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Ireland could be world ecotourism centre

Thursday, October 04 10:21:20

This country has the potential to become one of the top ecotourism destinations in the world and should not under-estimate the value of 'being green', according to an international environmental expert.

Mike Read of the Global Sustainability Tourism Council, said ahead of the official launch of EcoTourism Ireland today that the impact of tourism can be immense, benefiting the economy, creating jobs, and preserving destinations.

EcoTourism Ireland is an organisation aimed at developing the Irish ecotourism industry.

However he warned that tourism can also be bad leading to climate change, disrupting communities, and consuming precious resources.

"We need to treasure and protect our natural resources and use them to attract visitors but in a responsible and sustainable way," he will tell the EcoTourism Ireland launch in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is an initiative dedicated to promoting and regulating sustainable tourism efforts around the globe. Ecotourism Ireland's standard is one of the first to be officially Recognised by GSTC as conforming to their international criteria.

Currently, the Irish tourism industry is worth E5 billion euro annually to the economy, with an estimated five per cent of this figure, or E250 million euro, spent on ecotourism experiences.

There are now 20 Irish companies certified with EcoTourism Ireland , with another 35 expected to come on stream in the next year. Eight of the certified companies have "Gold Certification".

According to EcoTourism Ireland CEO, Mary Mulvey, ecotourism is highly suited to development in unspoilt, rural locations and can create jobs and income without destroying or degrading the natural or cultural assets the visitors have come to see.

"In Ireland, we have bog and wetland experiences, farms, marine and ecology, craft and food that can be developed as serious visitor experiences."

"International and domestic travellers care more and more about the environment and are looking for unique, authentic experiences that are sustainable. Rural Ireland is perfectly suited to the creation of sustainable networks of rural businesses by people passionate about their natural resources."

"The Ecotourism Ireland Certification programme brings Irish tourism closer to ecological and social sustainability. The principles of supporting conservation by these experiences is a new concept here which we need to embrace."

Failte Ireland Visitor Attitudes Surveys shows that Ireland's nature/tourism and heritage offering is a key determining factor for visitors when choosing to holiday in Ireland. In 2010, 91pc of holidaymakers rated 'beautiful scenery' as an important factor in visiting Ireland. 82pc rated our natural environment and 81pc the range of natural attractions.

Nature, wildlife and flora were have a particular resonance with mainland European visitors, especially those from Germany.