Marine Tourism Makes Significant Contribution to Local Coastal Economies and to the National Economy

From left: Seamus Neely, CE, Donegal County Council; Dr Stephen Hynes, SEMRU, NUI Galway; Cllr;. Niamh Kennedy, Leas Cathaoirleach, Donegal County Council; and Doug Allan, Wildlife Cameraman from Documentaries such as Blue Planet II, at the launch of SEMRU’s Overseas Marine and Coastal Tourism report at the Donegal Marine Tourism Conference
Sep 05 2019 Posted: 14:04 IST

Report from NUI Galway on coastal and marine tourism shows that overseas coastal tourism expenditure was valued at €1.9 billion, and overseas marine tourism generated €650 million in 2018

NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) has released a report that presents estimates of the value of coastal and marine overseas tourism activities in the Republic of Ireland for the year 2018.

SEMRU carried out a survey of overseas visitors to Ireland, funded by the Marine Institute through its Marine Research Programme. The purpose of the survey was to estimate what proportion of total holiday expenditure was in coastal areas (coastal tourism) and what proportion was on undertaking marine related leisure activities (marine tourism). The survey consisted of face-to-face interviews with 620 overseas visitors.

Coinciding with the Donegal Marine Tourism Conference, the report presents a profile of overseas tourism activity in coastal Ireland across 20 coastal and marine activities. The most popular land-based coastal activities amongst the sample was walking/running along the coast/beach/cliffs/etc., coastal sightseeing, beach or seaside trips and island trips.  The most popular water based activities were sea swimming, sea angling and recreational boating of different types.

Based on the results of the survey, 76% of overseas visitors to Ireland in 2018 are estimated to have visited a coastal area (6.06 million persons) and 61% of them are estimated to have participated in a marine related activity (4.87 million persons). 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 estimated total expenditure per person was €569. The estimated coastal area expenditure per person was estimated to be €244, while the estimated marine related activity expenditure per person was estimated to be €82 with only an average of €25 per person being spent on on-water activities. 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 stay on average 1.32 days more per trip compared to the average respondent in the sample.

Dr Stephen Hynes, co-author of the report and Director of SEMRU based at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway, noted that: “The contribution of international tourists to Ireland’s coastal economy is significant, particularly to the counties located on the West Coast of Ireland. 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.”

Another important objective of the study was to discover where along the coast overseas visitors to Ireland undertook their coastal and marine leisure activities. The results indicate that overseas visitors undertake the majority of such activities on the West Coast of Ireland. County Kerry, County Galway and County Clare were the leading counties, in that order, for participation in coastal and marine tourism activities. It was also observed that 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.

The results presented in the report highlight the important contribution that coastal and marine related activities make to both local coastal economies and to the national economy. The analysis indicates that total coastal tourism expenditure was approximately €1.9 billion in 2018, while marine tourism generated €650 million. Activities such as coastal sightseeing, beach vitiations, island visits and walking/running and cycling along the coast are popular amongst overseas visitors. Water based activities are less popular, but 20% of those sampled did participate in boating and/or other sea sports. Satisfaction with the available marine related activity facilities was also found to be high.

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

Commenting on the report, Professor Alan Ahearne, Director of the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, stated: “The evidence presented in this report underscores the especially important role that coastal and marine tourism plays in regional development. 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 is being launched at the Donegal Marine Tourism Conference, which takes place on the 5 and 6 September 2019 at the Redcastle Oceanfront Hotel & Spa, Inishowen. The theme of the conference is ‘Connecting our Coastline - A Transnational Approach to Sustainable Marine and Coastal Tourism’.


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