Tour operators bringing groups of tourists to the English Market in Cork will have to start booking visiting times under new rules drawn up by market management to deal with overcrowding.
The city centre market is extremely popular on account of its speciality food outlets and artisan ambience. Queen Elizabeth toured it in May 2011; a photograph of her meeting Pat O'Connell at his fishmonger's stall remains one of the best-known images of her State visit to Ireland.
According to Mr O’Connell, who chairs the traders committee, visitor numbers have increased and greater controls on tourist groups are being introduced to enable traders to serve customers.
He said a recent survey of 1,000 customers and visitors showed many felt the market had become overcrowded and the day-to-day trading sidelined to accommodate large tour groups. The numbers were also giving rise to health and safety concerns.
To address these problems, management has introduced new regulations, to take effect from March 1st, requiring tour operators to register annually. Large tour groups will be required to split into smaller groups as they make their way through the market. All tour groups will be required to book in advance.
“We have a very unique offering here in the English Market,” Mr O’Connell said, “and it’s important that everyone who visits gets to experience the true essence of the market – the atmosphere, the banter, the rapport, the quality food, knowledge of the traders etc.”
If tourist numbers continued to rise and there were no controls, the livelihood of traders could be jeopardised.
“We looked at how similar organisations worldwide operate in order to accommodate large numbers,” he said, “and I’ve no doubt these measures will make a huge difference and help us to preserve what the English Market is all about. A more organised environment will benefit everyone.”