'There's more to this place than Skellig Michael'
They want to realise the full potential of a remote, beautiful area - and bring jobs and youth back in the process.
Tourism representatives in South Kerrt have joined forces to promote the Skellig region in the most effective way possible - and Skellig Coast Tourism Network (SCTN) Chairperson Frank Curran said there's a lot more to the place than just Star Wars and Skellig Michael.
SCTN was formed earlier this year, acting as an umbrella over 13 tourism, community, business and development groups within a catchment stretching from Kells to Castlecove. The network was formed in a bid to co-ordinate and strengthen the activities of these 13 groups, combining the area's strengths to boost its reputation as a quality tourist destination, as Mr Curran explained.
"Fáilte Ireland was the catalyst behind forming this group, and we've also been backed in various capacities by Kerry County Council, IT Tralee, Údarás na Gaeltachta, South Kerry Development Partnership, Kerry ETB, Kerry Local Enterprise Office, and LEADER," Mr Curran explained. "Fáilte Ireland wanted to promote certain points along the Wild Atlantic Way as destinations in their own right, and thankfully the Skellig area was chosen as one of Fáilte Ireland's pilot regions for its plans.
"There is logic behind it. Instead of having 40 different groups putting out 40 different brochures, we will now see groups combining their efforts into one solid package. South Kerry has many selling points - like its place within the Wild Atlantic Way, its Dark Sky Reserve Status, and archaeological and walking attractions to name just a few things - and by promoting these in a package, we hope to increase average dwell-time by tourists in the region, extend our tourist season, and spread tourism more evenly across the catchment," he added.
The initial steps in reaching those goals are outlined in the SCTN's Visitor Experience Development Plan (VEDP), which Mary Hartnett (Project Manager) and Susan Baughman (Project Animator) will spearhead as part of a six-month contract co-funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta and Kerry County Council.
"Mary has gained a lot of experience within the tourism sector, while Susan has a strong understanding of the locality and marketing," Mr Curran said.
"With 13 groups involved, both Susan and Mary will help us steer the network in the right direction. South Kerry is facing many challenges, but we hope this network can bring more of our young people back as we go and create more jobs across this entire region."