By Siobhán Cronin
BANTRY – and West Cork in general – is perfectly poised to benefit from the huge potential that cruise liner tourism can bring, a seminar in the town heard last week.
And the town was told that it should seriously consider developing a deep berthing facility for cruise liners at its new harbour.
Speaking at last week’s seminar on the potential of cruise tourism for the town, Chris Coates, commercial director of liner group CMV, referred to Bantry as a ‘treasure trove destination’ because of its location and natural amenities.
The ‘boutique’-style and ‘expedition’ ships that can already access the harbour are a growing sector, catering for well-heeled older passengers, he said.
And, with the town having an abundance of natural beauty, good local attractions and great access, stakeholders should come together to ensure it gets its fair slice of the market.
Mr Coates was speaking at the seminar, organised by Bantry Bay Port Company, and geared at alerting local businesses and organisations to the benefits of attracting cruise liner tourism.
While Cobh is now a regular and successful stop-off point for many of the large liners, Bantry had not yet reached its potential in a growing market, the seminar heard.
But if it wanted to become a more serious player in the market, it would have to eventually develop an ‘alongside berth’ in the harbour, Mr Coates said. This would be a major improvement on the current situation which sees liners having to offload passengers to a tender in the bay, before they are transported to the pier to access the town.
In response to this comment, Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating said that a quayside berth would be a major development, ‘costing millions’, and that the town would first need to grow its existing liner tourism.
‘Let’s grow the business to the point that such a piece of infrastructure becomes essential,’ he said.
And he said the option of a retractable ‘sea walk’ used in other areas to reach out to ships at anchor may not be suitable in a harbour such as Bantry’s, but that other technology may yet become available in the future to offer a solution.
He explained that Cobh’s success had led to the introduction of a levy which is helping to fund additional berthing facilities.
And he praised Cork County Council for being ‘one of the few local authorities in Ireland that has realised the potential of the cruise business’.
Referring to the new inner harbour development in Bantry, he said that the port’s parent company, Port of Cork, was ‘very happy’ with its operation and that the 40 berths were constantly busy and it had a ‘very successful year’.
The Port of Cork also unveiled a promotional video for Bantry which will be shown to potential clients in the US later this month. They are also using the tagline ‘Cruise the Wild Atlantic Way’ to entice passengers who have already heard of the popular coastal drive.