The summer of 2021 was “the best ever,” say local tourism companies

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BY JACKIE KEOGH AND
KIERAN O’MAHONY

MANY West Cork tourism companies have said summer 2021 was their “best” yet, despite having to adhere to strict Covid guidelines.

Everywhere, from boat operators to restaurant owners to hotels, the feedback ranged from “exceptional” to “phenomenal” to “unparalleled”.

Unsurprisingly, Staycationers made up the bulk of the business, and it’s hoped the surge will continue at least until the end of the month.

Gail MacAllister, who runs Sailing and Kayaking with the Seals in Adrigole with her husband Niall and son Oisín West Cork, said this was her busiest year ever.

Aislinn O’Driscoll, whose family owns and operates The Townhouse OD’s in Schull, said they too had a “phenomenal season”.

“A lot of people who hadn’t vacationed at Schull in years realized how much they had missed it and how much they love it, and those who came for the first time were blown away by the scenery and the many activities that were taking place there was work to be done. ” ,’ She said.

And according to Aislinn, September looks like it will “prove itself” as many accommodations are still fully booked. The Schull Harbor Hotel also had extremely high occupancy rates – General Manager Ger Carroll confirmed it had 96% occupancy in July and August, while the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry had similar numbers.

Jerome Lordan, who runs Kinsale Harbor Cruises, said it had been an “unprecedented” season for him, with 99% of his business being with Staycationer.

But like many others in the industry, he found recruiting to be a challenge.

Aisling Drummond, sales and marketing manager at the Clonakilty Park Hotel, said it was one of the “toughest” summer seasons they have had in the past.

“Demand was very strong, but we had problems with staff and of course we weren’t 100% busy due to restrictions,” said Aisling.

At Courtmacsherry, Dave Halloran of The Lifeboat Inn said it was a very good season for her overall.

“It was difficult to find staff, especially kitchen staff, but we were very fortunate to have a lot of brand new employees who were excellent, hardworking and giving the hours needed.”

A busy outdoor area at The Lifeboat Inn in Courtmacsherry after dining again in June. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

In the super busy season, visitors flooded the west as the Covid rules were relaxed

For the second year in a row, the pandemic challenged local businesses, but despite the odds, many local tourism operators reported their busiest season ever

BY JACKIE KEOGH AND

KIERAN O’MAHONY

DESPITE all the obstacles the pandemic brings, many West Cork tourism companies say the summer of 2021 was one of the best ever.

Gail MacAllister, who runs Sailing and Kayaking with the Seals in Adrigole with her husband Niall and son Oisín West Cork, described the business as “exceptional” this summer.

“The number of Irish guests and locals kayaking with us for the first time has been fantastic,” she said. “We’ve been kayaking the seal element of our sailing business since 1999 and this has been our busiest year ever.

‘Kayaking – which was open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in June, July and August – is a pay-and-play product that more and more of our customers want, ”she said. “It is strictly for rent, but you have the freedom to explore the harbor and the safety of a security boat on standby.”

Gail MacAllister said business was flourishing at Kayaking With the Seals in Adrigole this year.

As a result of the pandemic, more people bought their own boats to spend more time outdoors, but they needed training, Gail explained. ‘We offer you this as part of our five-day certified “Live-Aboard” training courses.’

Aislinn O’Driscoll, whose family owns and operates The Townhouse OD’s in Schull, said they too had a “phenomenal season”.

‘As of the second or third week of January, many self-caterers were already fully booked, which was a continuation of the very successful last year.

“A lot of people who hadn’t vacationed at Schull in years realized how much they had missed it and how much they love it, and those who came for the first time were blown away by the scenery and the many activities that were taking place there was work to be done. ” ,’ She said.

“The only downside,” Aislinn said, “was the limited space for people wanting to dine al fresco, but on the plus side, everyone – in partnership with Cork County Council – came together to create a really nice outdoor space that the streetscape of the city has actually improved. ‘

Aislinn said the townhouse didn’t open for indoor dining until late August but held up against last year, its first year of operation.

