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    Sustainability & Sustainable Tourism in Ireland

    Caring For the Places We Love

    In deciding to travel with Wilderness Ireland, you’ll be travelling with an adventure travel company that believes in the development of Ireland’s sustainable tourism sector. We focus on developing sustainable operational practices as well as support the local tourism economy in the small, often remote communities in which we work.

    Through our Conservation Contribution, we provide financial support to a range of environmental and nature conservation charities, with a particular focus on the Burren Beo Trust. Our office and guiding teams continue to innovate in order to improve our environmental performance in the communities and habitats in which we work and in implementing best-practice standards both in our office and in the field.

    We see tourism as a key player in helping people to enjoy, understand and experience the amazing landscapes and habitats which we are lucky enough to call home. It is our hope that our Irish adventure vacations will open up a more sustainable travel experience to our clients while allowing them to appreciate the value of the natural world.

    Wilderness Climate Emergency Declaration

    Our business was created to share our passion for the inspiration, spirit and value of the natural environment. What we didn’t know when we started our business many years ago, was how significant the threat of a changing climate would become. While we have always sought to run an environmentally sustainable business (and have been independently recognised several times for doing so), we feel the time has now come to ramp up the action, work harder and act more creatively to respond to the climate emergency with renewed focus and energy.

    The Tourism Industry

    Alongside other industries, tourism plays a contributing role to the climate crisis and we acknowledge this requires an urgent need for change across the industry. The paradox is that travel and tourism can be an amazingly positive force for good. Well managed, sustainable tourism supports local economic development, sustains local communities and traditions and shines a light on nature and wildlife conservation.

    Built upon this philosophy, our mission is to maximise these positive benefits of tourism while seeking to minimise the negative impacts. As part of our Climate Emergency Declaration, we aim to evolve our low carbon approach to business further and become carbon positive by the end of 2020. What does being “carbon positive” actually mean and is it even possible?

    Becoming Carbon Positive

    Our work over the past two decades has taken us a long way to this “carbon positive” goal already but there remains a lot of work to be done. The recent design and development of our own carbon-neutral HQ, powered by renewable energy on a brownfield site in the Cairngorms National Park is a sign of our commitment. Over the next 12 months, we’ll continue to push harder and respond faster to make further reductions to both our direct and indirect carbon emissions based upon the most extensive measurement and benchmarking exercise we have ever done.

    Further reduction is our first and overriding priority and we will continue to seek out innovative methods and approaches to achieve this across all aspects of our business. However, where reductions simply cannot be made, we will be working with Climate Neutral Now – the United Nations Carbon Offset platform to purchase carbon credits in projects which reduce, avoid or remove certified emissions from the atmosphere. Our aim by the end of 2020, is to purchase credits which not only offset our unavoidable emissions but additionally invest in projects which deliver a positive carbon impact.

    This is an ambitious goal which will challenge our commitment, creativity and collective resources. In making the commitment to be carbon positive, we are not totally sure it’s achievable but we are 100% focused on trying. Even if we are successful, we recognise that the overall contribution in global terms will be absolutely minute. However, as a business that feels passionately about our planet, we don’t doubt for a minute that it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We commit to updating on our progress regularly and reporting on our website on an annual basis.

    Learn More at Tourism Declares

    Operating Policies

    Support Local Communities, Economy & Traditions

    A key focus of Wilderness Ireland adventure vacations is interaction with the local community. The Irish are famed for their hospitality and we consistently receive client feedback about the friendliness of local people.

    • We commit to working with local people and businesses
    • As best as possible, we ensure that economic benefits are distributed in a fair and meaningful way throughout the communities in which we work
    • We prioritise working with local businesses based in small communities, such as owner-run and Irish-owned hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, activities and farm tours
    • We provide authentic experiences, as well as ensuring a genuine and warm reception wherever we go
    • To avoid overtourism, we promote tours in places that generally see less tourism
    • Where possible, we try to work with accommodation providers that are accredited by the Green Hospitality.ie Eco-label & Awards

     

    We focus on supporting local towns and communities such as Sligo town.

    Protecting Local Traditions& Irish Language

    • We work with small communities to help to ensure that local traditions, culture, cuisine and most importantly, the Irish language, are protected and passed down
    • Many of our guides and office staff speak Gaeilge, the Irish national language. Our guides are proud to share the language, customs and beliefs of the Irish people with visitors.
    • In the office, we ensure that we use some Gaeilge in our communications with each other as well as with suppliers and even clients 
    • Many tours visit the Gaeltacht regions (Irish-language-only communities found in remote areas of the country). We aim to responsibly bring tourism to these small communities in order to assist them with the continuation of their way of life and to teach travellers about the Irish language.
    • On our tours, we provide meaningful and genuine opportunities for our clients to meet and interact with local people to learn their customs, traditions, language and beliefs

     

    Tweed weaving has fallen out of tradition but there are still a few weavers using traditional looms.

