AS the real rigours of the recession finally take their toll in tourism haven Westport, with the closure of four businesses in recent weeks, a town councillor has urged the retail sector to think creatively in order to survive.
Both The Towers pub and the Quay Cottage recently closed their doors at the Quay, as did Geraghty‘s Pub at the Octagon, while PikAPotAndPaint is earmarked for closure in the town centre. Since the onset of winter, other pubs and restaurants are closing for part of the week in order to keep running costs – in a severely depleted market – down to a minimum.
Fine Gael Cll Myles Staunton told The Mayo News yesterday that he is calling on the Chamber of Commerce and Destination Westport to come forward to the Town Council with any initiatives that may stimulate business.
“Each year the business sector requests a rate reduction before the annual budget meeting, due to be held in January. For the last two years we have implemented rate decreases but the economic situation now needs other initiatives. The budget should not just be about rates,” Cllr Staunton said.
He observed that in the past the Town Council had provided economic stimuli by allocating monies to the Skate Park, the Town Hall and the Enterprise Park
Cllr Staunton said that at last week’s Town Council meeting he cited a rates initiative proposed by Kilkenny Borough Council in 2010 as a possible template for encouraging new businesses.
SPEAKING to The Mayo News about the sustainability of the town’s retail sector, Pat Aylward the co-owner of Atlantic Property Management, said he was particularly concerned about businesses at the Quay.
“The retail sector is in dire straits nationally and while Westport, bolstered by the tourism industry, staved off the downturn for a while, it is beginning to take its toll now,” Pat Aylward said.
“Here in Westport the hotels, with their various packages, are still pushing in people at weekends. Visitors need and want places – restaurants, pubs and shops – to be opened,” he said.
Mr Aylward also noted the centrality of Allergan to the continued prosperity of the town.
For Darren Madden, the Chairman of Destination Westport, the continued marketing of Westport as an excellent brand is paramount. Praising the town council for its support, he said any debate between the tourism sector and local authority was welcome.
“Destination Westport is preparing to make a presentation to the town council in January about our media marketing campaign. We hope to launch an upgraded website, with a social media dimension early next year,” Darren Madden said.
He also said that the focus of the organisation was to keep its market share of the home tourism sector.