Ballyferriter prepares for flood of Star Wars fans
WITH West Kerry featuring strongly in the latest episode of Star Wars, which is due to be released next month, Ballyferriter is preparing for a flood of the film’s cult followers who are willing to go through hell and high water to walk the same ground as their idols.
A recreated beehive hut village on Ceann Sibéal, which acted as a ‘stand-in’ for Skellig Mhichíl during the filming of The Last Jedi in the early summer of 2016, will be a key attraction for Star Wars fans and last Saturday a group of local landowners and tourism operators, representatives of Fáilte Ireland, and film tourism expert Stefan Roesch of Film Quest discussed how best to manage and benefit from the expected onslaught.
With local landowner Pat Devane and Neolie Ó Maoileoin from Gráig acting as guides, the group walked the clifftop from Farran (where a Star Wars spaceship was parked during the filming) to Ceann Sibéal, which was the centre of filming action as the location of the Jedi temple of ‘Ahch-To’. With wind, rain and a dense mist shrouding the hills it wasn’t ideal weather for the excursion but Mr Roesch was clearly impressed by what he saw, although he thought some of the rocky outcrops looked like scenes from Mordor – a landscape with which he is very familiar through his involvement in Lord of the Rings tourism in New Zealand.
Speaking to The Kerryman during the tour, Mr Roesch said a huge attraction for the cult followers of Star Wars is to be able to stand on the exact spot where a particular scene was filmed, take a ‘selfie’ photograph and post it immediately on Instagram. This requires good mobile phone network coverage (which did appear to be available around Ceann Sibéal) and precise identification of filming locations, which will only be possible after the film is launched here on December 15.
Following the excursion to Ceann Sibéal Mr Roesch and the representatives of Fáilte Ireland sat down with locals in Ó Catháin’s pub to discuss the opportunities and challenges that would come with the visiting Star Wars fans. On Sunday Mr Roesch visited south Kerry to examine Star Wars tourism opportunities there, and on Monday he continued his mission with Fáilte Ireland on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal.
Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance Marketing Consultant Caroline Boland, who helped organise the visit along with Breege Granville and locals in Ballyferriter, said it is very important that locals control the kind of tourism that follows from Star Wars.
“Whether you do something or do nothing, they’re still going to come. We want the area to benefit in a sustainable way… but if Ballyferriter doesn’t take control of this it’s going to be overrun by tour operators throwing Star Wars tours together without trying to make any connections with the culture and heritage that is so important in the area,” she said.
On Tuesday, Mr Roesch spoke at a Fáilte Ireland workshop in Dublin where he outlined what Caroline described as “the good, the bad and the ugly” of Game of Thrones tourism in the North of Ireland. On Friday, November 24, another workshop is to be held in West Kerry to further discuss and plan for Star Wars tourism here.
Stefan Roesch of Film Quest discussing Star Wars tourism in Tigh Uí Chatháin on Saturday with Caroline Boland, Breege Granville and Micheál Ó Conchúir. Stefan Roesch of Film Quest (front) touring the Star Wars film sites on Ceann Sibéal on Saturday with, from left: Adrienne Heslin of Beoir Chorca Dhuibhne, Neolie Ó Maoileoin, landowner Pat Devane, Joan Crawford of Fáilte Ireland, Caroline Boland of Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance, Breege Granville, Joan Maguire and Josephine O’Driscoll of Fáilte Ireland.