Wild Atlantic Way: A Success Story for Tourism in West Ireland

Overseas Irish Tourism Growth and Re-branding Strategy

The Challenge To Bring Visitors to West Ireland

      The great economic recession had a significant impact on many industries in Ireland and the tourism sector was no exception. 2007-2010 saw a dramatic decline in numbers of tourists in the Republic of Ireland – South and West regions were particularly badly hit. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy in rural Ireland and plays an essential role in providing employment. Several other sectors in these regions depend heavily on tourism and by extension were also deeply affected by the downturn. It stands to logic that if tourism is down, so too are tourism-dependent sectors: hospitality, retail and transport providers.


Tourism in Ireland – The Facts

  • 1985-2008: witnessed a rise in overseas visitors from 1.9 million to 8.5 million at an average growth rate of 6.7% per year.
  • 2008-2010: saw a drop of 6 million for overseas visitors. The average rate of decline per year was 15 %.
  • 2011: The concerned Irish Government Lowered the VAT Rate on Tourism from 13.5% to 9% in light of changes in the market.

Wild Atlantic Way Conceptwildatlanticway_featuredpageimage

    An overarching brand for the west coast of Ireland was developed with the intention of achieving ‘cut-through’ in target overseas markets. The concept of the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) is both a brand and a touring route. What is on offer is not only a destination, but also an experience. The tourism trail encourages tourists to explore the coast by car at their own pace. The Wild Atlantic way begins in Kinsale, Co. Cork in the South West and ends at Ireland’s most northerly point and Malin Head, Co. Donegal.
    Launched in 2014, the Wild Atlantic Way has seen phenomenal success in attracting visitors from across the globe to Ireland’s West Coast. It was the first of a number of recent initiatives by Fáilte Ireland to attract greater international crowds. The campaign has marketed a 2,500km stretch of rugged coastline and invites visitors to take a road trip to discover what the west coast of Ireland has to offer.

Fáilte Ireland Campaign Details

Brand Positioning

    • Thorough assessment of potential target market
    • Benchmarking against other Destination Routes (competitors)
    • In-depth review of existing service & experience offering.
    • A clear outline of what the Wild Atlantic Way would consist of.
    • Domestic and international brand testing.2016-11-16-1

Development Plan

    • Route development.
    • Implementation of a navigation strategy
    • Signage installation
    • WAW App development

Sales & Marketing:

  • Hosting workshops with businesses to deliver and package WAW experiences
  • Working with partner businesses to sell the experience directly into overseas markets
  • Creating engaging digital content promoted across a range of digital platforms
  • Collaborating with Tourism Ireland to ensuring the WAW is a key component of all international marketing communications
  • Investing heavily in primary markets: North America, Great Britain, Germany and France
  • Boosting interest in Ireland as a destination secondary markets e.g. Southern Europe, The Nordics and Australia and Developing Markets.

Campaign Success

    2015: just one year after the initial campaign launch, numbers of visitors holidaying in Ireland had seen an 11% increase and brought €4.2 million to the local economy.
    2016: The most recent statistics published by the Central Statistics Office in the “Overseas Travel Report” 26 October 2016 show a 12 % increase overall. The most significant markets are the US & the UK.

The Future for Fáilte Ireland

      Recent political changes in the United Kingdom and the complications associated with them may be cause for worry for those working in Irish tourism. The UK is Ireland’s largest tourist market counts for 50% of all overseas visitors to the Island and approximately 1/3 revenue from overseas visits. The fall in the value of sterling and uncertainty around Brexit pose potential threats to the industry.


      Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way campaign focuses two main customer segements: The Culturally Curious and The Great Escaper. The Culturally Curious tend to be, as the name would suggest in search of a cultural experience and typically plan trips meticulously based on their interests.


        A recent campaign to attract this Culturally Curious segment to Dublin during off-peak season has been launched in Britain in an attempt to gain a competitive edge. The €1.6 million campaign includes a billboard campaign in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Edinburgh. British radio and press have also neem included eg. Classic FM, the Times, the Guardian and Edinburgh. Digital advertising, social media advertising and content marketing are also core to the strategy. The concept of the campaign is theat “Dublin is what happens in between” that the spirit of Dublin is what happens to you as you are going about your day.



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