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Details have been announced of a major international conference in County Clare focusing on sustainable destination development. The theme of the conference is how to work with stakeholder partners in balancing conservation and tourism.

The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark LIFE programme will host the conference at Falls Hotel & Spa in Ennistymon on 17-18 October, 2013. The event will feature contributions from leading local, national and international experts on sustainable tourism, including representatives of Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism (France), Solimar International (USA), Cultural Site Research & Management (USA), Tourism Ireland, the Office of Public Works and Fáilte Ireland (Ireland) and members of the Burren Ecotourism Network.

The conference announcement comes just days after the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark was shortlisted in the ‘Best Destination for Responsible Tourism’ category of the 10th annual 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

Commenting on the background to the conference, Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark LIFE programme said: “This particular LIFE programme is designed to explore how best to develop and manage sustainable tourism destinations of international conservation value. Our premise in the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark is that conservation and tourism depend on each other and support each other, and it’s clear that the balance can only be achieved through a partnership between conservation, economic and social interests – and in particular, between agencies and local people.”

“The aim of this conference is to explore this balance and partnership by considering international best practice and by developing ideas on the type of environments and partnerships we need to create here in Ireland, and in Europe, for sustainable destinations to flourish. We are delighted to have very experienced international and national speakers and facilitators, and we invite all conference participants to contribute to the discussion forums. The presentations and discussions will be recorded and circulated after the conference,” Ms. Gleeson added.

Conference keynote speakers include Catalina Etcheverry (Partner Relationship Manager for the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism), Dr. Douglas Comer (President of Cultural Site Research and Management and the CSRM Foundation, and Co-President of the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM) for ICOMOS), Erika Harms (Vice President of Marketing Services of Solimar International), and Marian Harkin (Independent MEP for the North & West Constituency of Ireland). Meanwhile, a presentation will be made to Dr. Pat O’Connor (former Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland) in recognition of his pivotal role in securing Global Geopark Status for the Burren & Cliffs of Moher region.

Other contributors include Kevin Kidney (Head of Destination Development, Fáilte Ireland), Mark Henry (Director of Central Marketing, Tourism Ireland), Gerard Dollard (Director of Services, Tourism & Community, Clare County Council), Professor Gabriel Cooney (University College Dublin) Paul McMahon (Senior Architect, OPW), Gerard Kennedy (Local Community Development Expert), Birgitta Hedin-Curtin (Managing Director, Burren Smokehouse) and Frank O’Grady (Burren Farmer, Farm Heritage Tours).

During the two-day conference, delegates can also participate in a Geopark LIFE Field Trip to review good sustainable tourism practice and to highlight visitor management, access and conservation issues in the Burren. The trip will include visits to a number of prominent visitor centres and natural attractions.

The upcoming conference is part of the GeoparkLIFE programme 2013-17. The EU-funded programme is supported by Clare County Council, Fáilte Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland, Office of Public Works, Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, The Heritage Council, NUI Galway and UCD. The Developing Sustainable Tourism Destinations conference takes place on 17-18 October, 2013, at Falls Hotel & Spa, Ennistymon, Co. Clare, Ireland. For more visit www.burren.ie.