Charles Fort saw visitor numbers increase by almost 50%. Pic: Wikimedia

INITIATIVES being adopted the tourism industry as well as by the Government are paving the way for increasing the number of visitors to West Cork according to a local TD.

Brian Hayes, the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (OPW) has announced the extension of free entry to OPW sites on the first Wednesday of every month following the success of the initiative in the last year, which saw a surge of almost 20,000 additional people visiting historic properties and national monuments in the last six months of 2011.

Clonakilty TD Jim Daly said, “We in Cork South West have felt the benefits of this initiative as the numbers visiting Charles Fort went from 937 in 2010 to 1,398 in 2011; that’s a rise of 49 per cent.”

He added that the Visa Waiver Programme, the introduction of direct flights to Dublin, such as the one to Dubai and The Gathering 2013, which is the biggest tourism initiative ever in Ireland, are all aimed at encouraging visitors to pay a visit to Ireland in a bid to boost tourism he said.

“The latest CSO figures on the tourism industry show that the sector is continuing to steadily grow and it is vital that we all work together to ensure sustained growth. “Initiatives undertaken by Cork hoteliers, which are being reported today, including hotels putting miso soup on their breakfast menu and leaving little gifts in Chinese guests’ rooms to reflect the gift-giving tradition in China, show that the industry is thinking outside the box and is demonstrating creative thinking that will leave a lasting impression.”

Deputy Daly said the Government had been working hard to enhance our reputation on the world stage.

“In the last year we have had visits from Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and the soon-to-be Chinese President.

“St Patrick’s Day also offers a unique opportunity to let the world know that Ireland is open for business and that there has never been a better time to invest in our recovery. “More importantly though, it gives us a platform to highlight all that is great about our country and to let visitors know that we are definitely worth a visit,” he said.