Deputy John Deasy says marketing the Waterford Greenway through the Wild Atlantic Way website would boost tourism business in the county overnight.
While describing the prospect of a Viking coastal drive as an overdue revamp of the existing southeast touring route, the Fine Gael TD is in discussions with Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin with a view to incorporating the Waterford Greenway into the Wild Atlantic Way website.
Visitor numbers to the west of Ireland have soared on the back of the Wild Atlantic Way promotional blitz, which was launched four years ago. However, the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative hasn’t had the same impact since it was introduced as a counterweight in April 2015.
Before that, Deasy met with senior Fáilte Ireland officials and persuaded the tourism authority to allow Waterford City and County Council pitch for inclusion in the Wild Atlantic Way. Ultimately, getting East Cork interests involved — key to connecting the Atlantic coastlines — proved impossible.
He explained: “Once it was clear Waterford wasn’t going to be accepted into the Wild Atlantic Way, I specifically asked the Department of Tourism to take action to address the redundant and obsolete South East Coastal Drive, which includes Waterford’s 147km of coastline.
“Local tourism operators, disappointed at Waterford’s exclusion from the Wild Atlantic Way, highlighted how a coastal driving route already exists between Ardmore and Wexford, with signage erected nearly 20 years ago still in place at various points. But a rebranding was clearly needed.”
Fáilte Ireland has now sought submissions from suitably qualified parties to carry out a feasibility study “to assess the potential of delivering of a Viking Coast proposition as a world-class visitor experience for the coastal counties of the Ireland’s Ancient East geography.”
A request for bids by January 26 was published days before Christmas. The brief is to gauge the viability of “a motivating signature experience for overseas visitors and, if feasible, will recommend how the Viking Coast can be harnessed into a coherent year-round tourism offering.”
These efforts followed suggestions put forward in an economic report underpinning the Waterford councils merger in 2014. That blueprint identified the dual importance of cultural tourism and the potential for “a high quality branded coastal driving route along the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark.”
Satisfied that the island’s remaining coastal drive deficit “is now being taken seriously”, Deasy says the fact that the (Giant’s) Causeway Coastal Route is mentioned on the Wild Atlantic Way website “sets a precedent for packaging attractions beyond the west of Ireland with the Wild Atlantic Way.”
While the huge investment in the Viking Triangle in the city is obviously part of Fáilte Ireland’s thinking, there are over 300 tourism-related businesses operating along Waterford’s Atlantic coastline — a number of which have thrived due to the Greenway’s instant impact.
“The massive success and appeal of the Waterford Greenway would be a major selling point in terms of promoting attractions along a new South East coastal route,” Deasy added.
“An an immediate step, marketing the Waterford Greenway through the Wild Atlantic Way website — which has proven a huge draw — would vastly expand its potential audience and uptake. Greenways in the west are already included, so adding Waterford should be next,” he says.