Tourism in Cork is set for a major boost this summer with the Port of Cork revealing that a 30 per cent increase in the numbers of cruise liner visits to Cork Harbour is set to result in more than 180,000 passengers coming ashore to provide a near €15 million injection to the local economy.
Port of Cork commercial manager captain Michael McCarthy said this summer would see a massive surge in cruise liner traffic into Cork Harbour with 180,000 visitors and 80,000 crew set to arrive in Cork between March and September.
"We are absolutely delighted with the growth in the cruise sector and so far we are seeing a high volume of calls for 2019 also. It's very encouraging to see cruise lines bringing their newest vessels to Cork on maiden calls and choosing Cobh as part of their cruising route," he said.
Capt McCarthy spoke following the arrival of the first of the 94 cruise liners, the MV Astoria, on Thursday.
He pointed out eight cruise liners would be making their maiden calls to Cork where they would berth in Cobh after the Port of Cork carried out improvements there to the berthage.
"This season the cruise liners visiting Cork will include Disney Cruise Lines 'MV Disney Magic' in September and the largest of the MSC Cruise Lines fleet, MSC Meraviglia which can carry a maximum of 4,500 passengers," he said.
Capt McCarthy said in 2017 the Port of Cork carried out cruise research on both passengers and crew arriving into Cobh and Ringaskiddy with the aim of getting a sense of passengers shore excursions experiences and to determine any areas are in need of improvement.
According to the research results, many passengers who take the pre-booked shore excursions reported high experiences, while the “independent” passengers seem to be looking for alternative more active experiences in both the city and the county.
The results of the cruise research also highlighted an increase in passenger and crew spend with passengers on average spending €81 during their time in Cork where they visit attractions such as Blarney Castle, the Jameson Distillery in Midleton and the Queenstown Experience, he said.
Capt McCarthy said the survey found visitors spend 42 per cent of their money on shopping, 32 per cent on excursion travel and 17 per cent on food and drink.
He said the crew typically spent about €29, with most of the money being spent on food and drink and/or shopping.
He said West Cork was also set to benefit from increase in tourist traffic with the number of smaller boutique liners due to call to Bantry and Glengarrif due to increase from 2017 when just five liners called to West Cork.
Meanwhile, there was also good news for Cork Airport when Air France announced that it will extend its Cork to Paris Charles de Gaulle service, due to start on May 26th into the winter having originally scheduled to end the service for the winter on October 27th.
Air France KLM UK and Ireland general manager Bénédicte Duval said Air France was delighted to be able to launch a year round service than a seasonal service when operations commenced in May.
" I am confident that the extra choice and connectivity this will bring, both outbound and inbound, will be well received by the local community and our continued investment in the Irish market will result in stronger business links between Ireland and France," said Mr Duval.
Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said that the extension of the service by Air France was a vote of confidence in the economy across the south of Ireland and the growing numbers of French tourists who want to visit the region.