A bright green initiative formed on the cold grey rocks of Co Clare has been heralded as one of the finest tourism offerings on the planet by one of the world’s most well-regarded tourism guide books.
The Burren EcoTourism Network has blazed a trail in what the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 list describes as the best in “regenerative travel”.
With the global pandemic bringing leisure travel to a virtual standstill since early in 2020 the Lonely Planet was forced into a “radical reimagining” of its best in travel picks for 2021 and it said it has tried to reflect how the world and attitudes to travel have changed.
For next year Lonely Planet said it was looking ahead to the future of travel, recognising not only places, but also people and communities who are transforming the travel industry.
The list celebrates commitments to community, diversity and sustainability across the world with projects in Ireland and Australia amongst the most inspiring innovators.
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021 list has selected 30 inspirational people, destinations and tourism projects that shine a light on pioneering sustainable practices, regenerate local communities and promote representation in all aspects of travel.
The Burren EcoTourism Network is described as “an impressive community collaboration of over 60 local enterprises which has transformed Ireland’s Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark into a global leader for sustainable tourism”.
The guide celebrates the network for coming together “to promote slow tourism, local engagement and a greater responsibility for a more sustainable future for all in the area.”
All the enterprises in the networkd subscribe to the unique Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark ‘Code of Sustainable Practice’, an online platform that measures waste output, water consumption and energy usage and encourages each business to make reductions in these areas.
The chief executive of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons extended his congratulations the Burren Ecotourism Network. “It is a well-deserved accolade, recognising all of their hard work to become a global leader for sustainable tourism.”
He also expressed his thanks to the Lonely Planet “for the wonderful support they have shown the island of Ireland over the years. In what has been a devastating year for travel and tourism, this accolade is really good news and will surely inspire travellers everywhere to put the Burren, Co Clare and the island of Ireland on their holiday wish-list - when the time is right.”
The chief executive of Lonely Planet Luis Cabrera said travel in 2021 and beyond would be “a much more considerate exercise than it has been ever before.
“With travellers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focusing on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to make genuine contributions through regenerative travel.”
A year on from the devastating bush fires, Australia was also recognised for the “amazing community restoration work”, including the coordinated effort from The Nature Conservancy Australia, to help the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife rise from the ashes.
The Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2021 List
Best in Sustainability
Best City Stay - Gothenburg, Sweden. Topping the Global Destinations Sustainability Index, the city has introduced a range of progressive and measurable solutions to achieve fossil-independence by 2030.
Best islands - Palau, Pacific Ocean. Progressive policies and protective measures have put the pristine archipelago at the vanguard of environmental sustainability.
Best Accommodation - Grootberg Lodge in Etendeka Plateau, Namibia. A luxurious low-impact lodge helping to preserve lion and black rhino populations through community empowerment.
Best Cycling - Virginia Mountain Bike Trail. A nearly 500-mile trail across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Trail gives bike-packers a low-impact way of interacting with the environment.
Best Food Destination - Greece. Organic produce markets and island seafood makes it an unintentional leader of the world's most sustainable food.
Best Train Journey - Rocky Mountaineer. This slow-travel option has reduced its Co2 emissions by 18 tonnes per year, increased onboard recycling and introduced initiatives to protect of local wildlife.
Best Emerging Destination - Antigua & Barbuda. On the front line of climate change impact, the islands have made sustainability a priority, banning single-use plastics and styrofoam and established a 'Green Corridor' of environmentally friendly businesses.
Best Conservation Programme - Rwanda. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme has brought back the wild mountain Gorilla population back from the brink of extinction.
Best Walks - Le Vie di Dante, Italy (Roads of Dante). An epic 245-mile network of trails completable only by foot or bike.
Best Storyteller - Soraya Abdel-Hadi. The Soraya.earth blog and social media channels combine a love of travel with a desire to protect the Earth.
Best In Community
Best Tour - Invisible Cities A UK city walking tour company and social enterprise providing people affected by homelessness the opportunity to become tour guides in their own city, while also generating funds for homeless projects.
Best Restoration - Australia. Following the worst bushfire seasons in history, the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife are slowly rising from the ashes thanks to a number of community restoration efforts.
Best Tourism Project - The Burren Eco Tourism Network, Co Clare. Bringing over 60 local enterprises together to become a global leader for sustainable tourism.
Best Accommodation - Kazakhstan. Rural villagers are trained in hospitality to provide homestays while acquiring fresh economic opportunities for the local community.
Best Immersion - Faroe Islands. The close-knit community provides personable, home-hospitality tourism and invites voluntourists to help preserve the natural landscape.
Best Revitalisation - Medellín, Colombia. Transforming from the world's most dangerous city to its most innovative through community-driven revitalization.
Best Trekking - Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia. Locals lead perspective-altering treks through the extraordinary landscapes and homestays.
Best Storyteller – Hesham Moadamani. Berlin based tour guide for Refugee Voices Tours uses his personal experience of fleeing the Syrian civil war, drawing parallels between the current Syrian conflict and the history of migration in Germany.
Best Small Business - Footprint Café, Siem Reap Cambodia. A social enterprise blending wholesome Khmer cuisine and a unique approach to coworking and community empowerment.
Best Expat Storyteller - Georgette Jupe, Girl in Florence. Through the lens of local artists and artisans her blog offers travellers a deeper connection to Italy's most culturally significant city.
Best In Diversity
Best Under-Explored History - Gullah Islands, USA. The isolation of the islands allowed the Gullah and Geechee people to foster the most comprehensive African cultural heritage in the USA.
Best Cultural Diversity - San Diego, California. A diverse artist haven, cultural hot spot beach city shaped by the Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and American communities.
Best Welcoming Destination - Amman, Jordan. Its origins stemming from Levantine and Bedouin traditions, the famed Jordanian hospitality is what gives the capital city its soul.
Best Emerging Voice - Gabby Beckford. Founder of the Young Travellers Network and cofounder of the Black Travel Alliance seeking to empower travellers and increase Black representation in the travel industry.
Best Accessible Destination - Costa Rica. Strict accessibility laws ensure Costa Rica is a wheelchair user's paradise.
Best Multi-generational destination El Hierro, Canary Islands. This far-flung, go-slow jewel of Spain is an environmentally minded escape that enamours travellers of all ages.
Best Indigenous food – Hiakai restaurant, Wellington, New Zealand. Māori-Samoan chef Monique Fiso brings native ingredients and Indigenous cooking techniques to the fine dining stage.
Best Inclusive Storyteller - Jeff Jenkins The Chubby Diaries blog provides practical information for plus-sized travellers.
Best Inclusive Tours - Wheel the World, California. A travel company that empowers people with disabilities to enjoy travel experiences in over 30 destinations, in 15 countries.
Best LGBTIQ+ Storytellers – Amsterdam-based bloggers A Couple of Men share insight on LGBTIQ-friendly travel destinations with the aim to inspire and motivate travellers.