A new parking gate that will issue receipts to coach touring companies at the Rock of Cashel will be installed before the end of the year, amid a claim that a lot of money is lost from Cashel because of the difficulties that coach touring companies encounter in their dealings with the local Council.
Cashel’s Town Clerk Marie McGivern said that a Cork company, ETL Car Parking Developments would install the parking gate once the Council had completed “civil works” on the car park.
She was reacting to criticism voiced by Gerry Mullins, the chief executive of the Coach Tourism and Transport Council (CTTC), who hit out at what he described as the Town Council’s incompetence.
Mr. Mullins has claimed that two tourist seasons will have been missed since his company first raised concerns about Cashel’s parking gate. “How could such a simple project take so long”, he asked.
He said that coach tours to the Rock of Cashel were very popular and a tremendous source of income for the town. “One would expect that in return the Town Council would be facilitating the coach companies in every way it can to make it easier and more desirable to bring tourists to Cashel”.
He said he had first contacted the Council in May of last year, stating that members of the CTTC were concerned that the coach park didn’t provide receipts. But the parking gate still hadn’t been installed.
“It costs €4 to park a coach there, and 21% of that charge is for VAT. In order to reclaim the VAT the companies need receipts. Bodies that charge VAT, such as Cashel Town Council, are obliged to provide receipts”.
He also asked why Cashel Town Council was charging coaches to bring tourists to the town. “Margins in the touring industry are so tight, and competition between attractions is so strong, that it doesn’t take much for a coach company to change its routes from an unfriendly tourist attraction to one that is far more accommodating”.
He said The Rock was in competition for coach touring business against Kilkenny Castle and the House of Waterford Crystal, both of which offered free coach parking.
Mr. Mullins went on to say that members of his organisation (CTTC) reported that the toilets beside Cashel’s coach park were “a disgrace”. He said one company that brought around 50 tours a month to the Rock refused to allow its passengers use the toilets there.
Instead they stopped at the nearby Horse and Jockey Hotel, which benefited greatly from this business.
“When a coach load of passengers use toilets at a hotel or pub, they usually buy around €200 worth of teas and coffees before getting back on board. This means the amount of money lost to Cashel simply because the Council doesn’t keep the toilets clean is around €250,000 each summer season.
It seems the Council, and the town generally, would be far better off if the Council took a more professional approach to managing its tourism product”.
However Cashel’s Town Clerk said that the €4 charge for parking at the Rock car park all day represented “extremely good value” at what was a public car park. She said that a coach with 40 people parking at the Cliffs of Moher would be charged either €2 or €3 per head, including admission to the interpretative centre.
Marie McGivern said the Council had made “huge progress” on the installation of a parking gate that would issue receipts since Mr. Mullins first raised his concerns, and she rejected his description of the condition of the public toilets of the Rock as a disgrace.
She acknowledged there had been a complaint about the toilets towards the end of last year. However since the start of this year the Council had installed an improved flushing system to cope with the large volume of people from a coach tour who would use the toilets in a short space of time.
Ms.McGivern said the Council was extremely conscious of the importance of maintaining all of its public toilets in a good condition and she said the staff member who was responsible for them did an excellent job to keep them impeccably clean.