Pádraig Hoare: The Monday Interview - Striving to establish Cork on the international tourism map

Ursula Morish, Destination Manager, Visit Cork speaking at the Pure Cork Roadshow in Mallow Racecourse. Pic: Joleen Cronin

By Pádraig Hoare

Cork is Ireland’s maritime haven, embracing the spirit of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East — but we simply must let it be known to more people across the world, according to destination manager with Visit Cork, Ursula Morrish.

One of the most experienced marketing veterans in the game, Ms Morrish has collaborated with some of the world’s most high-profile brands, including global Ftse 100 companies, national and local governments and venues.

She left Ireland in 1989 after graduating from UCC in European Studies, relocating home with her family, and returned to become destination manager with Visit Cork in 2016.

“I’m delighted to be back home and to work in a sector that is growing and is so important to raising awareness of Cork as a destination to visit, live, work and flourish,” said Ms Morrish.

Visit Cork is the strategic tourism agency for Cork, a public private partnership that promotes Cork city and county as a destination for leisure and business tourism.

Visit Cork recently developed a new destination brand called Pure Cork, and is calling on industry organisations to adopt the Pure Cork brand.

“We’ve worked very closely together over the past two years to understand all that Cork has to offer to visitors. The result is an exciting new destination brand that brings together all of our collective ideas expressed in a singular offer through a vibrant new visual identity,” said Ms Morrish.

“Simply put — Cork is Ireland’s maritime haven. Our proposition is based around our significant maritime history spanning over a 1,000 years, set in a beautiful soft coastal environment. The land, the people and their culture will allow our visitors to discover a quirky way to stimulate all of their senses.

“Pure Cork is a strategic initiative, started in 2015, which set out to brand Cork as a visitor destination.

“In developing the brand, the name Cork has been used to represent both the county and city of Cork. The strategy, led by Cork City and County Councils and a high-level tourism strategy group, set out a vision and action plan which gives cohesive direction to the future growth of tourism in Cork.”

The process was supported by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and relevant industry stakeholders, and the strategy was launched in January 2016, with the objective to maximise the economic return from tourism in Cork.

Cork as a tourism proposition is, as yet, not fully known across many international markets and segments. Visitors, both domestic and international frequently overlook, or are simply unaware of, all that Cork offers. We must establish Cork as the place to explore two of the best experiences in Ireland — the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.

“Our Pure Cork brand is an endorsement of a uniquely rewarding visitor experience. It sets out to differentiate Cork from all other destinations by reflecting its character in a distinctive and meaningful way.” 

Places that are clear about their brand promise and values stand a better chance of being profitable and sustainable in the future than those that rely on more mixed messaging, according to Ms Morrish.

“We are giving visitors a reason to visit Cork via the creation of a compelling yet responsible, visitor-led tourism proposition, that communicates a single unifying cohesive message.

“Here in Cork, we’re looking to establish the kind of tourism that is good for our own local communities and our exceptional natural environment. Let’s act and stake our claim to being the epicentre of responsible tourism in Ireland.”

A series of roadshows last week across the city and county acted as a rallying cry to everyone in the region to come together to promote the Pure Cork brand — for industry and stakeholders to buy in to Visit Cork and the Pure Cork proposition, by adopting the Pure Cork brand.

“We all ‘own’ this new brand, we all helped to create it, now let’s help to build it to engage and entice visitors to explore and stay in Cork.” 

Hoteliers, restauranteurs, vintners, tourism groups, transport providers, educators, the Irish Farmers Association, local enterprise offices, Rotary, Lions Clubs, active retired groups, tidy towns, chambers of commerce — all are being asked to submit business and event details and ideas to the Pure Cork website.

Having seen first-hand the power of a city venue to attract visitors, both business and leisure tourists, an event centre for Cork is vital in the long-term, she said.

“I was one of the original management team who set up the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. A well located easily accessible conference and exhibition centre is critical to ensuring we continue to secure more conferences, events and exhibitions for Cork.”

The sheer joy created by the Ed Sheeran series of concerts showed what the region can do.

“Collaboration is key when embarking on a series events like the Ed Sheeran concerts,” she said.

See purecork.ie for more on how to get involved.

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