Geopark shortlisted for National Geographic World Legacy Award


The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark has been shortlisted in an international awards scheme hosted by The National Geographic.

The Geopark, which was yesterday designated as a UNESCO site following a vote at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, has been shortlisted in the Destination Leadership category of The National Geographic World Legacy Awards alongside Destination Røros (Norway) and Travel Oregon (United States).

The annual scheme honours tourism companies, organisations and destinations regarded as leaders in sustainable tourism best practices.

Welcoming the Burren’s inclusion in the National Geographic World Legacy Awards shortlist, Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark said, “The award we are in consideration for is Destination Leadership, a category for destinations demonstrating environmental best practices, protection for cultural and natural heritage, benefits to local people and educating travellers on the principles of sustainable tourism.”

Ms. Gleeson continued, “The award nomination is testament to the partnership approach to managing sustainable tourism in the Burren that has been developed by regional development agencies and the local community”

She explained: “Since 2006, Clare County Council has been working in the Burren to develop a truly sustainable tourism destination that gives direct benefits to the local community, promotes and celebrates local culture and produce, preserves the environment and provides a great experience for our visitors. This has been achieved with great support and partnership from local communities and businesses and the agencies responsible for tourism, conservation and local development.”

“This work includes establishing the Burren Ecotourism Network as far back as 2008, achieving UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2011 and providing environmental and business training, developing a destination brand, promoting certification, and importantly linking high responsible tourism standards with economic benefit to the area. The Geopark has also attracted €2.2m funding through the EU Life programme to develop an international sustainable tourism destination model,” Ms. Gleeson added.

Costas Christ, chairman of National Geographic World Legacy Awards, who visited as part of the judging process said, “Sustainable tourism is the foundation for the future of the travel industry, and those destinations and companies that understand this today will be the global leaders of tomorrow. Tourism is based on selling culture and nature — the very things sustainable tourism practices work to protect.”

“Have you ever heard someone come back from a vacation and say, ‘I just had a great holiday hiking in a dead rain forest and then staying on a beach filled with trash?’ The World Legacy Awards finalists are all about protecting the places travellers love to visit and benefiting the local people who live there. Together, our 15 finalists are working towards a future when all tourism will be sustainable,” he added.

Costas was given and insight into the work being undertaken by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark through the GeoparkLIFE project which seeks to balance the needs of tourism and conservation in the region through partnership. The focus of the GeopakLIFE programme is to work with tourism businesses to develop sustainable ethos, practices and tourism products, to work with government agencies and site owners in developing integrated management practices at popular heritage sites and to enable to communities to lead and participate in active conservation on tourism sites.

During his time in Clare, the visiting judge from The National Geographic met with the various groups the Geopark is working with including Ballyvaughan Community development group, the Kilinaboy Historical and Heritage Group and members of the Burren Ecotourism Network. The judge witnessed the ‘Meitheal’ conservation initiative being undertaken by the Burren Ecotourism Network in conjunction with the Burrenbeo Conservation Volunteers which sees local tourism businesses giving back to the landowners whose farmland is used for recreational walking routes by repairing and strengthening routes on their property.

The Geopark are hosting a seminar on their GeoparkLIFE project on Thursday at the Falls hotel in Ennistymon to update on the success of the project to date.  Global Geopark status was first awarded to the Burren together with the Cliffs of Moher in 2011 for their outstanding geological and cultural heritage and has resulted in the region joining a global network of over 100 Geoparks worldwide. The Geopark is managed by Clare County Council and receives support and funding from the Geological Survey of Ireland and Failte Ireland.