BANTRY Business Association’s new chairman has confidentially predicted another good year for the town.
‘Last year was a busy and highly effective year in terms of promoting Bantry as a leading commercial centre in West Cork,’ said the chairman, Diarmaid Murphy, ‘and 2019 has already got off to a good start.
‘Clearly,’ Mr Murphy said, ‘the Wild Atlantic Way is having a very positive impact on local tourism, with an increased number of winter tourists visiting the area this year.’
In 2018, the chairman said, the Bantry Business Association (BBA) focussed on promoting Bantry as a destination for shopping with two new top-of-the range supermarkets, a number of big-name hardware stores, and many small boutique-style businesses, as well as successful international companies, such as Rowa, Keohane Seafoods and Zenith Energy – all of which highlights Bantry as a town well-placed to host businesses of all kinds and sizes.
With a lot of exciting projects planned in Bantry for 2019, Mr Murphy said the BBA met with Cork County Council’s area engineer, Ruth O’Brien, and Clodagh Henehan, the divisional manager for West Cork, to discuss how they could work together to make these projects a reality.
Among the projects discussed were the Bantry Community Marine Centre, Bantry Sports Centre, the proposed repair of the town’s culvert, or drain, system, flood prevention; urgent road works and the proposed development of the green field site at the Railway Pier.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with Bantry Community Harbour Development, Mr Murphy confirmed that the Bantry Port Company sought a report in conjunction with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) to come up with ideas for the redevelopment of the inner harbour and dock areas of the town.
‘As a member of this group,’ Mr Murphy said, ‘the BBA and the Port Company are also looking to maximise cruise ship tourism.’
Although there is only a slight increase in the number of visiting ships planned for 2019, Mr Murphy said the local harbour master, Michael Murphy, has estimated that the number of cruise ships will rise to 20 liners in 2020.
‘Securing cruise ships for Bantry is a slow process,’ said Mr Murphy, ‘but the hard work of Cork County Council’s local councillors and the Port Company members needs to be acknowledged.’
As part of the new Bantry Project Group, the BBA has been working with Bantry Tidy Towns, Tourism and Development, Bantry Chamber, Bantry Pulse and Cork County Council.
This collective, chaired by Deirdre Fitzgerald, is working together to source funding for a number of community projects.
Already, funding of approximately €160,000 has been sourced, some of which will be used to revitalise the town’s Main street.
A ‘Muga’ – a multi-use games area – is also to be installed in the Peace Park later this month, and Mr Murphy said it should give the area a whole new lease of life.
Given that that the Bantry Community Garden is adjacent to the site, and that the Tidy Towns will be replanting the Peace Park, Mr Murphy said: ‘The area will be a hive of activity.’
The chairman welcomed new life in New Street, including the ongoing work at Vickery’s, while, across the road, the iconic Anchor Bar is to be redeveloped early in 2020.
While the hospitality sector took a significant VAT increase at the start of this year, Mr Murphy said bookings at the town’s hotels are looking good for the coming months.
He also paid tribute to A Taste of West Cork Festival saying: ‘It has certainly helped to develop this part of the country as the main destination for good food in Ireland and we are pleased that it featured an increased number of events in Bantry last year.’
In 2018, the BBA focussed on tangible marketing, such as signage, advertising in the press, hosting of events such as the Hallowe’en festival, plus lots of Christmas events.
Mr Murphy said: ‘In the year ahead we plan to develop a town app and make more use of social media to engage with and encourage visitors and customers to make Bantry a destination for work, rest and play.’
He said local businesses have had a headstart by promoting each other and events around the town online. As part of that online success – and a clear sign of the local commitment to global promotion – the Bantry Business Association’s beautiful promotional video had over 50,000 views.
Mr Murphy said the association, which is highly representative of all the businesses in the town, is doing its best to cover as many areas as possible. ‘But,’ he added, ‘we would always welcome new members in 2019, especially at our AGM, which will take place at the Bantry Bay Hotel on Thursday, February 21st.’