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Remote and “tranquil” cabin cruiser moorings, kayak trails, canal walks and greenways form part of a €76.5 million tourism plan for the river Shannon published today.

As Times.ie reports today, the ten-year masterplan is the first such “whole river” approach to the entire Shannon region, according to Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin and Minister for Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

The 360km waterway is the longest river in Ireland and Britain, and runs through ten counties – all of which are involved in the strategy drawn up by Fáilte Ireland and Waterways Ireland.

Prone to periodic flooding, the river also has untapped potential as an international and national tourism destination, according to Fáilte Ireland which plans to invest 2.1 million euro in the waterway this year.

As Afloat reported yesterday, the masterplan identifies seven priority areas, and three key themes within Fáilte Ireland’s “Hidden Heartlands” brand  -  “The Shannon, Mighty River of Ireland”, “Shannon Journey’s” and “Adventures and The Natural Timeless Shannon”. 

Redevelopment of Connaught harbour in Portumna, Go Galway; a “canoe step” for access to Lough Derg; a new cycle and walking trail linking Connaught harbour and the Lough Derg “blueway”; and extra cruise berths in several counties and in Athlone, Co Westmeath are among initial projects allocated for funding.

 Fáilte Ireland’s head of product development – activities Fiona Monaghan said that a pilot project to develop “remote” or “tranquillity” moorings for cabin cruisers would focus on three such locations on Lough Derg, three on Lough Ree and three on the upper Shannon.

The plan also involves supporting a number of tourism businesses along the river and the Shannon-Erne waterway.

The entire ten-year plan has been costed at 76.5 million euro, Monaghan said, with a focus on “quality, rather than quantity”, and a sensitive approach to the river’s environment.

Strategic environmental assessments and public consultation have already taken place, she said.

 Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said that “this unique area is highly valued for its special environmental qualities and biodiversity and is home to many unique species, and native flora and fauna”. 

“ It will be a haven for on-water and off-water experiences offering a range of ways to be active in nature, in a sustainable manner.  The Shannon will invite the visitor to slow down, stay longer and to engage with local communities,” she said.

Martin said the region will be developed as a “model of ecologically sustainable tourism”, with a “leave no trace” code of practice and a “slow travel” approach for visitors. 

Other elements of the plan include the development a water-based “activity hub” at Red Bridge (Ballymahon), Co. Longford,  due to its proximity to Lough Ree, Ballymahon and the Center Parcs complex.

Ten additional cruiser berths will be developed in Roosky, Co Roscommon, and there will be additional car parking, landscaping, and interpretation of the waterways “industrial heritage”.

Read more on Times.ie here

Published in Inland Waterways
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Waterways Ireland is continuing its public consultation on its Shannon tourism masterplan but has urged members of the public to respond online.

The cross-border authority has published its draft masterplan and associated environmental report as part of an 18-month strategy to develop tourism along the Shannon corridor over the next decade to 2030.

It is asking members of the public to review documents online and make any submissions through an online survey on link here

The documents online include the executive summary, the draft masterplan, the environmental report, baseline study, appropriate assessment screening and Natura impact reports.

It says that people who wish to review documents in local authority offices should be aware that arrangements may change locally due to the Covid-10 response, and that vigilance is required in relation to physical distancing.

The plan led by Waterways Ireland, with Fáilte Ireland, aims to “reposition the combined Shannon Navigation and Shannon-Erne waterway as a key tourism destination within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, identifying world-class visitor experiences based on the region’s natural and cultural assets”.

It involves a steering group and working groups from Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, Offaly, Galway, Tipperary, Clare and Limerick county councils.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) appealed earlier this month for Waterways Ireland to remember the farming community and the impact of flooding along the river.

The IFA has long appealed for a single management authority for the waterway, stating it would be a "win, win situation" if planning extended beyond tourism.

The public consultation on the Shannon tourism draft masterplan closes on April 22nd at 4 pm.

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Over six million visitors to Ireland visited a coastal area last year and almost five million of them took part in a marine-related activity, a study by NUI Galway has found writes Lorna Siggins

Most popular water-based activities were sea swimming, sea angling and different types of recreational boating, the study by NUI Galway’s (NUIG) Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit has found.

The report, which aimed to estimate what proportion of total holiday expenditure was in coastal areas and what proportion was on undertaking marine-related leisure activities, has valued total overseas coastal tourism spend at 1.9 billion euro, with marine activities for overseas visitors generating some €650 million.

Some 76% of overseas visitors to Ireland in 2018 are estimated to have visited a coastal area (as in 6.06 million people) and 61% of them are estimated to have participated in a marine-related activity (4.87 million people).

The average total expenditure per travelling party of overseas visitors in the sample was €1,630, with the average trip lasting seven days. Of this, an estimated €699 was spent in coastal areas.

