Thursday 19 July 2018

Tourist office closure causing local concern

The closure last week of the tourist office in Carlingford at the height of the tourism season is causing concern among the local tourism sector.

The doors of the office, which was set up in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, closed last week, and a question mark now hangs over the future of the community run facility.

The Omeath District Development Company, who has supported the office for 17 years, has withdrawn from the project. The lease is now due for renewal and the Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust, who own the Station House where it was based, have to make a decision as to who will occupy the unit.

While the Cooley and Carlingford Tourism Association, with the backing of many of those involved in the local tourism sector and local councillors, have made an application to run the tourist office, it's understood that a number of other applications have also been received from private enterprises.

Carlingford has become a hugely popular tourist destination in recent years, with businesses associated with tourism providing a valuable source of employment for local people, with some estimating that it accounts for 80-90% of jobs in the community.

The village has gained international recognition and was named as an official European Destination of Excellence in 2008.

Ten years later and Carlingford and its hinterland regularly feature in lists of the top places to visit in Ireland, attracting visitors from around the world as well as becoming a popular destination for stag and hen parties.

Harry McCarthy, chairperson of the Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust, said that they had a number of applications from people to run the tourist office which will be considered.

He said that the Trust had spent over €130,000 on renovating the Station House in association with Louth Leader. 'We have to get a commercial rent from it so whoever takes it over will have to be able to pay wages as well as rent.'

He said that Heritage Trust was now offering a temporary tourism information service from the Heritage Centre in Holy Trinity.

However, he took the view that the closure of the tourist office wouldn't impact on the local tourism business. 'Nowadays it's all done on line before people come here.'

The Argus