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Launch of ATU’s Atlantic Sustainable Tourism Observatory Ireland

Ensuring Ireland is a Great Place to Live and a Great Place to Visit!

May 2024 

Hey all I am delighted to share much-needed big news in the Irish tourism scene!

As you probably know from my profile, I am a loyal follower and supporter of ATU, particularly the Sligo body. Back in 2004, I was proud to achieve one of the first Business Studies and Tourism Degrees. I am even prouder today to say that my then and current chief Head Lecturer Dr James Hanrahan has made possible Ireland’s first INSTO Observatory in Ireland which will utilise the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) for Sustainable Tourism. . Backed up with much-needed higher education.

  • Sustainable Tourism & Event Management (in Master, Postgraduate and Certificate levels) and;
  • Sustainable Tourism and Event Measuring and Monitoring in Certificate Level 9

I was invited to attend the launch on Thursday 2 May, 2024, vitally important to the future Vision of Irish Tourism.

The Vision: 2030 will see Ireland as a leader in sustainable tourism growth, delivering a unique visitor experience which delivers regional economic growth based on value over volume, while respecting environmental, social and community values.

We heard important insights from Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media and UN Tourism Director of Sustainable Tourism Dr Dirk Glaesser.  Dr Glaesser was proud to announce that the Atlantic Sustainable Tourism Observatory Ireland achieved the distinction of becoming the first member in Northern Europe of the UN Tourism International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) in November 2023, this makes a significant milestone in Ireland’s contribution and dedication to sustainable tourism practices.

Minister Catherine Martin spoke about how the new Irish Tourism Policy Framework 2030 will be underpinned by sustainability. She reinforced the importance of this tourism milestone and how it will enable Ireland and its tourism businesses to step up their game and compete against other destinations. We will for the first time be able to plan, monitor, develop and manage the future of sustainable tourism by assessing the economic, social, and environmental impacts of our tourism destinations.

Minister Martin said “The Atlantic Sustainable Tourism Observatory is a welcome addition to Irish tourism and will help to support sustainable and resilient growth of the sector through measurement and monitoring, supporting the evidence-based management of tourism.  I compliment the team at the Atlantic Technological University for their efforts to secure this designation from UN Tourism and for being accepted as a member of the UN Tourism International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO).”  

Minister Martin added, “This establishment underscores Ireland’s commitment to sustainable tourism development, aligning closely with global efforts led by INSTO and the United Nations Tourism’s commitments. Through robust measurement and monitoring practices, the observatory will play a pivotal role in monitoring the economic, environmental, and social impact of tourism at the destination level. This can help us foster sustainable and resilient growth in our tourism sector.”

According to Orla Flynn (President of ATU), we are ‘Upskilling Irish tourism towards sustainable change’ which is badly needed as we sit in the bottom 7% of tourism regions in sustainability and development. This is particularly important since the WAW Wild Atlantic Way brings €3 billion in revenue every year, an additional 35,000 jobs and 2 million tourists in 2023 with a need for supportive sustainability measures.  Irish tourism destinations will for the first time, be able to monitor, measure and plan tourism impact. Clare will activate Ireland’s first sustainable tourism destination as a pilot dashboard where they will collect, monitor, share, and demonstrate how to implement sustainable practices in other Irish tourism destinations. This will have a huge profound, positive impact on our tourism planning systems, impact, and management.

The Observatory’s mission extends beyond data collection, aiming to provide destinations with actionable insights to facilitate evidence-based planning and management. By compiling data on issues impacting local economies, communities, and environments, the Observatory seeks to empower destinations in transitioning toward sustainability.  

The observatory will measure and monitor over 40 indicators, including energy, waste, and water consumption; the percentage of residents who are satisfied with tourism in the destination; the average carbon footprint of tourists and same-day visitors.

It is a timely milestone for future Irish tourism endeavours. Ireland has these ambitious goals laid out in Vision 2030, where we’re aiming to up our tourism revenues from €10 billion to a whopping €15 billion. Plus, we want to employ around 350,000 people in the industry and rake in €2.3 billion for the country’s coffers. But here’s where it gets tricky – we want to do all this while being kind to the environment and our communities. Here is where the INSTO Observatory is needed.

This observatory isn’t just some fancy building with telescopes (though that would be cool). It’s where smart experts will consistently crunch numbers and keep tabs on how our tourism impacts everything around us – from the economy to the environment. Also, the observatory isn’t just about collecting data, though that’s a big part of it. It’s about using that data to make real, positive changes in planning, system, and policy. We’re talking about tracking things like energy and water use, how happy locals are with tourism and even the carbon footprint of our visitors. It’s about making sure our tourism is as green and ethical as possible. Ireland will be able to lead and assist in the change European tourism needs to become more sustainable and low impact.

As Dr James Hanrahan says, ‘A good place to live is a good place to visit’ and ‘What you can’t plan you can’t measure, we need to be more resilient and prepared for future crises and impacts, we need to be in a better position to be able to combat negative impacts’.

So, we are here, in a great place, with this new observatory and higher education courses we are finally leading the charge, we’re not just dreaming of a sustainable future – we’re making it happen!

Full Media News Article here

Written by Laura Magan


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