WDC to highlight ecotourism opportunities at Greenbox conference

The Western Development Commission (WDC) will today outline how rural communities can tap into the potential of ecotourism when it addresses the Greenbox All Island Ecotourism Conference.

Gillian Buckley, WDC Chief Executive, will outline the WDC’s experience of developing the Greenbox, Ireland’s only ecotourism destination, and will share ideas with delegates on how communities can use the WDC Model of Rural Development to help develop ecotourism and other innovative projects in their local area.

In her address, Regional Development through Innovative Delivery, Ms Buckley will also look at the policies and practices involved in developing successful tourism products, and will present case studies of where the WDC approach has delivered for rural communities.

Ms Buckley will explain how the WDC’s Model of Rural Development works and can be adopted by local communities. The approach involves a number of stages; bringing stakeholders together; establishing trust by developing a shared framework and strategy for development; building a knowledge base through research and analysis; and producing an action plan including priorities, actions and policy recommendations. It has been published in booklet form and is available from the WDC to anyone with an interest in regional or rural development.

Ms Buckley added, “The success of the Greenbox shows how much can be achieved when public agencies work in partnership with the private sector, community organisations and each other to deliver innovative, regional projects. This collaborative approach can deliver much needed economic benefit to rural areas, increasing enterprise and contributing to balanced regional development. Moreover, regional and national tourism plans now highlight ecotourism’s opportunities and potential and this is a reflection of the Greenbox’s achievements. It shows that a collaborative approach can lead to positive changes in policy.”

Sinéad Ní Mháille, Rural Development Executive at the WDC said “Tourism is very important to the West. 29% of all those employed in tourism are based in the BMW region (72,300 out

of a total of 249,338). Tourism is a major contributor to regional development, with income spent by visitors staying in the local area. Tourism benefits rural areas in particular by creating jobs in locations where other employment can sometimes be difficult to find. By nature it is a truly indigenous sector benefiting the local economy so we focus on improving on this to make it sustainable”.

Gillian Buckley said, “The idea for the Greenbox came about through our work in developing rural tourism products by making the best use of our natural resources, and thereby providing a vehicle for economic delivery to rural areas. In 2002, we worked with the local tourism industry in Leitrim and surrounding counties and the Organic Centre in Rossinver to develop the Greenbox as an integrated ecotourism destination. We consulted with people from the private, public and community sectors, and then we looked at ecotourism abroad to learn of examples where it works really well. The outcome was a framework and action plan to develop the Greenbox.

“Now the Greenbox has a network of 120 local businesses developing to the highest ecotourism standards, and the largest cluster of EU Flower approved accommodation providers on the island of Ireland. €1.4 million has been provided to tourism businesses in the Greenbox network through the capital development programme, and hundreds of tourism providers have received specialist ecotourism training. Work has also been completed on the first ecotourism label standard for tourism products which will give visitors a certified guide to ecotourism products and services,” Ms Buckley concluded.

The Western Development Commission is the lead sponsor of the conference which takes place at The Share Centre, Lisnaskea, Fermanagh on Wednesday 30th January.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Gillian Buckley (087 223 6985) / Sinead Ní Mhaille (086 856 5802) / Ian Brannigan (086 604 8012) WDC, or Angela Bane, Bane Mullarkey, 087 286 5217