On the crest of a wave: Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way.
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The research explores what is the current service provision in a specific area on the “Wild Atlantic Way” (WAW) in County Donegal. The paper identifies those service providers that currently participate in the “visitor experience” on a section of the route Rossnowlagh to Slieve League Cliffs; one of the 3 iconic designated signature experiences in Donegal. This allows the researcher to obtain insight in relation to the status quo in the tourism product offering, whether registered or not with an affiliated body. These facts and feedback that relate to the small to medium business sector in tourism provide rich data for recommendations for a collaborative approach for a future sustainable development plan. In relation to the research both qualitative and quantitative analysis was carried out. Statistical analysis was also carried out using frequencies and percentages in order to examine trends among the participant’s responses. The launch of WAW by Tourism Ireland/Failte Ireland, offers a unique opportunity to Donegal. It may open the “flood gates”; allowing access to mainstream tourism, previously concentrated on the lower counties. The impact of the recession in Ireland and particularly the Northwest from 2008, has resulted in closure of many facilities; hotels, B&Bs and businesses in general. Regeneration in the tourism sector is imperative for Donegal to reach its potential, in terms of provision of services, employment and income. The introduction of the WAW is an inspiration for surrounding communities; a vision for a sustainable future. A review of the literature indicates that developing rural tourism and marketing through its stakeholders, Donegal will need to meet the emerging needs of independent travellers in terms of accommodation, activities, access natural resources, countryside and local culture. With the development of the Roadmap initiative “The WAW”, it is anticipated that the number of visitors will increase in Donegal. This will require additional accommodation and facilities. The overall aim of this study is to ascertain the current service provision for visitors, to identify gaps in the provision, and to make recommendations for further developments to support tourism providers, thereby enhancing “the visitor experience”.
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