HOOK LIGHTHOUSE IS SHINING BRIGHT
VISITOR NUMBERS BUOYANT AND ON THE UP AT BUSY LIGHTHOUSE
HOOK LIGHTHOUSE had its busiest summer yet, with a big increase in American and German visitors.
The lighthouse, which has ten full-time staff and up to 20 part-timers during the summer months, was boosted by its promotion on Fáilte Ireland’s Ancient East initiative in the first half of the year.
General Manager Ann Waters said: ‘We had an increase in visitors this year, particularly Germans and Americans. There were less Irish visitors this summer for some reason; maybe with the upturn in the economy they are travelling abroad more.’
Ms Waters expects September and October to be very busy with British tourists.
‘We’ve had a huge hit from Ireland’s Ancient East. The lighthouse logo was used in the European markets and a lot in Germany. Next year we plan to get our translations updated and we are looking at getting German and French guides.’
She said the new online booking system is working very well.
‘We changed and did so many new things this year. It was a real learning curve and we have learned a lot. With the online booking we will incentivise people to book online, We also introduced a mobile guide station and put a coffee station at the entrance to help reduce queues in the cafe. We are the top Tripadvisor attraction in the county.’
She said Fáilte Ireland will be promoting Hook Lighthouse at trade shows abroad, adding that she is targeting coach tours.
‘We are looking for niche markets.’
A gallery space will be opened at the lighthouse with the first exhibition opening next month and Ms Waters is expecting Wexford Festival Opera goers to attend in numbers.
A Samhain Festival event will take place on Hallowe’en weekend on the Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights at the lighthouse. The existing tower dates from the 12th century, though tradition states that Dubhán, a missionary to the Wexford area, established a form of beacon as early as the 5th century and that monks brought fire to the head of the peninsula to guide ships away from the rocks.
‘We will have fires lighting outside. We want to get back to old Irish traditions here at the lighthouse where fire played such an important role in our history.’
The ancient lighthouse is keeping up to speed with modern times through an active online presence. It has 26,000 likes on Facebook from under 20,000 12 months ago and almost 6,000 Twitter followers. ‘We have a social media strategy which is the most important especially for highlighting festivals and events.’
Over the summer there were several family fun weekend featuring pirates, while the Shine A Light festival on the May Bank Holiday Weekend attracted big crowds to the venue. The new sunset tour experience has also proven popular with photographers and couples. She said for the first time management have some cash reserves. ‘ Our Pobal grant is for eight staff and a manager and that allows us to stay open around 360 days a year. We usually close for a few days over Christmas.’ She said the Hook Peninsula is starting to realise its potential especially with the opening of a new tourist office in Fethard and the new Irish kayaking experience centre in the village.
‘From a very low ebb business in the village is looking better and Duncannon is looking great. You also have Colin Gibbon’s coast steering business in Shielbaggan.’
She attributed part of the rise in tourist numbers to Wexford County Council who are promoting the county as a lifestyle destination.
‘We are trying to make the area a repeat visit destination. Year on year we have always shown growth. My target is 50,000 people through the tower this year. The traffic counter is up 4 per cent. Last year we had 86,000 cars and next year we’ll have more from the Euro Velo cycling and Norman Way.’
2018 will begin with an Imbolc ceremony on New Year’s Day. ‘ This will be a sunrise experience marking the Celtic rebirth tradition.’
Brian Kennedy is scheduled to play at the lighthouse in early February, with sunset experience events planned, including for Valentine’s, while the Hooked on the Sea Festival will be another highlight of 2018 at the busy lighthouse.
Hook Tourism Coordinator Emer Delaney said: ‘We enjoyed a really good season on the peninsula this year. Although the number of visitors from the UK was slightly down, there was an obvious increase in the number of American, French and German visitors to the area. Duncannon Fort was open for guided tours from May this year and proved to be very popular amongst both domestic and international visitors. Hook Tourism looks forward to facilitating the tours again from May 2018 on behalf of Wexford County Council.’
Hook Lighthouse dominates the coastline in this wonderful photograph.
ABOVE: dolphins on the Hook; INSET LEFT: general manager Ann Waters.