The survey found that estimated total expenditure per person was €569, with an estimated 244 euro per person in a coastal.

However, the estimated marine-related activity expenditure per person was €82, with only an average of €25 per person being spent on on-water activities.

The survey notes that those individuals in the sample who actively engaged in marine-based activities during their stay had a statistically significant higher total expenditure per trip (€710) than the total sample.

They also stayed on average 1.32 days more per trip compared to the average respondent in the sample, the survey found.

Not surprisingly, the Atlantic seaboard counties of Kerry, Galway and Clare were the most popular for coastal and marine tourism activities.

The survey found that some 69% of the sample were aware of the Wild Atlantic Way and had planned an average of 2.5 days on the route during their visit.

“Tracking overseas visitors’ marine related spending patterns is essential to understand and develop adaptive policy-making strategies that can respond to active tourists’ expectations in terms of leisure and tourism activities in these coastal areas,” Dr Stephen Hynes, co-author of the report and director of SEMRU at NUIG, notes.

The report also notes some challenges to the development of the overseas coastal tourism market and warns of the importance of maintaining competitiveness in relation to the British visitor market after Brexit.

NUIG’s Whitaker Institute director Professor Alan Ahearne said that “with Brexit likely to add to regional imbalances in this county, it is crucial for our economy that we continue to invest in coastal and marine tourism product and infrastructure to attract tourists from abroad”.

The report was released at the Donegal Marine Tourism Conference, which is taking place in Inishowen on September 5th and 6th.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
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An Irish and Welsh project is seeking to unlock the cultural potential of the Irish ports of Dublin and Rosslare, and the Welsh ports of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock.

The research according to the NewRossStandard, will explore the cultures, traditions and histories of these ports, so that their cultural heritages can become a driver of economic growth.

The four-year project titled 'Ports, Pasts and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales' is a joint initiative with University College Cork (UCC) and Wexford County Council in Ireland, and in Wales with Aberystwyth University and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales,Trinity Saint David.

The project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme and is led by UCC.

The Welsh Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan said he was pleased to announce the exciting new project which aimes to help turn five Welsh and Irish ports into vibtant tourist destinations in their own right.

For comments from the Welsh Minister and more click here. 

Published in Ferry

#Tourism - ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ is the new tourism brand for the Midlands region, with a particular emphasis on its inland waterways.

More than 10,000 consumers gave their put to Fáilte Ireland on the development of the brand, which hopes to “bring to life the Midlands' rich natural assets including its many lakes, walkways and blueways”.

The River Shannon will be a central focus, with a Shannon Master Plan currently being developed by Fáilte Ireland in partnership with Waterways Ireland to drive tourism opportunities both on and off the water and in surrounding towns.

A series of food networks and trails will also be developed as part of the new brand.

Launching Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in Athlone last Friday 13 April, Transport Minister Shane Ross said the brand “will significantly enhance the Midlands as a tourism experience and bring growth and jobs to the whole region. 

“We have always been committed to ensuring that Ireland’s success as a world-class tourist destination is shared among the regions. Some of the country’s finest natural assets are in the Midlands, including spectacular lakes, walkways and blueways. Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will bring these gems to life, offering a unique experience to both domestic and international visitors.”

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands will cover the ‘heart’ of the country, from Leitrim down to East Clare and extending through Longford, Roscommon, East Galway, as well as parts of Westmeath, Cavan, North Tipperary and Offaly. 

Failte Ireland regions

It will complement Fáilte Ireland’s other key brands in the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.

“Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands has been developed after months of extensive market testing both here and overseas,” said Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland. “The overwhelming feedback is that visitors from key markets want the opportunity to explore Ireland’s natural gems and rural communities. 

“There is also a huge appetite out there for tourists to be active in nature through activities like walking, cycling, angling and boating routes – all of which the Midlands can offer in abundance.”

An initial €2 million has been allocated to start the development stage of the brand, with further funding to follow. This first round of investment will help to develop visitor experiences, support industry development and develop marketing campaigns for the region.

Published in Aquatic Tourism

#FerryNews-  The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has reported an upturn in visitor numbers last year.

Booking data reports Manx Radio from the ferry operator shows an increase of 3.4% in ferry passengers compared to 2016.

It comes in spite of Cabinet Office figures indicating a sharp fall in visitors to the Island last year - findings which have come under doubt from parts of the tourism industry.

Passenger departures from Liverpool, Birkenhead, Belfast and Dublin are all up, with only a small decrease in those coming from Heysham.

Steam Packet Chief Executive Mark Woodward says continued investment in promotion of the Island, as well an increased UK marketing budget, are factors in the continued growth in numbers.

Published in Ferry

#Tourism - The Port of Cork, Bantry Bay Port Company and the Royal Cork Yacht Club are joining forces to promote marine leisure in Cork at the Southampton Boat Show.

