Islanders unite for new tourism branding venture

ISLANDERS off Cork are planning a sea change in their attitude to the development and promotion of tourism.

Moves are afoot to generate a distinct brand image for the seven southern islands that attract more than 200,000 day trippers yearly.

After Fota Island, the islands of West Cork represent the biggest tourist attraction in the region for day visitors.

Cape Clear, Sherkin and Bere enjoy the bulk of the business but a fresh impetus is being given to co-ordinating tourist development on all the islands.

The process begins this week with a special conference on Heir Island, one of the islands ripe for tourism development after enjoying a revitalisation, in population and business growth, in recent years.

Cape Clear-based Séamus Ó Drisceoil, the islands’ project co-ordinator with the EU-supported Leader Programme, said next Friday’s seminar is part of a strategic initiative to create an area based approach to tourism marketing and product development on the islands.

Various island development groups, he said, are spearheading the proposal.

“While statistics show that the islands are among the top day trip destinations in the region, little was being done to date to generate a distinct brand image or to create a presence beyond the immediate hinterlands of the group of islands,” he said.

A new poster, backed by Allied Irish Bank and promoting the West Cork islands, will be launched at the seminar to be held in Heir Island’s Cottage Restaurant run by John Desmond and Elmarie Fenton. The poster will be distributed to tourism offices and other industry outlets throughout the region.

Tourism officer for West Cork Michael Manning said Cork Kerry Tourism and Fáilte Ireland would offer support to any initiative to promote the islands.

John Ahern of Southwest Walks Ireland, a company interested in extending the activity holiday range to the islands, will also be among the guest speakers at the seminar, along with Marie Keane of Ballyhoura Development, which is behind a tourism marketing project along the Cork-Limerick border.

Mr Ó Drisceoil said funding for the project was approved by the national islands’ body Comhdháil and was also backed by Department of Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, Cork Kerry Tourism and Cork County Council.

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