First up in our series of articles exploring the winners at Chambers Ireland 2022 Excellence in Local Government Awards, we hear from Mayo County Council on how the Clew Bike trail won the Supporting Tourism Award.
The Clew Bay Bike Trail is a new combined bike and ferry route looping magical Clew Bay in Co. Mayo, including both Clare Island and Achill Island. The trail incorporates two short ferry journeys, one from Roonagh Pier, near Louisburgh to Clare Island and the other from Clare Island to Achill Island. Visitors to the trail can access it at any point and it can be cycled in either direction. The trail primarily utilises the existing Great Western Greenway, along with a section of segregated cycle paths and some sections of local roads.
The trail offers a new and different way to experience Clew Bay from every angle. New ferry sailings now connect Clare Island and Achill Island. It’s a glorious route through some of Mayo’s most attractive seaside towns including Westport, Louisburgh and Mulranny. The total distance is 105km and includes a 10km loop on Clare Island. Keen cyclists can do it in a day, but the best experience is staying overnight on one of the islands and exploring the beauty of what the area has to offer.
The Clew Bay Bike Trail is a tourism experience and community resource offering a 105km cycling trail. Westport and Achill Island are the most established key tourism destination areas in west Mayo. The aim of the Clew Bay Bike Trail is to ultimately disburse visitors from these key hotspots to the wider area and, in return, hopefully, support the development of Clew Bay as a key visitor destination. The trail initially is targeting cycling groups, families, corporate groups and groups of friends. Over time the plan will be to build on this initiative and to further develop a number of additional visitor experiences.
The aims and objectives achieved include:
- development of a new tourism product that leverages the natural heritage of Clew Bay in west Mayo
- connecting and cross-selling the towns, villages, communities, activities and attractions along the trail.
- Supporting the local tourism economy through an increase in the hospitality and activity businesses and sustain, support and encourage job creation.
- Increasing visitor numbers for day trips and overnights in the Clew Bay region.
- Linking all communities along the trail to enable collaboration in the development and promotion of the region.
- Cross-selling tourism experiences along the Clew Bay Bike including Croagh Patrick, Westport House, Achill Island, Wild Nephin National Parks, The Islands, etc.
A number of workshop meetings had previously taken place inviting communities to participate, and from that a stakeholder group was established to further drive Tourism development in the Clew Bay area. One of the key objectives identified was to develop a marketing initiative around Clew Bay but in particular the development of new product offerings. One of the key product offerings identified was the Clew Bay Bike Trail.
The Clew Bay Bike was piloted during the summer of 2021. In terms of making this initiative a reality, a focus group was established, following on from same this group had to engage with the community at large, including the tourism destination groups; Achill Tourism, Destination Westport, Louisburgh Community Futures, Mulranny Community Futures, boat/ferry operators, bike hire operators and tourism related business. The community got behind the initiative in many ways: like for example in terms of the business community, the ferry operators increased their ferry schedules, and they also provided extra links between the two islands of Clare Island and Achill Island. Both bike hire companies, accommodation providers, ferry companies and participating destinations are bundling packages where you can purchase a complete package for one inclusive price.
The Clew Bay Bike Trail is a collaborative project involving Mayo County Council and Fáilte Ireland working together with Ferry Operators, Bike Rental Companies and localised Tour Operators in the introduction of this new 105km Cycling Loop around Clew Bay. The Clew Bay Bike Trail is highlighted as a catalyst project in the Clew Bay Destination and Experience Development Plan. The ferry companies provided new ferry services to Achill in order to facilitate the development of this route. They also increased their scheduled crossings to facilitate additional visitors. In addition, they provided chartered services for cycling groups and clubs. The Bike Hire Companies and local Tour Operators also got behind the initiative to ensure quality service and offerings along the route.
From a tourism perspective, the target sector was the tourism providers in the Clew Bay area and the Wild Atlantic Way. This new tourism product provides another reason for visitors to choose County Mayo – Clew Bay and the Wild Atlantic Way, North of Galway and increases visitor capacity and dwell time in this area. The tourism providers located along the Clew Bay Bike Trail strongly supported the development of the product and continue to use it as part of their own promotions through packages, bundles and digital marketing. Information is provided with content in terms of high-quality photography, copywriting, brochure, video and an interactive map that they could use on their online platforms to promote the experience. This was also made available on this dedicated site here.
The development of this new unique Clew Bay Bike Trail has resulted in a collaboration in the operation and marketing of the Product. The Clew Bay Bike Trail is being offered and marketed as a packaged experience, with several services/activities being bundled together. For example, the ferry is being provided with bike hire, guided tours and drop-off/collection services. This has created value-added and ensures the customer a much better experience. An example of this is the bundling of cycle hire with cultural activities including photography and nature tours with local operators.
The Clew Bay Bike Trail is a joint marketing initiative involving a number of stakeholders Marketing efforts are being pooled among the partners and new technologies are being utilized. A new dedicated website www.clewbaybiketrail.ie, coordinated by Mayo County Council, provides a one-stop shop for all Clew Bay Bike Trail related activities (accommodation, bike hire, sample itinerary etc.) and it is directly linked to partner websites and to social media streams including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and U-tube. Funding for this Initiative was made available from the following partners: Fáilte Ireland, Mayo County Council, Achill Tourism, Clare Island Community Development Office, Destination Westport and the local ferry operators.
The success of the Clew Bay Bike Trail, not just in terms of visitor numbers and revenue, which have exceeded all targets, but in particular the positive transformational change in communities and in particular our Islands of Achill and Clare Island along the route have made this project exemplary and lead to unprecedented positive publicity for the area.
Another major success of the project is the collaboration that has been promoted amongst all the service providers along the trail. This exemplary partnership brings added value to the Clew Bay product.
The provision of the Clew Bay Bike Trail has provided the necessary platform to enable a number of local businesses to grow and for new opportunities to emerge. Opportunities such as bike hire, activity tour operators, food/accommodation and transport services have all been exploited by local businesses/entrepreneurs, resulting in new seasonal jobs and tourism services. Existing businesses are also collaborating with each other to offer tourists improved services such as bundled packages i.e. – accommodation with food, bike hire, guided tours and drop-off/collection services.
The job creating capabilities of the Clew Bay Bike Trail currently supports 34 seasonal jobs and with further potential are tremendously important to all in this area. In its first season of operation it has attracted an additional 16,500 visitors to Clare Island and to the Clew Bay Bike Trail, this measurement was captured by local ferry companies and accommodation providers.