TOURISTS visiting Donegal that stay in campervans, touring caravans and tents spend more than €11 million in the county annually, according to a new report.
The Caravan Camping and Campervan Study, commissioned by Donegal County Council and carried out by consultancy firm, KPMG, was launched in the Silver Tassie Hotel in Letterkenny on Tuesday.
The study looked at current provision across the county and found that the €11 million in revenue generated is estimated to support around 300 jobs in the tourism sector across Donegal.
Issues around the growing trend of ‘wild camping’, where visitors stay in tents, touring caravans and motorhomes outside of designated camping sites, often near beaches and beauty spots, was explored in the report.
This type of camping has, according to the survey, led to issues with local communities and given rise to concerns about overcrowding, damage to the environment and issues around anti-social behaviour.
The report provides a breakdown of areas where the majority of issues involving campers or motorhomes are experienced. It found that Dunfanaghy recorded the highest number of issues (98).
Other areas that had a very high response rate were Bundoran (42), Carrickfin (34), Creevy (39), Donegal Town (35), Downings (37), Rathmullan (44) and Rossnowlagh (35).
The most common type of issue experienced was parking at beach car parks with almost thirty per cent of respondents to the survey raising this as a concern.
Overwhelmed facilities such as toilets and waste services was another common issue with 29 per cent citing this as a problem.
Wild campers setting up on private land, a lack of economic benefit for communities and anti-social behaviour were other common issues.
Asked what can be done to minimise the problems thirty per cent of respondents said more infrastructure is needed. A quarter of the respondents said more engagement with campers is required, others said better signage (14 per cent), barriers on carparks (10 per cent), enforcement (11 per cent) and local byelaws (nine per cent).
Of those that responded and visited the county, eleven per cent said they were from Donegal, nine per cent said Dublin, seven per cent were from Cork and Antrim, five per cent were from Down, Derry and Meath, four per cent hailed from Armagh and two per cent were not from Ireland.
The report found that there are 20 campsites or holiday parks providing camping and touring van accommodation facilities across the county.
This includes 394 pitches for touring caravans and motorhomes and 201 pitches for tents.
It also reported that the most popular time in the year for these sites was during July and August when occupancy rates reached up to 85 per cent.
To address the issues raised in the report KMPG outlined several actions that can be taken by the local authority including the development of a code of conduct to address the concerns and also help foster a more welcoming attitude towards campers.
It also encouraged better marketing for the sector, including the creation of a dedicated website for campers, and more promotion across existing tourism sites.
The installation of signage where wild camping is prohibited was another suggestion and the consideration of bye-laws where required.
Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Jack Murray, said attracting campers to Donegal would help boost the local economy.
“Tourism is a hugely important sector for Donegal and we have seen an increase in all types of visitors over the last number of years including campers. The purpose of this event is to share information on the findings of the study commissioned by the Council in 2021 and how these findings are now being acted upon by the Council.
“While there have been challenges in a number of areas of the county due to increased number of visitors and the lack of essential facilities, this sector presents opportunities for businesses and communities in Donegal. It is about making sure that these opportunities are developed in a sustainable and viable way that not only offers a warm welcome to our visitors but that ensures businesses and communities have positive experiences and that our natural environment remains protected,” he said.