By Sean O'Riordan
Cruise liner traffic boosted the Cork economy by €12m this year, a figure which may increase next year when for the first time the number of ships visiting next year will top the 100-mark.
A total of 92 cruise ships have visited the port this year, carrying 157,000 passengers and 69,000 crew.
It was the highest ever number of cruise ship visits to the region and the Port of Cork says it anticipates it will have more than 100 visits in 2019.
"Even though our cruise business has grown 30% in the last year, the biggest beneficiary is the region, with up to €12 million injected into the local economy over the summer cruise season," Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating said.
Based on research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in 2017 on behalf of the Port of Cork, cruise passengers spend an average of €81 per visit and crew spend €29 per visit.
"In 2019 we anticipate over 100 cruise calls to Cork and realistically this is how we expect the cruise business pace to continue," Mr Keating said.
Last month the Port of Cork visited all the major cruise lines calling to Cork and feedback from the companies was very positive in terms of their passenger experiences when visiting the region.
Currently, all cruise operations are handled in Cobh, Ireland’s only dedicated cruise berth.
However, with the continued growth in calls, the Port of Cork is now keen to explore the option of a second cruise berth in Cobh.
Mr Keating said with that in mind the Port of Cork has just launched their ‘Expressions of Interest’ to the market inviting submissions from interested parties to develop and/or operate a new cruise berth at Lynch’s Quay, Cobh.
Conor Mowlds, the Port of Cork commercial officer, said that by launching the Expressions of Interest they will see if there is an appetite in the market to develop a new cruise berth in Cobh.
"From the port’s perspective, we know this business is growing and we want to have every possible option ready to capitalise on it," Mr Mowlds said.
The increased cruise calls to Cork are indicative of the wider global cruise business which has seen huge growth.
It is estimated this year that 27.2m people will have taken a cruise on more than 450 cruise ships worldwide.
Mr Mowlds said that with the global cruise ship order book for new build contracts reaching 113 ships between now and 2027, Cork cruise business is set to grow further in the coming years and the Port of Cork is eager to attract these new ships.
Further information on the ‘Expression of Interest’ can be found here.