The WDC has always recognised that rural tourism can play a key role in promoting sustainable development. Our action plan for rural tourism was outlined in the Blueprint for Tourism Development in the West: An Action Plan for Rural Areas publication.
Blueprint recognised that moving tourism growth to rural areas demanded a major shift in policy and practice. It identified that no new body needed to be established to drive development, but that development could be achieved by coordinated intervention from a wide range of existing agencies in the Western Region. This led to the setting up of the Western Development Tourism Programme in 2001.
Western Development Tourism Programme
The Western Development Tourism Programme (WDTP) oversees the implementation of the Blueprint. The WDTP is chaired by Fáilte Ireland and is comprised of a variety of state and semi-state agencies.
In establishing a multi-agency partnership, the WDC aimed to:
- Connect tourism development agencies and facilitate partners to design coordinated development strategies for rural tourism.
- Use each agency’s resources and skills to create the critical mass necessary to drive development.
- Create more targeted opportunities for rural tourism and develop a long-term perspective for rural tourism development.
- Pilot and test new ideas for rural tourism.
Whether building a partnership between a local tourism group involving a local authority and LEADER company or securing a major regional marketing programme, all projects and programmes initiated by the WDTP are delivered on the basis of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
The basic philosophy and indeed the strategic approach of the WDTP anticipates many of the recommendations of the National Tourism Policy Review Group in New Horizons. As a result, key features of the WDTP work programme and outputs include:
- environmental best practice;
- regional clusters of excellence;
- innovative new product development;
- activity in non-traditional tourism areas.
WDTP’s approach has also facilitated inter-agency partnership for all agencies involved in tourism in the Western Region. This has clearly added value to the work of other tourism agencies. This can be seen in:
- the inter-agency partnership across thinking, funding and planning for sustainable rural tourism development;
- the delivery of new initiatives;
- the regional dimension to LEADER thinking and activities and the provision of tourism expertise and knowledge to LEADER;
- capacity building for the trade supported by LEADER, Fáilte Ireland, the Institute for Technology, Sligo and private industry;
- reduced duplication of effort across tourism initiatives in the region (i.e. WDTP has established best practices that can be replicated elsewhere);
- inter RTA-Shannon Development cooperation – Ireland’s Western Regions Brochure;
- investment of €4.2 million and the creation of 25 full and part-time jobs.
The WDTP has identified, facilitated and developed 15 rural tourism development projects, since its establishment. These are:
- New West Tourism Plan 2002-2004.
- Green Box.
- Ireland’s Western Regions Brochure.
- Walking Through Time.
- Walking in the West.
- WDTP Training.
- Islands Festival Network.
- Killary Adventure and Leisure Capital.
- Leitrim Presents.
- Irish Centre for Sustainable Tourism at the Institute for Technology, Sligo.
- Tourism Tastes Trail.
- ‘Tourism Matters’ Radio Broadcasts.
- Heritage Attraction Review.
- Conference – Sustainable Tourism Development in the West.
These achievements, at an annual exchequer cost in the region of €100,000 represent excellent ‘value for money’. A more detailed description of the WDTP can be found in the WDC’s Model of Rural Development document.
You can download Model of Rural Development here.
Since 2001 our involvement in the tourism sector has mainly been through our role within the WDTP and associated projects such as Green Box. However, several of the WDC’s other areas of work also have a positive impact on the tourism sector – particularly, our work on access issues.