Atlantic Way. Enter The Ancient East
It has drawn in huge crowds from abroad, notably from the US and Canada, and is touted as having contributed massively to a massive 1.1 million jump in visitors to Ireland since 2011.
But, as many have pointed out, it only focuses on one side of Ireland. The designated route starts in Donegal, just east of Malin Head, and travels down the west coast of the country before coming to an abrupt stop at Old Kinsale Head in west Cork.
Waterford TD Joe Deasy has noted that the Atlantic coastline runs much further beyond the official end of Tourism Ireland’s route.
But now the Irish tourist board has put its energies into attracting tourists to the unique ‘Ancient East’ of Ireland, that boasts 5,000 years worth of history both along the coast and further inland. Waterford FG TD John Deasy was a vocal critic of the Ancient East initiative when it was launched.
He said the best way to help Waterford was to extend the Wild Atlantic Way route from its conclusion in Kinsale on the fringe of West Cork into East Cork and Waterford. The venture moves away from the designated ‘route’ and is instead touted as a touring region that tourists can dip in and out of at leisure.
Although similar in the ‘scale and ambition’ of the Wild Atlantic Way it is more compact, with runes, landscapes and coasts for tourists to lap up.
The new venture will see a €18 million investment, compared to the €10 million ploughed in to the Wild Atlantic Way, and to launch the project last year 270 journalists from across the globe descended on the area to promote the campaign.
It is themed along four core pillars:
Ancient Ireland: Includes prehistoric attractions such as the Boyne Valley in Newgrange and sites such as the Brownshill Dolmen in Carlow
Early Christian Ireland: Includes such as Clonmacnoise, Glendalough, Mellifont abbey, Jerpoint Abbey, St.Canice’s Cathedral and Holycross Abbey
Medieval Ireland: Includes Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile, the Viking Triangle in Waterford, Hook Head Lighthouse, Trim Castle and the Rock of Cashel
Anglo Ireland: Includes Ireland’s Great Houses and Gardens as well as sites such as the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Wicklow Gaol Stories
One of the main ways that the campaign believes will boost its attraction is the history, believing that reliving stories, and honing in on Ireland’s notoriety as having a wealth of storytellers will make the trail stand out amongst a crowded tourist market.
It is of course pushed towards Ireland’s own pool of tourists, as the tourist board attempts to recreate the boost of the numbers of Irish going on ‘staycations’ as seen last in 2011.
Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that in 2014 the most important overseas markets in terms of spending within Ireland in 2014 were the US and Canada (26.4%) and Britain (24.9%).
But while the number of Irish people taking holidays in Ireland increased from 6.5 million in 2013 to 6.6 million in 2014, it is some way behind the 6.9m figure for 2011.
The CSO also reported that in 2014, Irish residents took almost 7.4m domestic trips, which when analysed with the average length of stay at 2.9 nights, resulted in a total of 21.2m bed nights. Holidays accounted for almost half of all domestic trips (49%), while a third (33%) were to visit friends or relatives.
One issue that has been brought up by tourist businesses in the east is the proximity that they have to Dublin, saying that they are too close to focus a concentrated trip solely on their areas, with visitors preferring to make the mass exodus to the west coast to get a more worthwhile holiday.
But with the M50 now extended as far as Johnny White’s bar at Brittas Bay, the whole area can benefit from increased inter-county visitors.