09 Dec 2021

BIG READ: ‘I saw the huge potential of trekking tourism on the Camino in Spain’

Fergal's column in this week's Nationalist

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Fergal is back!

I am delighted to say that Season 3 of my Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast started this week, and new episodes will come out on all podcast platforms every Tuesday for the rest of the year.

I have a new feature called Destination Specials where I dedicate an episode to a place or region.

I have been away travelling for the last few weeks on walking trips to the central mountains in Portugal and the famous Camino Way in Spain.

I saw first-hand on those trips how important activity tourism is to their economies and the potential for Tipperary tourism growth.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago where I said we are blessed to be surrounded by mountains that offer world-class trekking opportunities which could enable Clonmel to become the capital of trekking tourism in Ireland.

We have the natural resources at our feet, and I wrote that all we need is the imagination and will, combined with Government and local support to make it happen.

I will go into my trips to Portugal and Spain in detail on the podcast and in this column in the coming weeks but to sum up what I learned, it is that in Portugal the Government is investing heavily in the infrastructure and marketing to turn their central mountainous region into an activity tourist destination.

Then I saw the huge potential of trekking tourism on the Camino which has over a million walkers every year to regions that are very remote where tourism is now the main industry.

They expect between five and seven million walkers next year, as it is a holy year. To put that in perspective the new St Declan’s Way has a target of 20,000 a year.

But it does show the huge potential of activity tourism.

The Portuguese and Spanish Governments noted the depopulation of their remote rural regions and decided to do something about it.

The Portuguese saw the trends towards slow, ethical and less crowded travel and they are now pushing the central mountains as an outdoor hotspot.

The central mountains of Portugal had traditionally been a big textile industrial area and not relied on tourism.

The Government is working with local communities to build remote coworking centres and on sustainable tourism projects like local food festivals.

This is the future of tourism and Tipperary is perfectly positioned to capitalise on similar opportunities.

I started my Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast a year ago in October 2020 at the height of the pandemic in the hope the podcast would help rekindle my listeners’ memories of past travels and inspire people to dream of future adventures.

Over the last year the podcast became the No.1 travel podcast in Ireland and is now listened to in over 80 countries worldwide.

I am delighted to say that Season 3 started this week with an interview with the US comedy legend Reginald D Hunter. Reg will be playing the O’Keeffe’s Comedy Club in Clonmel on Saturday, January 29.

Celebrating its 3rd Season the Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast interviews special guests who talk about travel, culture, people, food, politics, history, the tourism industry and expat life to name just a few topics.

The podcast has a very simple premise where I chat to a special guest every week about the five trips or places that most influenced them.

We talk about their travels, adventures and experiences living abroad with a wide range of guests from the arts, sport, journalism, travel business and expats.

Guests come from all walks of life with one thing in common. They all have great travel stories and have included Anthony Daly, Keith Wood, Mark O’Halloran, Louise Nealon, Alan McGee, Manchan Magan and David McWilliams.

The podcast has some brilliant guests lined up for Season 3 including writers Russ Parsons and Thomas Breathnach and comedian Karl Spain to name a few.

The first episode this week features the comedian Reginald D Hunter who brings his “Bombe Shuffler” stand up show to Clonmel in January.

Unafraid to tackle head on the subjects the rest of us skirt around, Reginald is the voice of his generation – searingly honest, brutally funny and uniquely placed to commentate on the unfolding meltdown of life as we know it.

The Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast drops every Tuesday on all podcast platforms and people can follow all his updates on @traveltaleswithfergal on Instagram and Facebook and @FergalTravel on Twitter.

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