The three organisations are in attendance at Stand J047 from today Friday 15 to Sunday 24 September tasked with promoting their marina facilities to potential visitors.

They will also be targeting the luxury cruisers and motor yacht market to entice further calls to Cork, Crosshaven and Bantry.

In 2009 the Port of Cork implemented the Leisure and Recreation Strategy for Cork Harbour, with the primary focus of the strategy on water-based leisure and recreational activities in and around the harbour.

Speaking about attending the boat show, Sara Mackeown, commercial marketing executive for the Port of Cork, said: “This is great opportunity to showcase Cork as an ideal destination for marine leisure users.

“Our marina facility in the heart of Cork City is unique and having just completed the new Bantry Harbour Marina there is a great connection now between Cork and West Cork. We are delighted to work closely with the Royal Cork Yacht Club, who have huge experience in the field.”

Cork Harbour offers significant potential for further development of the marine recreation sector as an important source of enjoyment and economic gain for the local residents and visitors, and it is anticipated that attending the Southampton Boat Show will help to promote the marine facilities directly to the desired market.

Gavin Deane, general manager of the Royal Cork Yacht Club said: “The Royal Cork Yacht Club are delighted to be collaborating with both the Port of Cork and Bantry Bay Port Company in promoting the region.

“This year we have seen a significant increase in the number of visiting boats to our marina, the majority of whom have travelled from the south coast of the UK.

“We feel that with this growth in visitors, now is the ideal time to showcase everything that Cork has to offer and Southampton Boat Show 2017 is the place to do it.”

Published in Aquatic Tourism

#Tourism - Waterville Lakes and Rivers Trust is hosting an information event on opportunities in angling tourism for business owners and the public in Waterville and surrounding areas later this month.

The event, which takes place at The Sea Lodge in Waterville, Co Kerry on Thursday 27 April at 7.30pm, will focus on sharing results from a recent economic survey carried out in Waterville among angling tourists to the area.

The research reveals some key opportunities for business and service providers in the locality.

The Waterville Anglers Survey queried 207 anglers visiting the area and found that on average, angling visitors spend €644 per fishing trip, or €114 per day.

The impact of this expenditure is far reaching across the local community, with €451 spent on non-angling items such as accommodation, restaurants/cafés and groceries, and €193 of angling expenditure on items such as angling guides, boat hire and equipment.

This daily spend of anglers in Waterville (€114) far exceeds the spending of non-angling visitors to Ireland. Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Facts Report 2015 cites expenditure of non-angling visitors and holiday makers at €68 and €89 respectively per person per day in 2015.

The research, which was carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland with Waterville Lakes and River Trust, highlights the significant recreational and economic value of the fisheries resource to the area.

Rod Robinson, spokesperson for Waterville Lakes and Trust, said: “Waterville is a popular destination for anglers and this research shows us the huge economic contribution they make to Waterville and the potential opportunity which exists for the community.

“We are inviting the public, business owners and tourist operators to come along and hear more so that together we can grow our offering around the fisheries amenity.”

Suzanne Campion, head of business development at Inland Fisheries Ireland, added: “We know at a national level that the fisheries resource contributes €836 million to the Irish economy annually but this local research also tells us that there is significant value of angling tourists to this community.

“We also note that the research once more confirms that angling visitors spend more than non-angling tourists and that they visit outside of the traditional tourist season, supporting local businesses and jobs while doing so.”

The information event is open to all to attend. For more details, contact Rod Robinson at Waterville Lakes and Trust via email at [email protected]

Published in Aquatic Tourism
Tagged under

#TopBeaches - Banna Strand in Co Kerry has topped TripAdvisor’s list of Ireland’s best beaches.

The stretch of sand on Tralee Bay takes the top spot in the annual table from second-placed Inchydoney in Co Cork, which had been the travel website user’s favourite for the last three years running.

West coast beaches dominate the top 10, and the Kingdom claims most of all, taking third (Derrynane), fourth (Inch Beach) and sixth places (Coymeenoole).

But strands in Sligo, Connemara, Donegal and Curracloe in Co Wexford also made the cut, as Independent.ie reports.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
Tagged under

#Tourism - Boating in the Midlands’ waterways will be the focus of a major tourism push this year, as The Irish Times reports.

Fáilte Ireland’s new ‘slow tourism’ initiative will concentrate on promoting existing walking and cycling greenways and ‘blueway’ cruising routes in Midlands counties south from Lough Allen on the upper Shannon.

Minister of State for Tourism Patrick O’Donovan announced the new marketing plans in his address to the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Kilkenny yesterday (Tuesday 28 February).

“We have had the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, and now we are working on a development plan for the Lakelands,” he said.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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