This paper sets out the contrasting story of the planning, development and management of the Causeway Coastal Route and the Saint Patrick’s Trail as part of the development of a broader programme of ‘signature development’ projects designed to create the wow factor and offer international standout for Northern Ireland. The research sits within a domain, namely linear tourism attractions, that has received limited academic attention which is surprising as most regions claim to have a trail or route of varying levels of significance, be that local, regional, national or even international. The paper situates the two cases within a broad generic model/schema of possible route experience: entire route visited, certain nodes visited, section and nodes visited, and nodes visited that are connected to the route itself. The history behind both routes are explored, the Causeway Coastal Route is essentially a general touring sightseeing route which has been given the label of being ‘the essential Irish journey’, connecting several ‘big build’ visitor attractions, including the Walled City of Derry, the 1st UK city of culture (2013), the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site which saw the opening of a new visitor centre in July 2012, and the opening of Titanic Belfast in April 2012, the capital; city’s premier maritime heritage attraction. In contrast, the Saint Patrick’s trail is a themed religious/pilgrimage route, connecting places and spaces associated with Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. It was designed as a literal and metaphorical series of journeys through landscape and culture, myth and reality that allows visitors to follow in the footsteps of Patrick’s personal journey from ordinary man to saint. The aim was also to allow people to reflect on how his legacy has shaped the contemporary landscape, culture and Christian heritage of Ireland. In essence the route centres on several attraction clusters within three key nodes, at the start and end of the route and a key intervening opportunity node of attractions around the believed burial site of the Saint.A stakeholder analysis was undertaken for both routes in 2012, involving deep interviews with respect to each route in relation to wider ‘big build’ projects, challenges in planning and development of both routes and issues regarding management, involving the type of partnerships that are in place, interpretation at attractions at nodes along or near to the routes, as well as wider service issues involving accommodation and hospitality provision. The results of the stakeholder analysis revealed that with the routes formalised, footfall at key attractions has risen as well as on the routes themselves. A consistent ‘message’ is effectively being presented to visitors via bespoke interpretation panels that are specific in look for each of the routes. Stakeholder analysis of the ‘other’ however revealed contrasting views of the extent to which the routes offered ‘international standout’ and ‘value for money’.
|Type||Paper presented at the annual ATLAS conference: Environments of exchange - leisure and tourism|
|Publication status||Published (in print/issue) - 6 Nov 2013|