Burren cleans up at annual Green awards

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and Burren Ecotourism Network are the big winners in this year’s Responsible Travel & Tourism Awards, the Irish hospitality sector’s only environmental accreditation programme.

The winners were announced last night (Thursday, 16 October 2014) by Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport at the Green Hospitality Programme (GHP) National Conference in Dublin.

Network members and the Geopark itself claimed the overall prize in 9 of 24 categories in the competition, which is designed to identify and celebrate businesses that are committed to implementing responsible business practices to reduce their environmental impact. The awards, which were judged by a panel of experts led by GHP Chairperson Duncan Stewart, were open to any business that operates within the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industry.

The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark claimed the “Best Destination” and “Best Responsible Travel & Tourism Business” Awards while The Burren Ecotourism Network was named “Best Green Group”. There was also success for individual Burren Ecotourism Network members including Doolin Hostel (‘Responsible Accommodation’ and ‘Energy Management’), Boghill Centre (‘Carbon Reduction’ and ‘Customer Awareness’), Hotel Doolin (Green Procurement Award), and Hotel Doolin / The Armada Hotel (Member of the Year Award). Doolin-based Seaview House B&B meanwhile, received an Honourable Mention.

Carol Gleeson, Project Manager, Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark described the awards success as a “vote of confidence” in the work ongoing throughout the Burren to reduce the impact of tourism on the environment through sustainable business practices. She added that the awards also “give credibility” to the Geopark Sustainable Code of Practice for Tourism programme.

“Since 2008, Clare County Council has been working in the Burren to develop a truly sustainable tourism destination that gives direct benefits to the local community, promotes and celebrates local culture and produce, preserves the environment and provides a great experience for our visitors. This has been achieved with great support and partnership from local communities and businesses and agencies responsible for tourism and conservation and local development,” Ms. Gleeson added.

She continued: “This work includes establishing the Burren Ecotourism Network, achieving UNESCO recognised Global Geopark status in 2011 and providing environmental and business training, developing a destination brand, promoting certification, and importantly linking high responsible tourism standards with economic benefit to the area. The Geopark has also attracted €2.2m funding through the EU Life programme to develop an international sustainable tourism destination model.”

One of the other big winners on the night was Hotel Doolin, a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network.

Hotel Manager, Donal Minihane said: “Our sustainable approach has led to a consequential reduction in operating costs at both hotels and in doing so has enabled us to offer the best possible value to locals and tourists, which is critical in order to compete in the current marketplace.”

Mr. Minihane added: “As well as reducing our carbon footprint and landfill waste levels, we have developed a social responsibility approach to more local issues like how we contribute to local charitable and voluntary causes, and the support we show for local food suppliers. Collectively, these initiatives have resulted in a more localised experience for our guests as well as having contributed to the local economy and the environment.”

Katherine Webster, Director of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience said: “Our Green Team is adding creative ways to increase our sustainability such as switching to memory sticks instead of brochures for promotional activity, distributing portable ashtrays to smokers onsite and increasing our local supply chain especially in the restaurant where, through our use of local suppliers, we now offer a true taste of Clare to Cliffs of Moher visitors.”

Cari Ryan of The Boghill Centre, a residential eco-venue based in Kilfenora, commented: “In recent years, we have significantly reduced our carbon footprint by installing a wood gasification system, replacing our two oil boilers and sourcing sustainably produced timber. As a result of these changes and the installation of zoned heating control, we have made annual savings of 5000 euro on our energy costs.”

As a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network, we have committed ourselves to promoting sustainable tourism practices at our facility. We have made our customers aware of our eco policies and practices, as well as other sustainable eco tourist attractions throughout the Burren region. Our ethos is about using the resources that we have to enhance the customers’ local experience. We are grateful to Clare Local Development Company for providing financial assistance to help us reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable tourism,” Ms. Ryan concluded.