The bar and restaurant opened in December 2019 and when the pandemic broke out they quickly switched to take-away service.

“We also opened a shop in the front,” said Aislinn, “a shop with lots of Irish and local products. Then, during the initial lockdown, we built our outdoor dining area that we were very dependent on this summer.

“We had about 55 seats for al fresco dining that we used last year and this year, and this summer we added more restaurants on the street.”

Aislinn said there were many tourists from Dublin and Cork this year, as well as a large number of visitors from the north. “And it was nice to hear American accents again,” she added.

According to Aislinn, September looks like it will “prove itself” as many accommodations are still fully booked.

The Schull Harbor Hotel also had extremely high occupancy – General Manager Ger Carroll confirmed it hit 96% occupancy in July and August – and there was a real feeling that everyone was working together for the good of the city.

The Westlodge Hotel in Bantry also had a “really good year”. Annette O’Donovan, general manager of the hotel, said: ‘It was more or less 100% of the domestic market with an occupancy of 95% in the high season.’

She said the spacious 100-bedroom hotel and well-appointed vacation homes are considered a “safe place”, attracting many family gatherings.

“Families from three and four generations met here all summer long. It was wonderful to see them vacationing together, enjoying many outdoor activities such as tennis, pitch and putt, soccer and the fairy trail, as well as the family movie nights in the ballroom on the big screen.

“We are very fortunate to have a dedicated team of around 100 employees, including many local students, who work for us in the summer,” said Annette. “They carried us through. You were amazing. Many of them were in the second generation, their parents had worked here before. ‘

Aislinn O’Driscoll of The Townhouse O’Ds in Schull said, “A lot of people who hadn’t been to Schull in years saw how much they missed it.”

The general manager said the use of Bantry Bay for water sports and the additional outdoor dining options in the city also helped make Bantry even more popular as a travel destination.

Jerome Lordan, who runs Kinsale Harbor Cruises, said it had been an “unprecedented” season for him despite the pandemic.

“And that is due to the domestic tourism market. Almost 99% of my clients have been Irish this summer season, ”said Jerome.

As business grew, Jerome also had to increase the number of his daily outings.

“I usually go on about four or five trips a day in July and August, but this summer I’ve been on eight or nine a day and it has been absolutely mentally busy. We were also aware of social distancing so we couldn’t take all of the passengers on every trip.

Unfortunately, this year Jerome faced the same problem many others in the tourism industry have faced with recruiting.

“It was very difficult to recruit and even though I was hired, it was still a struggle. Typically, job postings would get you dozens of applicants, but when I posted jobs I only got one or two applications. ‘

Jerome hired three part-time workers to handle the influx of customers.

“In terms of weather, it was a very good summer and I think we only missed one day in July and August. But it was also exhausting. It’s now gone from 200 a day to 22 a day, within three or four days when the season ends and schools return. ‘

Jerome Lordan from Kinsale Harbor Cruises had to hire additional staff.

Aisling Drummond Sales and Marketing at the Clonakilty Park Hotel said it was one of the “toughest” summer seasons they have had in the past.

“Demand was very strong, but we had problems with staff and of course we weren’t 100% busy due to restrictions,” said Aisling.

“It was a very busy summer under exceptional circumstances with the majority of our domestic guests. But this year we met a lot of families for the first time who didn’t stay with us in the past and we hope to keep some of this business, for intermediate holidays or Easter holidays. ‘

For security reasons regarding Covid, Aisling said the feedback from her guests has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re a very family friendly hotel so it’s the base people have been looking forward to when they come to West Cork.

‘The Adventure Center and Adventure Golf were also on the fly this summer.’

At Courtmacsherry, Dave Halloran of The Lifeboat Inn said it was a good season overall for them, even though they were chasing their tail to make up for lost time.

“We were lucky we did the new outdoor area and the weather was pretty good so the season was great and we got a lot of support from the locals too, which is good,” said Dave.

“It was difficult to find staff, especially kitchen staff, but we were very fortunate to have a lot of brand new employees who were excellent, hardworking and giving the hours needed.”


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