Cruise boost hope as Stena pulls out of Dun Laoghaire
Businesses in Dun Laoghaire are pinning their hopes on future prosperity from cruise liners to replace the loss of tourists following the announcement that Stena Line ferries are to quit the town.
The transport company operated the HSS Stena Explorer from the southside town since 1995 but is now moving operations to Dublin Port.
At its peak, the Stena Line service from the port to Holyhead carried more than 1.7m passengers a year.
However, after the withdrawal of 'duty free' shopping, passenger and cars volumes declined dramatically and by 2014, fewer than 200,000 ferry passengers travelled through Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
Stena had already reduced the operation of the route to a seasonal one in 2010, sailing in the summer months and at Easter and Christmas.
But it didn't sail last Christmas and the announcement to shut the route completely was widely anticipated.
The chief executive of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, Gerry Dunne, said that the possible withdrawal of Stena Line had been considered as far back as 2011 and a master-plan was drawn up as a result.
He told RTE Radio that under the plan, Dun Laoghaire concentrated on tourism and he said the port has a "very significant cruise business building up".
Local businesses were mixed in their reaction to the axing of the ferry service, but all were hopeful that the arrival of more cruise ship traffic would be of benefit for the town.
"I will be sorry to see the Stena route go because we get quite a few customers from it in the summertime," said Kate Pavlova of The Hen House restaurant in the shopping plaza across the road from the ferry terminal.
"People would come in before getting on the ferry if they were looking around the town, or maybe after they got off and they were only starting their visit," she said.
Suzy Teeling, the store manager in Meadows & Byrne said they did get some extra UK trade from the ferry service, but not enough that would seriously affect their business.
"I suppose it will make a difference to the town and tourism levels, but maybe an increase in the numbers on cruise ships will help," she said.
Another man who thought yesterday's decision would have little impact was Alan Usher, manager of the Viking Marine camping and adventure shop near the harbour.
"It won't make much difference to us, maybe it will to the rest of the town but not us specifically," he said.
"Most of time people get the bus or train to the ferry, or drive on, and vice versa. Not that many would shop in the town," he added.
"We do get the odd tourist or crew member in, but not huge numbers," he added.
But the Dun Laoghaire Business Improvement District (BID) group expects no negative impact on the local business community following the announcement, and saying it could be an opportunity.
"The writing has been on the wall for the Stena service for a long time," said the group's chairman Don McManus.
"With cheap plane fares and different influences this day was bound to come," he told the Herald but said that all was not lost.
"More than 100,000 cruise passengers are set to arrive in Dun Laoghaire this summer following an intense international marketing campaign by the Dún Laoghaire Cruise Stakeholders group."