I thank the committee for inviting the All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group here to discuss the very serious concerns we have about the Dublin Port Company’s severe restrictions on cruise ships entering the port from 2021. The All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group was formed by a group of businesses in Dublin, Cork and Waterford which will be severely impacted by the Dublin Port Company’s decision to severely reduce the numbers of cruise ships entering Dublin Port from 2021. Our members include Ireland’s leading and iconic retailers, tourist attractions, transport operators, hotels, restaurants and other businesses impacted by Dublin Port’s decision. A number of trade associations, including Dublin Town, Retail Excellence Ireland and the Restaurants Association of Ireland are also members of the All-Ireland Cruise Ship Action Group.
My name is Lorcan O’Connor, managing director of Carroll’s, and I am joined by other members of our group: Richard Guiney, chief executive of Dublin Town representing 2,500 businesses in Dublin city centre; Niamh McCarthy, managing director of Excursions Ireland, which is on the front line of the cruise industry at Dublin Port; and Bryan Rankin from Retail Excellence Ireland.
I will begin by providing a broad background to the issue and I will then pass over to my colleagues, who will go into more depth about how Dublin Port Company’s decision will impact on business and tourism, not just in Dublin city but also in Belfast, Cobh, Waterford and the wider tourism industry in Ireland.
For the past 15 years, Dublin Port Company, along with many stakeholders, State bodies, trade associations and the wider tourism sector have been actively promoting Dublin as an international cruise ship destination. Thanks to this hard work and dedication by many people over the past 15 years, the promotion of Dublin and Ireland as a cruise destination has been an outstanding success. Countless individuals have devoted themselves to this cause in the hope of building the cruise industry in Ireland and Dublin Port Company has been central to this. In 2019, 175 cruise ships will pass through Dublin Port, bringing almost 500,000 tourists into Dublin city, generating more than €50 million for the local economy. Next year, even more cruise ships will visit Dublin, with even more cruise passengers. However, in 2021, the hard work and the stunning growth of the past 15 years will wiped out by the actions of the port company
Earlier this year, the port company announced, without prior warning, that from 2021 it will restrict the number of cruise ships entering Dublin Port to 80. Most of these 80 cruise ships will be small vessels carrying between 250 and 400 passengers. Only 35 will be the large cruise ships we have become accustomed to seeing in the port. Dublin Port Company announced its decision effective to destroy the cruise industry without prior warning, consultation or engagement with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, this committee, local businesses, Dublin City Council or the other Irish ports, namely Belfast, Waterford and Cobh, which will be severely impacted by this decision.
The cruise companies market Ireland as a destination, and in addition to Dublin the cruise ships stop at Belfast, Waterford and Cobh. Without access to Dublin Port, cruise companies will no longer stop in other Irish ports and will take their business to other European destinations. Dublin Port Company completely failed to communicate its decision or the flawed rationale behind it to any of the local, national or international stakeholders involved. Furthermore, the company immediately disbanded Cruise Dublin and withdrew from a number of cruise trade associations, namely, Cruise Ireland, Seatrade Cruise Global and Cruise Europe. This will have a dramatic impact on its chances of persuading cruise companies to return to Ireland in the future. The reaction of the international cruise industry community to this has been total shock, and many have commented on how badly Ireland's reputation has been damaged. This will have a dramatic knock-on effect for years to come. Many cruise companies have said they will never return to Ireland. Furthermore, Dublin Port's decision sends out a signal to the tourism industry across the world that tourists are not welcome in Ireland. I thank the committee for allowing us to come before it to make this presentation.