BUSINESSES and individuals involved in tourism across Cork have expressed concern about a potential decline in cruise numbers visiting the Port, believing the consequences will be felt right across the county and beyond.
Businesses in Blarney have said they would feel the loss of cruise customers and are just one of many sites like to be impacted.
It would have an impact in the greater Cork area,” Chairman of Cobh Tourism Jack Walsh said. “If a cruise ships arrives here, quite a lot of the guests will go to Jameson, go to Blarney, to Kinsale and Killarney.
“So all of those areas, as well as Cobh itself, will all feel the pinch.”
He believes it could also cost jobs in the area: “It will have a knock-on effect for the likes of bus operators, tour guides, tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants and shops.”
Fears have been raised following news that Dublin plans to restrict the number of ships they allow berth. From 2021, Dublin says it will only allow 80 passenger ships a year to berth, half the current number.
The Port of Cork has warned that without access to Dublin, cruise operators may choose not to visit Ireland at all.
Mr Walsh believes the effects of such a decision should have been assessed before announcing it, likening the potential impact to Brexit.
“For the last two years we have heard about nothing but Brexit,” he said. “[But] for the tourism industry in this area, something like the loss of 30-40% of your cruise visits would have the same effect.
“They should speak to the professionals in the industry, people who specialise in cruise tourism. They should be talking to them, asking what is going to happen and how do they fix it, instead of just making a decision.
“If it was a nursing problem they would talk to nurses, so they should talk to people on the ground.”
He also feels the decision sells short the importance of tourism to the economy, and will undo the good work done over many years.
“We have spent all this time building [the cruise trade] and getting Cobh recognised as a great destination and then all that work could be gone, it would be a terrible, terrible shame,” Mr Walsh said.
“It wasn’t too long ago we were in an economic slump and we were mad for tourists so why all of a sudden are we saying ‘sorry, we don’t need you anymore’.”
Hendrick Verwey, another industry professional from Cobh, agrees and would like to see Tourism Ireland and the Minister for Tourism Shane Ross get involved.
“I think it is the Minister’s remit to do what is in the best interest of tourism in Ireland and certainly turning away ships that are bringing 3000 passengers is ludicrous,” Mr Verwey said. “They need to get involved.”
He said that uncertainty over future numbers could affect development plans in the area: “People are less likely to invest if there are doubts, they need to sort it.”
A representative from the Port of Cork is among a delegation bound for the US to persuade cruise companies to stick with Ireland as a destination, despite the Dublin decision.
Port of Cork chairman John Mullins also emphasised that Cork still has significant advantages, in particular its deep harbour, that he hopes will continue to make it attractive to large passenger ships.