A TOTAL of 22,800 people have passed through the doors of the tourist office in Bantry since April.
Some of these people were Irish, down visiting Bantry and West Cork for the weekend, some had travelled from the furthest reaches of the globe, but all of them wanted one thing – information.
‘They wanted to know where to visit, opening times, bus routes, information about walking trails and cycling routes, and where to get good seafood – all the kind of questions you would have yourself if you were holidaying in an unfamiliar area,’ said Eileen O’Shea, the chairperson of Bantry Development and Tourism Association.
When word went out, three years ago, that Failte Ireland would no longer be funding a number of its tourist offices throughout the country, some communities – like Bantry – sprang into action.
Eileen explained that Cork County Council generously allow them the use of a ground floor office in one of their buildings – and lucky for them the new tourist office was established in the stone built and imposing old courthouse, which is perfectly situated at the corner of Wolfe Tone Square.
‘It is a national tourism office because it is associated with Failte Ireland’s national tourist office, but it is run on a voluntary basis and in that regard we are grateful for the support we receive from Cork County Council,’ said Eileen.
‘Tourism is a major industry in West Cork and we are happy to report that this year has been a particularly good year for tourism. Bantry town and its surrounding district is keeping pace with the national trend.’
On the counter in this rather stylish office is a visitors’ book full of positive comments from visitors. A heavy collection jar is another positive indicator because visitors willingly make voluntary donations to keep this office, which is open from April 1st until November 1st, going.
Mick Cremin, former chairperson and now director of Bantry Development and Tourism, said: ‘The feedback is excellent, but it is only made possible by the fact that we have an incredible team of 27 volunteers. These volunteers include students, members of the local historical society, and people whose knowledge and passion for the area shines through.’ In his own way, Mick actually measured the Wild Atlantic Way and what it means to West Cork. He drove it. He said it measures 375km, which – in terms of numbers – means that 12% of the Wild Atlantic Way is all about West Cork.