Members of Clare County Council are to visit China with a view to exploring the twinning of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher with Yunnan's Stone Forest Geopark.
Yesterday, councillors voted in favour of accepting an invitation from the Vice President of Yunnan Province to visit the region in April or May of this year.
The visit will be taken with a view to building links between the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and Shilin Geopark in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China.
The Council has been looking into potential twinning arrangements since the visit of China’s Vice President Xi Jinping (pictured below) to Clare in 2012.
Such an arrangement would foster the development of closer industrial, tourism, farming, educational and cultural ties between the County and China, it says.
Given China's population of over 1.3 billion, and the fact that it harbours one of the world's fastest developing outbound tourism markets, such a twinning could pay serious dividends not just for Clare and Shannon Airport, but for Irish tourism as a whole.
HE Mr. Xi Jinping, then Vice-President of the Peoples Republic of China, tries out hurling at Croke Park during his visit to Ireland in 2012.
An invitation was originally extended to the Council to visit Yunnan Province in June 2014, but could not be accepted due to the Local and European Elections being held at that time.
"Yunnan is well known for its geologic significance," said Cllr. John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council.
"Like the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, Yunnan Stone Forest Geopark is renowned for its karst landscape and it is also a UNESCO recognised Geopark. Clare County Council and the Yunnan provincial government have recognised these common links and therefore, are committed to exploring the potential to generate positive tourism, educational and farming benefits for both regions."
Details of the proposed visit will be drawn up "over the coming weeks", he added, when a decision will be made regarding the makeup of the travelling delegation.
Yunnan, which has a population of more than 46 million, is located in the far southwest of China and borders Vietnam, Laos and Burma. Travel guide Lonely Planet describes the region as "one of the trendiest destinations for China’s exploding domestic tourist industry."