WEST Cork councillors say they fear that Dublin Port’s decision to reduce the number of cruise ships by 50% between 2021 and 2023 could have a negative affect on cruise tourism in West Cork.
The issue was raised at a Western Division meeting of Cork County Council by Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) who said the port’s decision was based on the fact that freight business is proving more profitable for the company.
This year, Cllr Hurley said: ‘Dublin Port is to receive 160 cruise liners, but the number will reduce to 36 large and 18 small liners by the year 2021.’
The councillor said cruise tourism is directly worth €560,000 to the West Cork economy and he suggested that every effort should be made to preserve and promote it.
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said Cllr Hurley’s motion, which called on the Council to protect its investment in cruise tourism, was ‘timely.’
She said the benefits to the local economy are obvious given that each visitor to shore spends an average of €80, and they often return on private visits. ‘Maybe Dublin’s loss will be Cork’s gain,’ she added.
Since 2013, Clodagh Henehan, the divisional manager, said the Council has incurred €190,000 in cruise tourism service costs for West Cork, which includes promotion, representation at trade events, product development, and advisory services.
She said the Council has also engaged external tourism advisory and development services to ‘update and expand the range of visitor experiences for West Cork.’
She said it was important to regularly enhance the range, standard and unique nature of tourism products in West Cork because it competes with the British Isles for cruise calls to local harbours.
The manager said West Cork tends to attract expedition ships and smaller cruise ships because the depth of the harbours cannot accommodate the larger liners.
‘This is a niche market,’ she told the councillors, ‘and is designed around customer expectations, such as exploration, adventure, activities and cultural experiences.’
As a result, she maintained the current level of activity and future opportunities for West Cork ‘are not expected to be significantly impacted by Dublin Port’s decision to prioritise cargo trade.’
She also pointed out that cruise operators schedule their visitors and itineraries about 24 months in advance and that cruise visits to West Cork attract affluent voyagers who make return trips so they can explore the area at their leisure. Cruise ships traditionally visited Cobh, Glengarriff and Bantry, but in recent years the Council has increased the number of calls to West Cork and successfully marketed trips to Bere Island, Cape Clear, Schull and Kinsale. The Council is also working on promoting cruise calls to Castletownbere and Sherkin Island.