New visitor restrictions may be refined at English Market

New visitor restrictions may be refined at English Market
English Market, Cork City.

NEW visitor protocols at the English Market will be refined if they need to be refined, according to council officials.

However, city chiefs maintain that there has been very positive engagement with the regulations to date.

The new measures were introduced at the start of March and require tour operators to register with market management on an annual basis.

It also limits group sizes to eight people, with larger groups 'required to split into smaller groups as they move through the market' according to council documents.

The move is designed to protect the commerce at the market which is, above all, 'a centre of commerce and trade' which employs some 450 people.

Some councillors raised concern about the measures, which are supported by 90% of traders according to the local authority.

However, Paul Moynihan, director of corporate and external affairs at Cork City Council, said the protocols have been well received to date.

He said, "We are happy that there has been positive engagement from the tour operators to date. They have an appreciation of what we are trying to achieve.

"These protocols will improve the visiting experience for tourists, as well as maintaining the trading experience for day-to-day customers at the market. It is, above all, a functioning market after all."

He said that if the protocols aren't working, the Council will refine them.

"We will keep an eye on them. If they need to be refined, we will refine them," he said.

"But something had to be done to protect traders and tourists. It was disorganised chaos. The aisles are too narrow to host big crowds and buggies and wheelchairs all at once.

"The appetite to actually go in and shop in the market in the midst of these crowds was diminished - we have to protect trade, as well as tourism."

The market, as well as welcoming Queen Elizabeth II in 2011, has been lauded by the likes of celebrity chef Rick Stein, who described it as the best covered market in the UK or Ireland.

Mr Moynihan drew a parallel to the Cliffs of Moher, which underwent a transformation in the early '00s to transition from an uncontrolled tourist destination to a more stable visitor experience.

A €50 million investment added a visitor centre, walkways, walls and parking to a site which had previously been entirely open.

Mr Moynihan said, "There were fears locally that this would kill the Cliffs as a tourist destination - it did the opposite. It generated long-term demand and it is now sustained as one of Ireland's most popular tourist destinations."

Without some level of control, the potential of the English Market cannot be realised, Mr Moynihan said.

"Without controls, it isn't a good tourism or shopping experience," he said.

"We surveyed large groups of tourists last summer at the height of the busy season to assess their experience."

Mr Moynihan said the results told a striking story. In groups of three to ten people, customers bought coffees or cheese, but never meat or fish. In groups of more than ten, nobody bought anything.

He said, "They simply came in, walked through and heard about the market. In many cases, the noise of the working market meant that people couldn't even hear what was being said so they left with no real appreciation of the market - that's not a good experience."

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