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Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Park scoops top award for European Sport Tourism Venue 2015

The leading lights in sport tourism nationally and in Europe were recognised for their impact  on the fast growing sector as the inaugural Shannon Group European Sport Tourism Awards were handed out in King Johns Castle on Thursday last.

Representatives from organisations, locations and venues from across Ireland and Europe gathered at the Shannon Heritage venue on the banks of the River Shannon on Thursday night as 15 category awards were handed out.

The awards were one of the high points of the two-day Shannon Airport European Sport Tourism Summit in Limerick  an annual think-tank on the industry that was addressed by some of the worlds leading experts on sport tourism, including Commonwealth Games CEO David Grevemberg, Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills, Director of Major Events and International Relations at UK Sport Simon Morton and Paul Smith, Head of City Delivery for England 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The shortlisted entrants comprised towns, cities, events and venues from Ireland and across Europe already becoming synonymous with the sector, which is growing at a rate of 14% per annum globally compared to the 5% growth of the wider tourism industry.

The awards delivered a proud moment for the Mountain Bike Park in Ballyhoura , Co. Limerick, which last year staged the European Mountain Bike Championships, as it took the honours in one of the top categories, the European Sport Tourism Venue of the year.

This is an excellent achievement for the popular mountain biking venue which is in the beautiful surroundings of the Ballyhoura Mountains. The venue faced stiff competition from Bike Park Ireland, UL Sport, Fota Island Resort, and AIT Sport.

The Mountain Bike Trails, designed by the worlds leading trail designer Dafydd Davis, is the largest trail network of its kind in Ireland. The trails are widely known as being an endurance test for any experience biker so therefore it was an ideal choice as a venue to host the European Mountain Bike Championships which took place in June last year. This drew a huge crowd to the area including supporters from far and wide. The fact that there are a wide variety of other activities for tourists to do in the area is also a major advantage.

The awards took place last Thursday night, the 14th of May at King Johns Castle in Limerick. The Awards consisted of 15 categories including the European Sports Tourism Venue Award which the Mountain Bike Trail Park proudly took the top award for.

Speaking at the event, Rose Hynes, Chairman of sponsors Shannon Group, said that the awards and the European Sport Tourism Summit held over Thursday and Friday at Thomond Park, Limerick had illustrated the enormous potential of the industry.

Sport Tourism is the fastest growing sector in tourism, growing at a rate of 14% per annum compared to 5% for the wider sector. Thats rapid growth and in a ¬450billion global market, it amounts to a huge opportunity for Ireland. The clear message from the Summit is that Ireland is tailor made for capitalizing on this market in that we have the passion for sport and the infrastructure as well.”

This award is a great achievement for the Mountain Bike Trail Park which will also host the Beast of Ballyhoura Adventure Race and European Adventure Race Finals on the August Bank Holiday later this year. The Beast of Ballyhoura Adventure Race is a team event comprising a mix of men and women across a range of outdoor disciplines and skills, navigating over a period of 72 hours nonstop over 400km on a predetermined route through the low lands and uplands of Tipperary, Cork, Limerick & Waterford. Firmly secured on the European Adventure Race Circuit, over 80% of the Teams participating for 2015 is International. Teams will travel from across Europe- Denmark, UK, Switzerland, France, Slovenia, as well as Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Having secured the bid to host the finals in 2014 with support from Failte Ireland, the Ballyhoura Beast Adventure race now has a seat on the European Adventure Race Series Federation management committee and is in a position to bid for a World Series Leg or World Championship Final going forward.

Ben O Sullivan, Chairperson of Ballyhoura Failte stated that Ballyhoura Failte and Ballyhoura Heritage & Environment are delighted and privileged to receive the European Tourism venue of the year, the event that brought such prestigious award was the 2014 European Mountain Bike Championship which brought the elite in mountain bikers from all over Europe to Ballyhoura. This was such a boost to the economy of the Ballyhoura region. The event was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people over a long period to bring this event- the first in Ireland. The event drew many accolades from the organisations perspective with all the participants commentating on the natural beauty of the area and the friendliness of the people. The track itself drew rave compliments with everyone agreeing that this facility is one of the best cross country tracks in Europe.

Amanda Slattery Tourism & Heritage Officer Ballyhoura Development Ltd expressed sincere acknowledgement to the hard working board and staff of Ballyhoura Failte & Ballyhoura Heritage & Environment, Ballyhoura Development Ltd, and all strategic partners including Coillte, Failte Ireland, local authorities, and all event partners.

Ballyhoura Country looks forward to another busy season, and to continuing the work of attracting International events to avail of the world class trail infrastructure on offer in this area, an area that deserves recognition for its natural scenic beauty & its authentic welcome- onwards & upwards!