DESTINATION:

SHEEP HEAD PENINSULA

REPRESENTATIVE:

SIOBHAN BURKE

CATEGORY:

SUPPORT LOCAL ECONOMY

GENERAL DESCPRITION

Our Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Co-op promotes the Sheep’s Head peninsula, Bantry and the other settlements along the Sheep’s Head Way walking route. We work closely with businesses and communities to build and strengthen experience-based products that give visitors opportunities to engage with our place, its community, heritage, foods, crafts and activities. Our aim is to create and market immersive, satisfying, and lucrative experiences that increase visitor yield and satisfaction, and attract repeat business for us and for our neighbours.

  • We encourage people to hike a national waymarked trail and to appreciate our special areas of conservation.
  • We have helped initiate regular guided walks which encourage local appreciation of the environment, and we promote our local guides who benefit financially from sharing their knowledge with our visitors.
  • Our food group businesses share ideas on local sourcing, reducing food miles.
  • The substantial local audience for our Facebook account helps us to tap into the lucrative local and county-wide audiences for leisure tourism, reducing travel miles and helping to turn Cork people into Sheep’s Head ambassadors.
  • Better communication between businesses means more local spend from tourists and locals engaged in leisure activities.
  • Our itineraries for West Cork Music’s festival groups help to keep their visitors in our area.
  • We generate new income streams for low-impact businesses that keep traditional skills like stone-carving, blacksmithing, and feltmaking alive
  • We regard sustainability as a test for excellence, and strive to achieve it.

Criteria 1: IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY

From the outset our tourism co-op’s marketing co-ordinator was tasked with serving two groups: the first of these is our local community of tourism providers; the second is the tourist audience. She communicates with our members via a friendly ‘in house’ email newsletter around once a week, and members from across the network regularly contact her with feedback, experience and suggestions. Our co-op structure is democratic, and we regularly seek wider public input.
Our food and craft projects are community-led and began with informal open meetings to generate ideas from the ground up. We align emerging ideas with our sustainable ethos, marketing campaign, the Wild Atlantic Way, ‘brand Ireland’, EDEN, and our tiny budget: our role is to facilitate rather than direct.

We’ve provided practical benefits for our members, including Social Media Training Workshops, and Activity Fairs which increase dialogue between businesses. Our peninsular communities are remote: it’s an hour’s drive from Bantry to the start of our lighthouse walk, so our newsletter, events and projects help us generate a sense of shared endeavour.
Our outward-facing marketing campaign invites visitors to join us in ‘Living the Sheep’s Head Way’, and promises visitors a really meaningful, immersive experience of the place and its community. It also helps create a demand on our co-op members for experiences that live up to that promise, putting the onus on businesses to increase the vividness and depth of the experiences they share with tourists, and to contribute to our ongoing status as a responsible destination.

Criteria 2 : INSPIRING AND EXEMPLARY

We draw together groups of businesses from across our sparsely populated area, and form clusters which we then use as the basis of campaigns to promote local food, and crafts activity in our region.
These clusters – which we promote using a food guide and a self-guided craft tour – make it easier for visitors to notice, and experience excellent and authentic cultural activity across the region; they also ensure that attention directed to our best-known businesses trickles through to benefit their less well-known neighbours.
Our handy food guide celebrates the best of local foodie culture, from production to plate. World-renowned cheese and butter makers, and our wonderful local Sheep’s Head producers’ market, rub shoulders in the guide with award-winning restaurants and cafés.

Our self-guided craft trail links people, place and creativity. It celebrates artists, pottery-makers and blacksmiths, bringing their work together under the umbrella of our “Meet the Makers” promotional work. We increase their visibility and the economic gains they make from tourism, which forms just part of their income. We’ve also work with our artists and craftspeople to develop stone-carving and feltmaking courses which generate increased visitor length and off-season tourism traffic too, integrating them in the wider community of tourist providers.
Through these projects we celebrate the most creative people along the Sheep’s Head Way, increase their visibility to visitors and their neighbours. We also create new sustainable tourism products that demonstrate EDEN’s values and generate visits from responsibly minded travellers. It’s a model others could follow!

Criteria 3 : CONTRIBUTION TO SUSTAINABILITY

Our Sheep’s Head & Bantry Tourism Co-op works with local businesses to promote our area as a place where great, authentic tourist experiences are available, but we also work with businesses to help them develop and improve their offers so that they are more fully aligned with the principles of a responsible tourism destination. Successes
Increased visit length & off-season use – Stone-carving courses, new in 2013, now run once a month and bring in groups of visitors for courses, generating a need for accommodation and food.
Building links between food producers and restaurants – thanks to our work, local producers began supplying two of our most prestigious restaurants, and their owners then had new opportunities to celebrate the local provenance of their food.
Integrating strands of the tourist experience – When visitors take a Wild Atlantic Way cruise with Carbery Sailing, they eat award-winning cheese made by Jeffa Gill in Durrus, and salads grown by our local Sheep’s Head producers; so we ensure that visitors have every possible chance to engage with our sustainable way of life.
We build connections between businesses – Carbery Sailing now uses Whiddy Island as a base; and Culture Kitchen’s foodie tours involve local farmers and heritage groups, with key alliances fostered by our co-operative work.
This work won us a special judges commendation for innovation at this year’s inaugural Irish Tourism Industry Awards.