Residents in Malin Head have called for officials to expedite work on the provision of tourist facilities as the area braces itself for an influx of visitors over 2017.
Local people have expressed concerns over progress to date, despite major growth in visitor numbers over the past year.
The increased footfall was boosted following the filming of Star Wars Episode VIII film (to be released on December 15) and the popularity of the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW).
With new investment to promote the northern half of the WAW just announced, and with National Geographic having designated Donegal the best place in the world to visit in 2017, a further spike in tourists flocking to Ireland’s most northerly point and the wider Inishowen peninsula is expected this year.
Local people have stressed that it is “vital” the diverse range of views of people within the local community feed into the plans, and that future consultation with them is inclusive and meaningful.
Local man Ali Farren said that promises made regarding tourist facilities for the area must honoured.
He said: “Nationally tourism figures are up and there is a big push on for the Wild Atlantic Way from Galway to Derry particularly, and with Star Wars, the number of visitors this year should be phenomenal and we should see an increase in visitor figures to the whole north-west. But we are only eight or nine weeks away from Easter and we still only have three portable toilets with bags of rubbish beside them.”
Mr Farren said that while people on the ground were doing their bit, action at government level was now needed, adding that it was “important that people are consulted and that everybody has their say”.
“We are looking for something that will be supported by the whole community and also something that will employ people; a go-to spot for the whole of Inishowen, a place that will be an educational centre with tourist information.”
Local man Jim Mullin agreed that tourism facilities would create much-needed employment in Inishowen, and enhance the offering of the wider north west region.
He said: “We have a lot more people coming to Malin Head. In the last year the difference in tourism numbers is phenomenal, the number of buses on the road has trebled, and cars as well. Even on Christmas Day, we had people here from different countries and we had nothing for them.
“Nobody is getting people to stay within the area and this is about the whole area, creating something to keep visitors in Inishowen, and the wider Donegal and Derry area. We need joined-up thinking.”
Mr Mullin said local politicians also needed to get onboard to help progress the development of tourism.
He said: “Tourism is the massive growth industry.
“We need to get this sorted for visitors. There is so much heritage in Inishowen and we have so much history in Malin Head.”
It was announced back in December 2015 that almost 400,000 euro has been awarded for the construction of ‘phase two’ of the Malin Head Project, to include road widening to accommodate passing bays, drainage and surfacing; the extension of the existing car park facilities to incorporate 21 additional car and bus parking spaces and the development of a new toilet block.
A spokeswoman for Fáilte, responding to the concerns raised by local people, said yesterday: “Fáilte Ireland have recently allocated funding towards the development of an amenity building and improved car parking facilities at Malin Head which will be complete before the start of the 2017 tourism Season.
“In addition, to this Fáilte Ireland will be working closely with Donegal County Council to devise a long-term strategic plan for maximising the tourism potential of Malin Head in 2017 which will ensure greater visitor management and deliver sustainable growth for the area for the future.
“Together with the Council, Fáilte Ireland will tender to begin this project in the coming weeks and it is envisaged that the project will involve wide stakeholder consultation.
“Once finalised,” she added, “Fáilte Ireland will then look to provide the necessary funding to implement the plan.”
Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland have also launched a new €500,000 Wild Atlantic Way advertising campaign aimed at enticing visitors from Britain. The new campaign, which is being run in conjunction with five Councils from Donegal to Galway City, and in partnership with Tourism Ireland, is aimed at cities with good access to the region.
The four-week campaign will run across different mediums including advertising in prime commuter and shopping locations in key urban centres.
This will be supported by a month-long radio partnership with the Bill Turnbull Show on Classic FM, while taxis will be wrapped in high-impact Wild Atlantic Way imagery in a number of the cities – including Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester.