The Walking in the West (WITW) guide is another example of how the WDTP continues to play a central role in coordinating rural tourism development projects. Published in 2005, Walking in the West: A Step-by-Step Guide, proposes a new integrated development process that will deliver a world-class walking product, support the commercialisation of the walking product in the West and increase visitor numbers to the Western Region.
The Walking in the West model’s focus is the application of the step-by-step guide to National Waymarked Ways (long-distance walks rather than smaller looped walks). For rural areas to benefit fully from the walking product, walkers must be encouraged to avail of packages that include overnight stays in rural areas.
Community groups and private product service providers use the guide to develop, promote and sell walking packages based on international models of best practice. The guide sets out the key success factors in making the walking product attractive to international walking tourists and also outlines clear recommendations to help stimulate the commercialisation of the walking product in the region.
- Local Walking Partnerships (LWP) for each walk within the region should be developed to include a mix of public, private and community interests. The primary responsibilities of each LWP will include the creation and implementation of a local action plan and development strategy, route maintenance plans and a marketing and sales strategy.
- ‘Walk Managers’ should be employed by each LWP. Their role will be to facilitate networking among the community, public and private interests to ensure that the walking product is managed effectively to deliver full benefits to stakeholders along the route. The Walk Manager will facilitate access issues with local landowners, the creation of commercial services along the route, maintenance of standards, interaction with the tourism marketing agencies, handling of sales queries and creation and maintenance of an e-commerce enabled website. It is envisaged that the Walk Manager will report to the Local Action Group manager/managers.
- At national and regional policy level, Walking in the West recommends that a National Framework for walking is developed. This could address issues such as route development, quality standards, route maintenance, marketing and sales. The National Framework is being developed under the guidance of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and will be grounded in impending Fáilte Ireland and National Waymarked Ways Advisory Committee (NWWAC) studies and the Countryside Recreational Policy which is currently being devised by Comhairle na Tuaithe. To implement the National Policy Framework, WITW recommends that a Regional Walking Strategy be developed by Regional Walking Partnerships i.e. public, private and community partners in each of the regional tourism authority areas (North West Tourism, Ireland West Tourism and Shannon Development).