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Dingle ‘at a crossroads’ as tourism benefits fail to trickle down locally

Report finds rise in visitor numbers has increased potential to damage region’s natural environment


Fungie the dolphin in Dingle bay, Co Kerry

Fungie the dolphin in Dingle bay, Co Kerry

Fungie the dolphin in Dingle bay, Co Kerry

Already bracing itself after the disappearance of legendary local dolphin Fungie, tourism in Dingle is “at a crossroads”, a new tourism plan warns.

The Dingle peninsula is one of the jewels in the tourist industry on the west coast and has a reputation both here and abroad.

However, tourists tend to spend little time and little money there and only key pockets benefit.

The Fáilte Ireland Visitor Experience Development Plan for the future of tourism in Dingle has taken three years to complete and was carried out before the disappearance of Fungie.

It is noted that volumes of visitor traffic around Slea Head and the Conor Pass are “huge”.

But while the many coaches and vehicles bring traffic, they do not deliver much value to the area.

The Visitor Experience Development Plan also warns that tourism in the region is also unbalanced.

Dingle town, which has strong tourism infrastructure, is “a hot spot” dominating the other areas which do not benefit and are not developed to the same extent.

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This imbalance also extends to seasonality. While Dingle town is perceived to enjoy a nine-month visitor season, smaller communities in the region only benefit for three months each year.

The most westerly peninsula in Europe has several strengths including its scenery and rich native tradition.

But the report notes the tourist industry has failed to capitalise on its rich culture, not least in terms of the Irish language and its strong linguistic heritage.

One of the key findings of the plan is that “the appeal of the area for visitors is being diminished through the perception of a destination with significant seasonal traffic challenges”.

The increase in visitor numbers in recent years also has also increased the potential to disturb or damage the peninsula region’s natural environment, the plan reports.

“The potential socio-economic benefits of tourism are not currently being realised and it is widely regarded that tourism on the Dingle Peninsula is at a crossroads,” the plan states.

The volume of tourists is the cause of intense pressure on local culture, community and environment, compromising the experience itself.

The plan makes a number of recommendations to help revitalise the tourist industry in the region. Managed walking and outdoor activities are proposed along with year-round tourism.

Food and music are other areas which can be developed to a greater extent.

Festivals also needed greater support as there is a risk of volunteer fatigue, it finds.

There are recommendations too for a greater variety of accommodation and a warning that complacency is setting in at the service end, with lack of engagement and standards varying, according to the plan.

Areas on the peninsula like Mount Brandon have not been maximised, the plan states, and there is a desire for visitor attractions to operate year-round and for more agri-tourism projects.

Miriam Kennedy, head of the Wild Atlantic Way at Fáilte Ireland, said: “Our plan, which captures the unique themes central to the Dingle Peninsula, is about looking to the future recovery of tourism and hospitality in the region.

"While the sector continues to be decimated by the pandemic this Visitor Experience Development Plan will be hugely important as we work towards recovery.”

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