Pressure builds to include Waterford on the Wild Atlantic Way
The Fianna Fáil Councillor for Tramore and Waterford City West is Eamon Quinlan has said: “The coastline here has been neglected for years,”
Like many in his constituancy, he wants Waterford included on the Wild Atlantic Way, and doesn’t understand why it was omitted in the first place.
“This is a tourism venture that attracts a huge investment, and where most tourism spend is going to go,” Quinlan says. “But there’s a real fear that as the comeback takes hold, Waterford won’t be part of it.”
This Thursday, at a meeting of Waterford City and Council, he and Cllr Tom Cronin (Dungarvan and Lismore) will formally propose to include Waterford on the touring route, and condemn the county’s exclusion. Quinlan says he will also request the full council to write to the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport, officially petitioning it to include Waterford on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Since its launch this April, the “world’s longest defined coastal touring route” has been the subject of a major promotional push at home and overseas. TV, print and online campaigns have ranged from cinema ads to billboards in the Paris metro, showcasing the West to a worldwide audience of millions. Waterford features in none of these campaigns.
“West Waterford is a forgotten part of the world,” says another local, Paul Flynn (the famous chef runs The Tannery restaurant in Dungarvan)
“In the middle of summer you might meet five or six cars coming against you on the Copper Coast, and that’s it. Everybody stands up for where they’re from, but we have to get up every single day and fight for our businesses… It’s so frustrating that the Wild Atlantic Way ends in Kinsale.”
Paul believes starting the route at Rosslare Europort would make more sense.
Fáilte Ireland, however, sees no prospect of a route change. “The Wild Atlantic Way is as it is,” says Alex Connolly, Head of Communications.
“Obviously it will evolve over the next couple of years, with loops off it and so on, but we don’t envisage the route changing per sé….. The Wild Atlantic Way initiative was never intended to be defined by the extent of Ireland’s Atlantic Coast. It was to broadly follow the Malin to Mizen geography… As part of the Route Development process, these extremities were extended on either end (from Malin and Mizen) to anchor the route with the Northern Ireland border on the northern end (with a link to the Causeway Coastal Route) and to Kinsale on the southern end with Cork City as a key gateway and access point… In essence, while the Atlantic dominates our marketing of the route, it is the tourist experience which has defined it.”
If the Wild Atlantic Way stuck rigidly to the Atlantic seaboard, however, the Mizen to Kinsale stretch would need to be excluded, and if the route runs to Kinsale, then why not Cork City, Waterford or Wexford?
The Wild Atlantic Way is “a project of scale”, Fáilte Ireland’s Alex Connolly says, a “unifying tourism project” specifically designed to appeal to the outdoors, adventure and activity markets – as county boundaries mean little to overseas visitors.
“The project was born out of the need to address the dramatic decline in international visitors to the West of Ireland over the last decade… It’s not simply a case of tacking Waterford on. There’s a logic to it.”
He also points out that the largest capital investment it has made “in the last six years” has been in Waterford – €10.8 million for the Viking Triangle development (€10m is being invested in the Wild Atlantic Way in 2014, by contrast).
Furthermore, a similar “unifying tourism proposition” is in the pipeline for the southeast in 2015. As to what this proposition involves, he won’t say.
Our understanding, however, is that it’s likely to be a cultural/heritage play harnessing recent developments like the Viking Triangle and Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile in an effort to appeal to older, so-called “culturally curious” visitors. “This is a work in progress and is intended to form a complementary tourism proposition to the Wild Atlantic Way,” Connolly says.
Eamon Quinlan is not deterred. His proposal is ready to go.