Access to the town centre was one of the key topics discussed at last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting. It’s an age-old problem according to Chamber President Sean Laffey who told this paper that it’s time all concerned took a fresh look at the issue of attracting tourists to the town.
“We know from official figures that The Rock of Cashel attracts in the order of 200,000 visitors per year, we know that in national terms the Rock is in the top 15 of all sites visited, a remarkable success given the trend towards city centre breaks over the past 10 years. But we also know those tourism figures translate very poorly into feet on the streets of Cashel. We also know that there are plans in train from the County Council to establish Destination Cashel as a brand and that the Town Centre Forum will meet in June to discuss enhancements to the townscape.
“It’s all very positive and we are heartened by the lower charges at the Rock car park and the fact that a parking ticket bought there can be used down town. However, we are unclear whether official signage will tell motorists that they can indeed visit the town for free once they’ve arrived at Bru Boru. We have formally asked the council to be clear about this and put up some unambiguous sighs to promote more visits to the town centre.”
He went on to say that for many years there have been calls to bring tour buses into the town and if the community is serious about attracting more people to the hub then it’s time a real incentive was offered to the coach companies, perhaps with reduced rates at the town centre car park or even a short term free stop and drop system, where their passengers would alight in town and be picked up at the Rock.
“One more thing we really need is for the town to be seen as vibrant place to be, a place where you can spend a couple of days, a place with there are activities to hold your interest. We are calling on community groups to start using the Plaza on Saturdays to bring some life into the town, art groups for example might run Painting on the Plaza, we could have the Brass Band playing and of course it’s a natural space for Piping on the Plaza. We don’t think for 2012 that the way forward is to bring in things like country or continental markets, with the depressed economy it is unlikely they’d be viable and they might take away valuable business from retailers who are here for the people of Cashel 365 days a year.
“We’d also like to see that there is live music in some of the pubs of an evening, it doesn’t have to be high tech or over amplified , some authentic traditional music or a few unplugged ballad singers would help keep tourist in town overnight, in fact low tech might be the new sophistication. Of course it would have to be cost effective for the Vintners to support music. As a Chamber we can help promote any of those events and we can promise that members subscriptions will be spent wisely in promoting the town, we live under the shadow of the Rock but we have to light our own candle down town to ensure that business and the community prospers.
“We will have a fresh recruitment drive soon, as we see that a strong Chamber is essential in the light of proposed changes in local Government , in the short term we must have a strong voice and sway in decisions that might be taken over Destination Cashel and the Town Forums.”