A DELEGATION from Latvia and Estonia have paid a visit to the North West as part of a special transnational project to develop bespoke water based recreational tourism packages.
The project has been funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), through the NI Rural Development Programme and administered by the Derry Strabane Rural Partnership.
A grant of £146,000 was awarded for the delivery of the Rivers Access & Recreation Project, with capital works North and South supported by funding from the Loughs Agency.
The project has been developed as both a cross border and transnational initiative in partnership with the Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area, LAGS from Latvia and Estonia and Donegal Local Development Company.
The vision for the project was to create appealing water-based recreation products, with the potential to increase visitor numbers and deliver health and social benefits to local people. In particular the initiative aimed to improve both access and the visual appearance of sites that are currently under-utilised or have access issues.
The development of a package of water-related recreational activities to be enjoyed by both tourists and local people is another aspect of the project.
In the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, the two sites developed through the project were located at Strabane Canal and Gribben Quay at Bready.
Rural Development officer with council, Linda White, explained that works at both sites are now complete.
"We are extremely lucky to have many areas of natural beauty and some stunning waterways which are unfortunately very much under-used.
"This project has presented us with a great opportunity to scope out the potential for the development of water based tourism here, and the enhancement of local areas as visitor attractions.
"The transnational and cross border aspect of the project means we can take learnings from other locations where work is already underway to develop this area of tourism.
"These shared learnings will help us shape future strategies and build strong connections between locations which have similar interests and priorities in terms of how areas of natural beauty are responsibly utilised and promoted."
Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency CEO, added: "Loughs Agency is delighted to be involved in this collaborative project which supports our remit to develop marine recreational tourism.
"There are a variety of environmental, societal, and economic benefits to be gained from this venture which will all contribute to the sustainable development of the river.
"We are committed to sharing our expertise and resources with the relevant partners to help deliver high-level and innovative projects going forward, and we encourage visitors and locals to safely access, enjoy and appreciate the beautiful and iconic River Foyle."
Seventeen visitors from Latvia and Estonia took part in the visit from September 7 to 9, which took in the Derry and Strabane, Causeway Coast and Glens and Donegal areas.
It followed a similar study visit to project sites in Latvia in 2019.