Sustainable Tourism Observatory at ATU

The Sustainable Tourism Observatory at ATU (STORY@ATU) research group aims to help tackle the social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges facing the tourism industry across the island of Ireland.  STORY@ATU is a collaboration between the three ATU campuses. It aims to build on new and existing partnerships with key stakeholders in local authorities, state agencies, tourism industry, enterprises and communities across the island and internationally to address local challenges and collaborate with national and international researchers on global solutions.

The impact of tourism on climate change urgently requires the data that will inform sustainable change built on established sustainable tourism indicators. Tourism destinations require the tools and skills to monitor their transition towards sustainable living and facilitate destination comparison, of evidence-based planning and management. STORY@ATU will offer decision-makers at all scales with critical real time data to facilitate evidence informed planning and decision-making.

The vision of STORY@ATU is to inform the development of a suite of actions to promote sustainable tourism. The data collected will underpin sustainable tourism policy, inform the proposed National Tourism Education Gateway and provide a toolkit for local authorities, state agencies, managers, community and enterprises to collect valuable data to better inform planning and management of sustainable tourism destinations.

Meet the Team

Principal Investigator:

                                Dr James Hanrahan                        

Research Interests: Sustainable destination management, Tourism and Biosecurity, Tourism planning and development, Tourism education, Ecotourism certification, Visitor generated content, Sustainable event management, Tourism and technology

Principal Investigator:

                  Dr John Carty         

Research Interests: Sustainable tourism, Regenerative tourism, Work-based learning, Dark sky tourism, Tourism policy and strategy, Hospitality policy and strategy, Event policy and strategy, Experiential tourism, Higher education engagemen

Principal Investigator:

Dr Dr Conor McTiernan

Research Interests: Sustainable tourism policy development, trust, knowledge management, tourism networks, sustainable tourism certification systems, tourism AI and digitalisation

Post-Doctoral Staff Researcher :

                                Dr Deidre Byrne                        

Research Interests: Social research methods, sustainable tourism, the sociology of children, the sociology of home and the sociology of food


Principal Investigator:

                  Dr Domhnall Melly         

Research Interests: Tourism and Biosecurity, Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Planning and Development, Festival and Event Management, Regenerative tourism    

Principal Researcher:

                  Diarmuid Ó Conghaile      

Research Interests: Rural and Island Tourism, Heritage Tourism, Community Centred Tourism Development, Sustainable Tourism Destination Management, Sustainable Tourism Indicators, Sustainable Tourism Planning.

PhD Researcher:

                  Fiona McKenna                  

Research Interests: Sustainable tourism destination management, Sustainable tourism indicators, Sustainable tourism planning, Environmental Sustainability, GIS mapping, Tourism and biodiversity conservation

PhD Researcher:

                  Colm Barcoe                  

Research Interests: Sustainable Tourism, Destination Management using tourism indicators, Sustainable Tourism, Planning, Using SMART technologies to support sustainable Tourism

PhD Researcher:

                  Sahar Atari                 

Research Interests: Sustainable tourism, Community led development, Destination planning, Digital marketing and hospitality

PhD Researcher:

                  Bridget Reape                   

Research Interests: Smart Technology in Tourism, Tourist Behaviours, Sustainable Tourism, The use of Smart Technology to improve Tourism,Destination Management, Tourist Profiling,

PhD Researcher:

                  Anita Conefrey                   

Research Interests: Tourism impacts, Sustainable tourism destination management, Sustainable tourism planning and policy development, Tourist behaviour, Tourism emissions, Tourism decarbonisation strategies

PhD Researcher:

                  Neeta Israni                   

Research Interests: Tourism impacts, Sustainable tourism destination management, Sustainable tourism planning and policy development, Tourist behaviour, Tourism emissions, Tourism decarbonisation strategies


Assess the carbon footprint of Irish Tourism and developing a stakeholder based decarbonising toolkit

Examining good practice dark sky tourism (DST) initiatives among Irish tourism and hospitality stakeholders

Principal Investigators and prepared by:

Anita Conefrey (ATU Sligo) and Dr. James Hanrahan (ATU Sligo).

Additional supervision: Dr John Carty (ATU Galway City) and Dr Conor Mc Tiernan (ATU Killybegs, Donegal).

Mathematical Modeling: Dr Leo Creedon (ATU Sligo).

