I’m delighted to host this guest post from my friend and fellow marketer, Leanne Doohan. Fire away, Leanne.
Last week I had the experience of being a tourist in my own country as my husband and I took a short trip to Co. Clare.
While we enjoyed every minute of it, I couldn’t help compare it to the natural beauty of my home county, Donegal.
In particular, I was intrigued by the volume of visitors at the Cliffs of Moher who were happy to pay €6 each to enter the Visitors’ Centre and see the cliffs.
Slieve League in South Donegal boasts the highest sea cliffs in Europe and access is free.
However, in 2010 The Cliffs of Moher was the fourth highest fee-paying visitor attraction in Ireland, while Slieve League doesn’t even appear in the top 10 free visitor attractions. (Stats: Failte Ireland)
This made me wonder why Slieve League isn’t as popular as The Cliffs of Moher.
I think the answer to this question lies with the marketing of both attractions.
Signposted only locally in South Donegal, there are people in the rest of the county who aren’t even aware of Slieve League.
Not surprisingly for a cliff face, it is in a remote area – the narrow, windy roads and lack of road signage make it quite difficult to find.
However, the car park and walkway when you get there are platforms for a truly spectacular view.
This is a tourist attraction that can be marketed as a wonderful experience, here I am enjoying the area on a beautiful sunny day.
The revenue potential for the surrounding tourism businesses is an opportunity that needs to be maximised, now more than ever.
The non-commercialism and natural state is part of the appeal of Slieve League so it is important that marketing stimulates demand but not to the detriment of what has to be preserved for future generations.
More so than with commercial products and services, marketing and visitor management need to be interwoven at a natural tourist attraction.
As well as making the site meaningful to visitors, interpretation, (in this case, information boards), is a particularly effective visitor management tool. It can reduce undesirable behaviour such as littering and accessing delicate areas.
Last year, it was announced that funding of almost €2 million has been allocated to an environmental management project by Donegal County Council.
Apparently, the money will be used to improve visitors’ experiences at Slieve League and to put in place measures to preserve the iconic natural attraction.
In my opinion, Slieve League is quite well-equipped in terms of visitor management, although improvements to the walkway wouldn’t go amiss.
(If I’ve inspired you to visit, do take care – the safety measures are by no means as sophisticated as at the Cliffs of Moher!)
I welcome the fact that investment is available for preservation and visitor management but I hope that it is equally spent on improving efforts to attract tourists, for the preservation and sustainability of our tourism industry.
Better road signage from all the main Donegal (and Leitrim) towns would be hugely beneficial.
I hope we never see money wasted on a visitors’ centre there as I can’t imagine what can’t be displayed on an information board.
I hope all involved parties keep Slieve League natural and maintain the momentum with its mutually supportive management and marketing.
And I hope more visitors find their way there too. Donegal deserves it.