Separating tourism pushes from Cork city centre initiatives

Simon Coveney at the launch of the We Are Cork initiative

We are Cork. We’re Pure Cork. We’re on the Wild Atlantic Way, in Ireland’s Ancient East, living in a city rising on an island of discovery.

Or so the number of marketing initiatives, slogans, and brands aimed at promoting Cork will tell you, writes Joe Leogue

Recent revelations in the Irish Examiner about the spending on Cork’s marketing has prompted questions about the various different campaigns aimed at promoting the city and county — and what exactly makes them any different from each other.

Here we attempt to settle the confusion, parse out the messages, and teach you how to know your tourism pushes from your city centre initiatives.


“Pure Cork” is the leisure tourism brand promoted by Visit Cork, a public-private partnership.

The brand “imaginatively embraces the spirit of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East”, according to its website, and “is designed to service the tourism needs of the region and it is strategically aligned with the overall Cork placebrand”. That Cork placebrand is “We are Cork” — more on that later.

Visit Cork also oversees the Cork Convention Bureau — a similar, but separate undertaking tasked with attracting business tourism — such as industry events and conferences.

Visit Cork’s 2016 accounts — the most recent available — says the company “is heavily reliant on the ongoing financial support of its members particularly Cork City Council, Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland which is not guaranteed”.

The Irish Examiner asked these bodies how much financial support it gives Visit Cork.

Cork’s local authorities pay a total of €400,000 to the company for its tourism work. Cork city and county councils each pay Visit Cork €100,000 towards leisure tourism, and €100,000 towards the Cork Convention Bureau. Fáilte Ireland provides funding of €115,000 per annum for the Cork Convention Bureau.

It also provides a programme of support and promotion through its business tourism team, and a range of strategic supports to the board and the wider Visit Cork plan.

As per its own website, Visit Cork “is governed by a board of directors made up of the chief executives and councillors from Cork city and county councils and representatives from the private sector and Fáilte Ireland”.

Its 15-strong board includes Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty; her County Council counterpart Tim Lucey; city and county councillors Tom O’Driscoll and Alan Coleman; with the rest comprised of Fáilte Ireland representatives and members from the private sector.

Seamus Heaney, who previously headed up the Cork Convention Bureau, now oversees both it and Visit Cork with the support staff of three. Mr Heaney said the board are there on an unpaid, voluntary basis, and paid tribute to the “huge” work they do for the promotion of Cork tourism.

The 2016 accounts state that Visit Cork paid a directors’ remuneration of €72,953. Mr Heaney confirmed to the Irish Examiner that this was paid to him in respect of his work.

He said the success of the leisure tourism push — which puts a particular emphasis on Cork’s coastal and maritime assets — is harder to gauge than the Cork Convention Bureau’s work, given the latter’s outcomes are more tangible.

Business tourism, he said, can be measured more directly in terms of the conferences and delegates attracted to Cork through the bureau’s marketing.

Mr Heaney has just returned from the IMEX America event in Las Vegas, which is billed as one of the world’s largest “incentive travel, meetings and events” trade shows. He said the event was an opportunity to sell Cork’s business tourism benefits to a large audience over five days, and that the Cork Convention Bureau’s positioning at IMEX was covered by Fáilte Ireland.


“We are Cork” is Cork’s placebrand — in other words, a package deal that aims to encapsulate everything the city and county are about.

It’s led by Cork city and county councils, and stakeholders include UCC, CIT, Cork Airport, Port of Cork, Cork Chamber, Cork Business Association, Ibec, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Visit Cork.

Those involved say We are Cork is a partnership “that brings together all the stakeholders of the Cork Region under one brand. This new brand for Cork will help us tell the big picture of who we are and why we are a great place to live, work, study, visit, invest and do business in,” they said.

It was launched last month, and as this newspaper previously revealed, the campaign has cost €290,305.10.

Of that, €200,033.88 went to consultants OCO Global, €45,505.42 was spent on the Vat on those fees, and the rest went on videos, photography, PR support and other event and promotional work.

Cork City Council is to pay €139,407.34 of the final cost, Cork County Council will put up €115,897.78, and a further €35,000 is to come from the other stakeholders.


- “A City Rising Is A Wonderful Thing” — this is Cork City Council’s catch-all slogan to highlight various developments which are planned, under construction or have been recently completed in the city and ties in with the imminent expansion of the local authority’s boundary next year.

- “Island of Discovery” — this is a recent marketing push that includes cinema ads to encourage people to come into Cork city centre.

It is being promoted by Transport for Ireland and CORE. CORE is made up of the City Council, Cork Chamber, Cork Business Association, an Garda Síochána, Bus Éireann, and representatives from retail and hospitality sectors in the city.

- Another similar group is the City Centre Steering Group, which is made up of senior management of Cork City Council and it “focuses on the implementation of the Cork City Centre Strategy”.

This strategy divides the City Centre into six “character areas or quarters” — Shandon, MacCurtain St/Victorian Quarter, the “Heart of the City”, North Main Street/The Marsh, Grand Parade, South Mall, and the South Parish.

- Meanwhile, Cork county is also marketed as part of the Wild Atlantic Way, which stretches all the way to the trail’s end in Kinsale, and is included in the Ireland’s Ancient East promotion, which comes in as far as Blarney and Mallow in terms of the places of interest championed under this tourism campaign.

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