New Ross Standard - - NEWS - BY DAVID LOOBY

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.

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