West Africa Discovery website

Please visit the West Africa Discovery website to learn more about West Africa and our selection of sustainable tourism tours, accommodations and voluteer projects.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The responsible tourism movement in Ireland

For many years Ireland has been associated with the colour ‘Green’, and nature has been a prominent feature of the country due to the ancient Celtic heritage which still lives on today. Recently, this connection with nature has been rekindled due to a rapid increase of responsible tourism ventures that have become visible all over the country.

Local Inhabitants and sustainability enthusiasts alike have sought to create tourist attractions which emphasise the natural, social and cultural heritages of the locality, whilst using sustainable means of generating energy (solar panels, wind power, ancient methods) and providing food (local farms) and other essentials (bio-degradable soap, local ales) to their guests.

Accommodation provisions, ranging from Bed & Breakfast to self catering eco cabins, combined with optional training courses, from “Learning traditional skills” to “Sustainable living”, offer potential tourists plenty of opportunities to practice sustainable tourism on the Emerald Island. What’s more, all these ecologically sound ventures are easily accessible to all ages, offer educational opportunities which can help enhance the awareness towards sustainable living and ultimately may even contribute to changing priorities towards a more environmentally sound approach to living.

The works of organisations such as An Taisce (http://www.blogger.com/www.antaisce.org/) and Greenbox (http://www.greenbox.ie/) have laid great emphasis on the environmental benefits that ST can have for rural Ireland, but their efforts have highlighted the economic benefits of sustainable tourism so that these have increasingly been taken into consideration when planning future projects.

Following the extreme economic development of Ireland in recent years, as a result of European Community investment, it has been suggested it would be possible to move resources to remote areas of Ireland, and, by investment in sustainable tourism, create a sustainable economy in the most impoverished communities (Tomasella, B. 2008).There are many projects which could be branded as Responsible Tourism. Their focus is on empowering communities and bringing economic benefits to local areas, as well as caring for the environment and traditional activities. Many of these projects are only just starting and are struggling to take off because of their remoteness and lack of means for promotion.

THE CELT (http://www.celtnet.org/- Environmental courses and holidays), Gaelic Ways (http://www.gaeltacht.eu/ - Accommodation and showcase of traditional farming ways, for Gaelic speaking tourists) and Kerry Geo-park (http://www.sccird.com/geopark/resources/geopark1.htm - a Geo-park which promotes cultural festivals and local activities for an otherwise very poor area of Ireland) are but a few of these projects. This lack of resources results in problems being experienced by genuine projects focusing on ST and RT, and has brought about the creation of an organisation called Sustainable Tourism Ireland (http://www.blogger.com/www.sustourism.ie). The people involved, members of the Cultivate Centre based in Dublin (http://www.cultivate.ie/), decided to start an affiliate organisation that focuses on Sustainable Tourism. Its aim is to contribute to ST in Ireland, by raising its profile amongst tour operators and tourists.

Barbara Tomasella, project co-ordinator for Sustainable Tourism Ireland has great aspirations for the organisation: “In 5 years we would like to see ourselves as a cultural centre giving courses and talks about Sustainable Tourism, as well as offering consultancy and marketing services to small tour operators, looking to find their place in the Responsible/Sustainable Tourism market.” she said“We believe that Sustainable Tourism can definitely be a way to sustaining Irish heritage in the long term. One might be sceptical about it, saying that it is impossible for ST to take off considering that the Irish government's record on ecotourism and ecology is very minimal. But there are a lot of things changing, see for example the renewed interest from Failte Ireland (http://www.failteireland.ie/ - National Tourism Development Authority) towards Sustainable Tourism”

Please contact Barbara Tomasella (barbara@sustourism.ie) for more information or visit http://www.sustourism.ie/ and http://www.cultivate.ie/.

West Africa Travel Market - MBOKA 2008

West Africa has been, for the past couple of decades, a popular destination for holiday makers seeking sun, beaches, and luxury hotels. However, many of the holidays that cater for the European market are, to say the least, not responsible.

Recently, new initiatives have been seeking to promote a responsible/sustainable form
of tourism which would directly benefit local communities and environments whilst educating the tourists in the diverse and colourful cultural, environmental and historical heritages found across West Africa.

The West African Travel Market (WATM) is one of these initiatives, and, as quoted in their brochure, aims to facilitate the co-operation between tourism businesses from West Africa and the European travel trade. It acts as an open platform where local businesses and communities, international tour operators, investors, NGO’s and governments can meet to support a sustainable development of the tourism sector in West Africa.

The WATM is established as a permanent initiative offering an integrated set of instruments and actions such as an online market event, international marketing support and an annual West African Travel Market Business-to-Business event.

Examples of the type of projects that this initiative aims to support can increasingly be found across West Africa. The Tiwai Island wildlife sanctuary is one of them. Situated on an island in the Moa river in Sierra Leone, this venture is located in an area with one of the highest density of primates in the world, and is home to endangered chimpanzees. The park offers a unique experience to discover the rich flora and fauna of the rainforest through forest trekking, wildlife watching and boat tours. The sanctuary is a community conservation programme, managed by the Island Administrative Committee, which represents both communities, government, universities & conservation organizations. All funds raised go towards the further protection of the park as well as supporting the Community Development Fund.

This year, the WATM, MBOKA 2008 was held in Banjul, The Gambia, and hosted a large turn out of a wide range of stakeholders such as:
• European tour operators searching for new and sustainable tourism products
• Sustainable products looking for market access
• Hotels and destinations interested to become more sustainable
• Governments looking for exchange of experiences and success stories
• Promotion agencies searching for partnerships
• Development agencies identifying new approaches and promising initiatives
• Private investors looking for opportunities and inspiration

So if you are interested in participating in the next West African Travel Market, don’t hesitate to visit http://www.westafricantravelmarket.com/ for updated information on sustainable products, to meet with international tour operators, or to register for the next MBOKA West African Travel Market.