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Clare council offering €300k to consultants who can come up with Cliffs of Moher 'masterplan'

Already this summer, the council has put in a number of measures aimed at easing visitor congestion.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL is to pay consultants around €300,000 to draw up a strategy for the country’s most popular natural visitor attraction, the Cliffs of Moher.

The local authority has confirmed to interested parties in tendering for the contract that the indicative cost of the Cliffs of Moher Strategy 2040 is €300,000.

The council is commissioning the work after the local authority admitted that the existing visitor facilities at the Cliffs of Moher “strains to be fit for purpose” and are ‘now rather overwhelmed’ during peak times with visitor numbers projected to increase to almost two million by 2025.

Already this summer, the council has put in a number of measures aimed at easing visitor congestion at the Cliffs of Moher.

This includes the launch of a shuttle bus service in late June and the council stated on Thursday that the service “is getting good usage”.

Director at Clare County Council, Leonard Cleary said that to date in 2019 “visitor numbers are on par with last year’s numbers. Last year we had 1.6m visitors and indications at the mid-year point are that numbers are holding their own”. 

Cleary said that “visitors are responding to our new policies and spreading their visits across the day rather than peak hours at mid-day”

Former President of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and Lahinch hotelier, Michael Vaughan said that the crowds going to the Cliffs of Moher currently “are overwhelming”.

He said: “At 1.6 million, it is at the peak of what is sustainable. I believe that the Cliffs operators should take a leaf out of the Giants Causeway and put in place two or three visitor points.

“The approach to managing the visitor numbers needs something entirely different and the starting point of the consultants who are appointed to carry out the work should be the views of local landowners.”

Vaughan said that a visit to the Cliffs for many tourists travelling the Wild Atlantic Way “is a ticking the box exercise”.

It is now 12 years since the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience (COMVE) was opened at a cost of €30 million.

However, in the tender documentation the council makes the case for additional visitor infrastructure at the Cliffs  stating that existing systems at the CoMVE are ‘sub-standard’ and that the attraction “is a victim of its own success”.

The council points out that the infrastructure and arrival facilities at the site were originally designed and constructed for a visitor population of 400,000, which now numbers 1.5m and which is projected to rise to almost 2m by 2025. 

The tender documentation for consultants to prepare a Cliffs of Moher Strategy 2040 state: “The infrastructure and facilities necessary to cater for this projected level of population increase need to be planned for and put in place now.

It adds: “The existing systems are now sub- standard and make increasingly difficult the delivery of a world class visitor experience.”

The council critique of the existing facilities state that “visitors are put off by queues at all service points, toilets and restaurant. At times visitors may not be able to gain entry to the visitor centre due to the crowds”. 

The council state that the facilities “are at capacity from February through to the end of October” and this is due to the geographical location of the Cliffs of Moher, its functioning as a coach tour lunch time stop and the concentrated volume of visitors.

In the tender documentation, the council states: “The challenge is to deliver a world class visitor experience utilising best practice visitor management and environmental management principles to ensure the future of the natural assets is safeguarded and conserved as well as minimizing any adverse effects on the quality of life for those who live in the area.” 

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Gordon Deegan

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