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Island Tourism's Sustainability to be Measured by New EU-Approved System

11th April 2022
A currach with the Mayo islands of Inishturk and Achill in the background. Irish island tourism is to be monitored with an EU-approved system
A currach with the Mayo islands of Inishturk and Achill in the background. Irish island tourism is to be monitored with an EU-approved system. (credit Jeremy Madden) Credit: Jeremy Madden

A European system of measuring the impact of tourism on communities is to be introduced on a number of islands off the west Irish coast this summer.

Three Aran islands and Inishbofin off Galway, along with Donegal’s Tory and Arranmore, will participate in the project led by researchers from the new Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

The European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) was developed by the European Commission as an evidence-based model for collecting information and measuring impacts.

It involves collecting data on 43 specific areas, ranging from tourist spending patterns to gender equality, inclusion and accessibility, transport impact, climate change, energy consumption, waste generation and sewage treatment.

The system helps to measure trends over time, such as the rising percentage of women in management roles; changes in waste water quality; reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and changing impacts of tourism in the community.

The researchers will work with communities, tourism stakeholders and destination managers on gathering the information which will better inform the sustainable management of island tourism, according to ATU president Dr Orla Flynn.

State agencies Fáilte Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, along with local authorities, will also support the project.

Up until now, detailed tourism indicators have been limited, but the ETIS is a very accessible international model, Dr Diarmuid Ó Conghaíle, ATU’s head of department for heritage and tourism, explained.

“While we are starting with the four Galway islands - and Tory and Arranmore with the support of Údarás na Gaeltachta - the aim is to incorporate all offshore islands from about 2024,” he said.

“It will allow the islands to compare their performance on tourism, will inform planning and sustainable management, and may even create a bit of competition, “Ó Conghaíle said.

“We are hosting community briefings with the participating islands in May, and will be collecting data from the end of that month,” he said.

“The project will be developed through online surveys, with a particular set of questions for the community, for tourists and for tourism operators,” Ó Conghaíle said.

“The information may be gathered digitally or through paper surveys as we are keen to make sure everyone is involved, and everyone has access to the information, “he said.

Given that the data will be “evidence-based”, it will help to support funding applications at national and European level, he said. The information will be published on a dedicated website.

“This is the first year, and we hope this will be an annual ATU project,” he said.

The ATU involves the Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes of technology.

The west/north-west group was formally initiated earlier this month by the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris after technological university status was granted last year to the three institutes.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Marine Leisure & Aquatic Tourism

Domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million.

Activities such as walking/ running along the coast, swimming and beach visitations are among the most popular activities for domestic visitors on both day and overnight trips.

While participation rates in pursuits such as bird and wildlife watching in coastal areas and visiting nature reserves, etc. in coastal areas were lower, these activities did see the highest frequency of both day and overnight trips for those active in these activities. 

According to the National University of Galway (NUIG) research the average expenditure per coastal day trip in 2018 was calculated at €95. The equivalent for coastal overnight trips was €310. The estimated water-based activity expenditure per person per trip across the sample was €56 rising to €73 for the subsample that actually undertake waterbased activities on their coastal visits. The results also indicate that domestic tourists undertake the majority of their marine activities on the West and South coasts of Ireland and that there are notable differences in participation rates across age groupings, social classes and by family makeup.

A domestic tourist is defined in this report as a person who spends at least one night away from home on their trip. Total expenditure by domestic tourists in coastal areas was estimated to be €698 million in 2018, which represents 35% of the total expenditure by domestic tourists (using the broader Fáilte Ireland measure for domestic tourists that includes business trips equating to 10.92 million in total trips and €2,006 million in total revenue).

The marine-related activity expenditure, or what might truly be referred to as domestic marine tourism, is estimated to generate revenue of €381 million with €172 million being spent on water-based activities. Marine tourism makes up an estimated 19% of total domestic tourism expenditure.

Marine Leisure Tourism - FAQ

Coastal tourism refers to land-based and water-based tourism activities taking place on the coast for which the proximity to the sea is a condition including also their respective services. Coastal and Marine Tourism & Leisure are seen as one of the Blue Economy (BE) sectors that can help unlock the potential of multi-use of space at sea by engaging with Blue Growth (BG) sectors such as Aquaculture and Marine Renewable Energy among others.

Sports: sailing, surfing, diving and fishing Heritage: Unesco coastal villages, archaeological sites of interest, biospheres and historical points of interest Arts: coastal museums, art galleries, museums, wrecks Education: Eco-tourism, field courses, NGOs. Food: Seafood restaurants, Seafood festivals

NUI Galway carried out a survey of domestic residents in Ireland in 2019 as part of a survey entitled "Valuing and understanding the dynamics of Ireland's Ocean Economy". The purpose of the household survey was to profile the domestic market for single-day trips (leisure) and overnight trips (tourism) for coastal and marine-related activities in Ireland. The results of the survey are also used to estimate what proportion of an Irish resident's total domestic tourism expenditure is in coastal areas (coastal tourism) and what proportion is spent on undertaking marine-related activities (marine tourism).

The NUI results highlight the important contribution that Ireland's marine and coastal resources make to the leisure experiences of the general population and the importance of the domestic tourism market to local coastal economies. The analysis indicates that domestic coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €698 million in 2018, while domestic marine tourism generated €381 million. Activities such as walking/ running along the coast, swimming and beach visitations are among the most popular activities for domestic visitors on both day and overnight trips. While participation rates in pursuits such as bird and wildlife watching in coastal areas and visiting nature reserves, etc. in coastal areas were lower, these activities did see the highest frequency of both day and overnight trips for those active in these activities. Satisfaction with the available marine-related leisure facilities was also found to be very high across all activities.

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