Chairperson of Bantry Development and Tourism Association, Eileen O’Shea says that tourism numbers in Bantry were up ten per cent this year. “While we have seen a drop in numbers from the UK, possibly as a result of Brexit, there has been a significant increase in visitors from mainland Europe and a small increase in visitors from the US,” says Eileen. “We’re fortunate to have the additional flights coming in to Cork this year from European destinations.”
Eileen emphasises that this upturn shouldn’t encourage complacency in the tourism sector. “The UK market is very important to West Cork and I think we need to work at getting it back and maintaining it,” she says.
“West Cork is very unspoilt and that’s our advantage,” says Eileen. “Walking, cycling, heritage, nature…those are the things that our visitors are interested in, and which we need to develop.”
The tourist office in Bantry gets a lot of feedback from people visiting from all over the world. “The friendliness of the people in the area is also mentioned a lot and the quality of the food in local restaurants and bars,” says Eileen.
“The opening of the new marina here in Bantry was the highlight of the year and it will mean a big boost to local business and other areas of West Cork. It’s important that Bantry is marketed now as a marine destination. The Port of Cork and Bantry Bay Port Company are working on developing that for us, as well as developing the cruise line business for Bantry and Glengarriff.”
Bantry Tourist Office is manned by a team of 20 volunteers and is open six days a week, from 10am to 6pm, as the result of their efforts. “Quite simply, the tourist office would be closed if we didn’t have the volunteers,” says Eileen. “It’s a combination of retired people and during the summer months, students, who run the office and they’re all very passionate about the local area and promoting what it has to offer.
Eileen O’Shea has worked in the hospitality and tourism industry for many years. She was Chairperson of Cork Kerry Tourism from 1999-2000 and is currently Chairperson of Bantry Development and Tourism Association.