Sunday Business Post
27th May 2007
Cork is fast becoming a hot-spot showing big increases in all areas, writes Ruth Wildgust
The number of over-seas tourists to Cork increased by 37 per cent from 999,000 in 2001 to almost 1.4million in 2006 - according to Fáilte Ireland's policy, research and information department.
Revenue generated by these visitors rose 156 per cent over the same period, from less than €250 million to nearly €640 million. Tourist numbers and associated revenue from mainland Europe showed the highest increase.
Hotel bookings in Cork have more than doubled in recent years, according to tourism information and reservations network Gulliver Ireland. The top five most popular destinations outside Cork City are Kinsale, Blarney, Clonakilty, Cobh and Bantry, said Stewart Stephens managing director of Gulliver Ireland.
"Cork has consistently secured a 6 to 8 per cent share of Gulliver bookings since 2002" said Stephens. "Interesting developments over the past five years include a dramatic increase in the level of hotel sector bookings. They grew 218 per cent in 2006 compared with cork hotel bookings in 2002."
Direct employment related to tourist expenditure in Cork County is 3,200 full-time equivalent jobs and 2,200 indirect full-time equivalent jobs - according to Dr. Richard Moloney of the Centre for Policy Studies at University College Cork. Thirty-two cruise ships visited the port of Cork during 2005. Moloney said the total direct and indirect spend of these visitors in the cork metropolitan area was over €26million. The number of full time equivalent jobs involved was 179. Conference business in Cork City metropolitan was worth €13million to the area in 2005, he said, and was linked to 87 full- time equivalent jobs.
Fiona Buckley, general manager of Fáilte Ireland South-west, said levels of domestic tourism in Cork- tourists travelling from other parts of Ireland - was higher than the national average.
She said there was a stronger growth potential out of Britain and the mature European market, including Germany, Holland and France, which all operate direct flights to Cork.
The overall trend is towards more frequent and shorter breaks, said Buckley. However visitors who come in cars tend to stay longer. There is also increased demand for special activities. "People want things to do, be they cultural or heritage activities, golfing, cycling or walking," said Buckley.
"A key trend is the city break," said Buckley "This year, Cork city has become a member of the European City Break Destination Group. One of the major benefits is that Cork is sitting alongside prominent European cities including Dublin and Belfast."
Fáilte Ireland South-west and Cork Convention Bureau will attend the City Break 2007 Exhibition in Athens in June, said Buckley, to present Cork as an attractive city destination, both from a leisure perspective and for business tourism. Access to Cork continues to improve, said Margot Mulcahy, chief executive of East Cork tourism. "Cork airport is only seven kilometres from the city centre."
"There are only ten flights daily between Dublin and Cork as well as direct access to 16 British airports and 19 European cities," she said. Iarnród Eireann has invested in its service and the journey to Dublin takes only two and a half hours, said Mulcahy.
Cork has a well-established reputation for food, said Buckley, including the legacy of the English market, the farmers' market, Ballymaloe Cookery School, the gourmet towns of Kinsale and Youghal, and the Fuschia brand.
Cork city accounted for 50 per cent of total Cork bookings in 2006, said Stephens. Other popular locations include Blarney, Clonakilty and Kinsale.
Key events during the year such as the Jazz Festival are highlights that drive bookings and draw visitors and revenue to the Cork area, said Stephens. The peak season is becoming longer, spanning April to September, said Buckley.
She said there was a huge range of festivals throughout the year. The Midsummer festival will take place in June. The Cork Ocean to City Race will be held on the June bank holiday weekend, and the Cork city marathon takes place in July.