John Loughnan - "We must stay focussed"

TOURSIM businesses in West Cork will fight even harder to attract visitors this year in the wake of a shock decline in overseas visitor numbers at the end of 2011.

That was the message from Clonakilty Mayor Cllr John Loughnan who said that he was surprised by CSO figures that showed a drop in visitor numbers for the months of September to November.

The figures show that 4.1 per cent or 65,000 fewer people visited Ireland from overseas from September to November last year compared to the same period in 2010.

Cllr Loughnan who is also a board member at the West Cork Model Railway Village said that 2011 had been a relatively good year for tourism by recent standards.

“The commencement of the Swansea-Cork ferry was a definite help and I think most people felt the year was reasonably good,” he told the West Cork Times.

Cllr Loughnan said that businesses in the tourist town had worked very hard to reduce costs to offer a more competitive product.

“We will have to continue to offer the best value we can and we have an excellent product,” he said, “we have also work hard to extend and diversify the season with events like the West Cork Rally and the Waterfront Marathon which saw every bed booked out in December”.

Cllr Loughnan said that the sudden decline in numbers meant that nobody in the sector could feel complacent.

“It sharpens the focus again, we must be as competitive as we can and stay focussed on providing a very good tourism product,” he said.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland said that the figures for the year overall were encouraging.

“The figures show that visitor numbers for the period January-November 2011 are almost seven per cent ahead of the same eleven-month period in 2010.

“However, the economic turmoil of recent months has brought increased uncertainty, affecting business and consumer confidence, and in turn, international travel.”

“Tourism Ireland will be striving to ensure that the island of Ireland increases its share of the global travel business in 2012 and beyond,” he said.