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humankind. The purpose of this report is to provide the first baseline carbon footprint for tourism in the Republic of Ireland – which is based on a consumption-based view and does not include outbound Irish tourists. Thus, providing Ireland’s tourism policymakers, planners and stakeholders with an evidence-based approach to develop appropriate tourism decarbonisation policies and strategies. Furthermore, this report will contribute to the ongoing international discussion of the importance of tourism decarbonisation, which is imperative to achieving sustainable tourism development. Climate action must play a leading role in national tourism plans, with tourism decarbonisation being the most critical element to ensure sustainable tourism development. The next stage of this research project is to encourage further collaboration amongst tourism policymakers, planners, stakeholders, and academics to develop a stakeholder-based decarbonisation toolkit for sustainable destination management in the Republic of Ireland.

Funded by ATU Sligo President Bursary.



Principal Investigators and prepared by:

Chloe Dillon (ATU Galway), Supervisor Dr John Carty (ATU Galway)

Dr John Carty and graduate student Chloe Dillon secured €10,000 funding from the ATU Galway Programme for Integration of Research and Teaching (PIRATE). 

Dark sky areas offer unique and sustainable tourism experiences, alongside numerous benefits for local communities.  The researchers sought to investigate this topic further and to identify good practices in the Irish tourism and hospitality industry.  Recommendations will also be made for policy makers at a local and national level.

Funded by ATU Galway Programme for Integration of Research and Teaching.

Sustainable Tourism Destination Management within Co. Clare: Utilising the European tourism indicator system

Sustainable Tourism Destination Management within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands: Utilising the European tourism indicator system

Researcher: Fiona McKenna Supervisor: Dr. James Hanrahan

It is evident that the tourism sector needs to strengthen its adaptive capacity to climate and other sustainability induced impacts and to take a more proactive approach in management. This research is gathering data on County Clare’s businesses, communities and visitors in relation to its economic, social and environmental sustainability using the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS). This research will be used as a baseline for sustainable tourism management, to analyse current state and to monitor future trends. This data will also support the destination in monitoring and measuring aspects in relation to climate change (businesses readiness for climate change, carbon footprints of tourists). The research hopes to generate tourism destination mitigation strategies to allow for the growth of sustainable tourism and to support the Clare Tourism Strategy 2030.

Collaborators include Clare County Council, the Burren Geopark Network and Visit Clare.

Funded by ATU Sligo’s President Bursary. Supported by Clare County Council.

Researcher: Fiona McKenna Supervisor: Dr. James Hanrahan

Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ is a recent addition to Fáilte Ireland’s tourism regional experience. It is centred around the more rural areas of Ireland (the midlands), that include natural assets such as the river Shannon, walking trails, greenways and woodlands. This research is examining implementing a sustainable tourism management system based on the European tourism indicator system (ETIS). It is gathering data on businesses, communities and visitors within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands in relation to  its economic, social and environmental sustainability.

CollaboratorFáilte Ireland

Funded by ATU Sligo’s President Bursary.

Sustainable Destination Management for Island Tourism Measuring and Monitoring using Tourism Indicators

Operations and Supply Chain Research (OSCAR) Programme Link

Principal Investigators: Dr James Hanrahan & Diarmuid Ó Conghaile

Researcher: Colm Barcoe

Sustainable tourism in Ireland has now evolved to a stage where the measuring and monitoring of sustainable tourism indicators to facilitate evidence informed planning is essential. The implementation is best achieved with tourism indicator systems such as the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS). To fill this gap in knowledge this study, utilising the European Tourism Indicator System, will allow the researcher from the Atlantic Technology University (ATU) to collaborate with island communities, tourism stakeholders, Udrás na Gaeltachta, Failte Ireland, destination managers, and local authorities, to better inform the sustainable management of island tourism destination. Furthermore, as the ETIS model was designed to be an easy-to-use indicator system for collecting data, island destinations can use the data over time to conduct longitudinal analysis and monitor their performance from year to year, while also allowing for comparison with other islands included in the study. 

Collaborators: Udarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland, Galway and Donegal County Council

Funding: ATU

Principal Investigators: Dr James Hanrahan & Dr Conor McTiernan


Dr James Hanrahan and Dr Conor McTiernan are supervising two projects on the OSCAR Postgraduate Research Training Program. An analysis of tourism supply chain management to transition to the decarbonization of the Irish tourism sector and an analysis of the Irish hotel sectors sustainable operations for the growth in robots, artificial intelligence, and service automation (RAISA)