Cork County Council and Port of Cork officials will next month meet with the 10 biggest cruise line operators visiting Ireland in an attempt to sell them more shore excursions to West Cork.
The two organisations, which have come together to spearhead a new marketing strategy for the region, will also invite representatives of the cruise companies to visit in November and next February to see first-hand what West Cork has to offer.
Meanwhile, the council’s assistant county manager, James Fogarty, has revealed the local authority’s Economic Development Fund (EDF) — which grant aids €1m annually to businesses — will be accessible to tourist interests in the region which want to enhance their facilities.
Speaking at a special seminar in the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery yesterday — which was attended by nearly 100 tourist businesses in West Cork — Mr Fogarty said the council and the port authorities were willing to do whatever they could to grab an increased share of the cruise line market for the region.
But he emphasised this couldn’t be done without tourist businesses themselves stepping up to the mark.
Derry Cronin of Specialised Travel Services, which operates excursion buses for cruise line companies docking in Cobh, told the gathering that West Cork had a lot of unique points to offer, such as its history, scenery, good food and friendly people.
He said 95,000 passengers had disembarked from Cobh last year, each spending an average of €73 per day excursion — worth nearly €7m to the local economy.
Yet only 10,000 passengers had disembarked from cruise ships anchored in Bantry in the last 10 years.
Port of Cork commercial manager Capt Michael McCarthy revealed he’s heading to the US next month armed with a glossy new brochure on West Cork which he’ll distribute to cruise companies.
He said 37% of all passengers landing in Ireland come from North America.
“Some cruise line companies say they have up to 50% repeat passengers, so there is an obvious need for new shore excursions,” he said.
David Tanner, Enniskeane, a member of the West Cork Garden Trail, said garden tours could be an obvious beneficiary.
“It’s a huge opportunity. We have 200 acres of gardens at Lissard Estate and could also provide lunches,” sales and marketing manager Olive Roberts said.
Paul Phillips of Schull Business & Tourism Association said his village could benefit greatly from shore excursions, while Mary Cottrell of Cape Clear Ferries said: “If we only got a handful more customers from this it would be a worthwhile exercise.”
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