    Lowering Our Carbon Footprint

    We do our very best to ensure that our business activities and the operations are planned in such a way to minimise environmental impact. This is by:

    • Encouraging all clients to arrive at the start of the trip via public transport
    • Limiting each departure to cover a maximum of 1000 km, and less when possible 
    • Keeping the use of vehicles to a minimum and encouraging human power (i.e., on foot, bike or kayak)
    • Limiting our tours to 8 people and avoid the use of large coaches
    • In the office, we encourage the use of green transport whenever possible, such as carpooling or travelling and commuting by public transport, on foot or by bike.
    • In the future, we aim to change to electric vehicles as soon as viable (currently not possible due to lack of charge points in Ireland)

     

    We keep our groups small, and minimise travel distances by vehicle.

    Reducing Use of Plastics

    At the office, the entire team has come together to make a conscious effort to reduce our use of plastic.

    • We have eliminated single-use plastic water bottles on all trips 
    • We always ask guests bring a reusable bottle
    • We provide locally-sourced Glencar spring water to guests to refill their bottles from large refillable containers. Fresh potable tap water is also available and easily provided in refillable jugs.
    • We are committed to encouraging guests to reduce single-use plastic and plastic bottled water by providing the above alternatives, and by having our guides lead by example by not using them either
    • In the office, we have made a conscious effort to avoid purchasing supplies made of plastic, and instead choosing other materials – anything from soap dispensers to storage containers

     

    Keeping our water clean!

    Leave No Trace

    • Wilderness Ireland is an active, participating member of Leave No Trace Ireland, an outdoor ethics programme designed to inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.
    • Our Head of Guide is Leave No Trace certified and runs regular Leave No Trace workshops
    • Many of our guides & staff are Leave No Trace trained or Leave No Trace trainers, and we actively practice their seven principles to reduce the impact and damage caused by outdoor activities on all of our trips.

     

    Leave No Trace cleanup.

    Animal Conservation

    All of our guides are trained in the principles of Leave No Trace, and one of the pillars of LNT is to Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife, such as by: 

    • Observing wild animals and birds from a distance and avoid disturbing them, particularly at sensitive times: mating, nesting and raising young (mostly between spring and early summer)
    • Keeping wildlife wild by not feeding wild animals or birds – human foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators
    • Remembering that farm animals are not pets; remain at a safe distance

     

    Office team members helping to release a seal back to the wild after rehabilitation at Seal Rescue Ireland.

    Tourism and Climate Change

    A lot has been written on the effect that air travel and the effect carbon emissions are having on climate change, we have given considerable thought to the issue in order to develop our policy accordingly. However in our view, simply giving up air travel is not an option.

    • This view does not take into account the fact that tourism is the world’s single biggest industry and to halt all air travel would have disastrous economic and social consequences worldwide.
    • There would also be untold impact on various ecosystems and habitats currently protected on the basis that the tourism revenue that they generate out-weighs their value as a material resource.

    For a country with a population of only 5 million (with another 1.9 million in Northern Ireland), tourism is one of Ireland’s largest economic contributors. From an Irish perspective, tourism is vital to its communities:

    • In Ireland (the Republic), the estimated revenue from tourism in 2016 was around €7.832 billion.
    • The tourism sector supports 148,300 jobs in the accommodation and food sector alone, and overall employment in tourism is estimated to be in the region of 220,000.
    • And these numbers don’t take into account Northern Ireland, a region that heavily relies on tourism. In the north, tourism currently sustains over 40,000 jobs and is nearly 5% of Northern Ireland’s GDP.
    • Tying into this is the fact that tourism jobs often occur in regions and small, remote communities that have little other economic activity.
    • Therefore, the development of sustainable tourism in Ireland is key to the country’s future.

    We believe that we can operate on a middle ground, where we take as many significant steps as we can to minimise the environmental impact of our operations while still allowing our clients to experience the more remote areas of Ireland in the fullest possible way. We operate on the following principles and operating policies.

    Our Holidays Reviewed
    in Your Own Words

    Excellent trip. Extremely positive experience.

    Bill Ridley
    Hiking - The Mountains of Connemara and Mayo
    Reviewed on 10/06/2019

    Rated 4.93 out of 5 based on 174 reviews

    Read More Reviews

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