Limerick is to be designated as a gateway city to the Wild Atlantic Way by Fáilte Ireland to enhance its tourism potential and to make it a more compelling visitor location from which to explore the now famous Atlantic route.

It is the first gateway city designation along the 2,600-kilometre route which stretches from Malin Head in Donegal, to Kinsale in Cork, and is designed to bring more leisure visitors into the historic city.

The strategy to develop Limerick as a gateway city has been in development for two years and involved local hotel and tourist operators, Limerick City and County Council and Fáilte Ireland.

The Wild Atlantic Way started as a tourism marketing campaign back in 2013 as Ireland was coming out of recession and was intended to bring more visitors to places along the coastal Atlantic corridor and to visit places outside of the well known and usual tourist places in Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry and Cork.

The route has been a huge success and brought an extra 1 million visitors to those areas over the five years up to 2019.

It also accounted for extra tourist spend of €3 billion in 2019 - €2bn by international visitors and €1bn by domestic tourists.

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Miriam Kennedy, who heads up Fáilte Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, says the route has proved to be a huge success and in all its testing of international markets, people say the Wild Atlantic Way would make them come to visit Ireland.

"Not only did it increase the numbers of visitors to the region, but it distributed those volumes geographically along the route, and they stayed longer and increased their stay in those locations up to seven days," Ms Kennedy said.

King John's Castle in Limerick city

She pointed out that Limerick was one of the counties which was not getting major benefit from the Wild Atlantic Way despite its proximity to the route.

"Limerick has been very successful in attracting corporate business but now we want them to come back as leisure visitors and explore the distinct built heritage it has to offer like King Johns Castle, St Mary's Cathedral, its Georgian Quarter, its waterfront and its milk market, one of the oldest established markets in the country," she said.

Fáilte Ireland says the 'Limerick Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City Strategy' builds on a number of development projects that will bring local experiences to life and leverages the opportunities the Wild Atlantic Way presents to sustainably increase the economic benefit of tourism to Limerick over the next five years.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, said: "The 'Limerick Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City Strategy’ provides a framework for tourism businesses and stakeholders to work in partnership over the next five years to create new and improve existing visitor experiences while maximising the city’s role as a base to explore the Wild Atlantic Way.

"The strategy will be hugely important as we work towards recovery and will motivate both domestic and international tourists to visit Limerick."

Mayor of Limerick City and County, Michael Collins, said Limerick has much to offer visitors with its history and heritage.

"Fáilte Ireland’s new Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City Strategy will help the city realise its potential to become an international urban tourism destination while maximising its proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way route," said Mr Collins.

"To mark Limerick’s designation as a Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City, Limerick City and County Council will also be launching a new marketing campaign to promote Limerick’s emerging status as one of Ireland’s leading destinations for value, welcome and excitement."

Patricia Roberts, who runs the No.1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa in the city’s Georgian Quarter, and Co-Chairs the Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City Strategy for Limerick Implementation Group with Stephen O'Connor, Manager of The Limerick Strand Hotel, believes the designation will play a major role in marketing Limerick as businesses reopen.

"The designation of Limerick as a Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City comes at an exciting time for Limerick tourism as businesses begin to open their doors again," she said.

"The Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City Strategy for Limerick gives us the platform to leverage the opportunities the Wild Atlantic Way presents, while also encouraging our visitors to experience and explore all that Limerick has to offer."