WEST Cork has enjoyed one of its best tourism seasons in years, with visitor numbers up by at least 10% in all areas.
And operators are reporting a longer season with no massive exodus being felt just yet.
Helped in no small way by the best weather we’ve had in years, local tourism interests noted a significant hike in domestic visitors as well as those from North America, who all said it was our unspoiled natural beauty that attracted them.
However, they said that visitors from the UK were notably down, explained perhaps by a poor exchange rate caused by Brexit uncertainty.
Eileen O’Shea, chairperson of Bantry Development and Tourism Association, said the town had experienced a bumper season with 15,000 people passing through their volunteer-run tourist office since April. That was up by at least 10% on last year.
She noted the season started earlier, and that people were staying on later, with Sheep’s Head, Dursey, Bantry House, Glengarriff, the islands and all of the Beara Peninsula being the top attractions.
Eileen said the investment in Bantry’s marina was paying dividends, with sea tourism really taking off.
The prestigious exhibition Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, which is in the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen until October 13th, has been a major draw since it opened in July.
Uillinn director Ann Davoren said the exhibition attracted 800 visitors on many days, with some travelling from the US specifically to see it.
‘Over a 23-day period, which coincided with the town’s arts festival, we had 12,000 visitors here, which surpassed all our expectations,’ she told The Southern Star. ‘People have travelled from the US and from all over Ireland and we’ve had people who saw it already in Dublin and wanted to see it again.’
The spin-off for the town in general has been considerable, she said.
Terri Kearney of Skibbereen’s Heritage Centre agreed, and said the facility had a bumper season.
‘We are hoping that this trend continues to the end of the year. The majority of our visitors are from North America, Ireland, France, Holland and Germany,’ Ms Kearney said. ‘We have noticed a decline in British visitors, but this has been compensated for by an increase in US and Continental European visitors.’
The ‘Skibbereen Famine Story’ exhibition continues to be the Centre’s main attraction, while the demand for their genealogy service is also growing year-on-year.
The award-winning town of Clonakilty was under siege from flood-related road works all summer – and continues to be so – but visitors still flocked in large numbers.
Kim McNamara of the Model Railway Village said they had a very busy summer with mainly domestic tourists; while Jamie Murphy, manager of the Michael Collins House in Clonakilty, said their numbers were up by around 35% on last year, with around 10,000 people visiting.
Ferry operators to Sherkin, Cape Clear and Garinish islands also reported a busy trade, while our coastline got global attention as being one of the best spots to enjoy whale watching in the world.
The most recent official Failte Ireland figures relate to 2017 which show that West Cork is the country’s most popular destination for domestic visitors and second only to Dublin when it comes to international tourists. In 2017, we welcomed 2.1m Irish residents’ trips generating €419m – and all signs point to an equally positive 2018.