Cork has lost its status as the most popular destination for overseas tourists visiting Ireland on cruise ships after a 12.4% drop in the number of passengers last year.
New figures show 89,686 passengers were on board liners which stopped at either the cruise ship terminal in Cobh or the deepwater berth in Ringaskiddy in 2016 – down from 102,217 the previous year.
The decrease in visits to Cork from cruise ship passengers last year is unexpected as in overall figures 2016 was a record year for Irish tourism with the number of overseas visitors up 8.8% to more than 8.7 million. The total number of cruise ships stopping in Cork remained the same as in 2015, at 57 vessels.
It is estimated the visits of such cruise liners contribute around €4m annually to the Cork economy. Cork had overtaken Dublin as the main port of call for cruise ships visiting Irish waters in 2015 — the year when it broke the 100,000 figure for the first time.
However, Dublin has regained its position as the most popular destination for cruise passengers with numbers up 8.4% in 2016 to almost 110,000 on board 109 vessels. The previous year 101,400 had called to Dublin on 93 ships. The growth in cruise passenger traffic to Dublin was not enough to offset an overall decline in the sector last year as Waterford, Dún Laoghaire and Galway also suffered a drop in numbers.
The latest CSO figures show there was an 8.1% fall in the number of cruise ship passengers stopping in Irish ports in 2016 — a total of 222,217, down almost 20,000 on the previous year. The decrease came despite an overall rise in the number of liners taking in Ireland as part of their voyage.
There were 209 visits to Irish ports by cruise ships last year, marking an annual rise of 16. Dublin and Cork account for 90% of all cruise ship passengers visiting Ireland. Fáilte Ireland said the overall falloff in cruise passenger visitor numbers was surprising given recent trends in the sector and tourism generally.
The Port of Cork has estimated it can increase its cruise business to 75 visits by liners a year over the next three years following a €1.5m refurbishment of facilities at its terminal in Cobh.
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