It’s Tuesday morning at the Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre in Kilbarry. The sun is shining brightly and, were this any other year, the place would be bustling to the sound of tourists with deep pockets.
The car park at the Visitor Centre is accustomed to hosting several tour buses at a time at this, the outset of the tourist season. Unfortunately, there are no such hulking people carriers currently pulling up at Waterford Crystal’s door.
Last Friday alone, with the tour of the factory still unavailable, it is believed that no less than nine bus tours that had been pencilled in for a trip to ‘The Glass’ were cancelled. That’s nine busloads of disappointed people who may not come our way again.
With no craftsmen currently on the site, there is little reason for tourists to visit the factory, aside from purchasing crystal. The Centre, which was re-opened two weeks ago, was eerily quiet when The Munster Express dropped by earlier this week. During our visit, there were just six cars parked in the tourist-designated car park, two customers in Gatchells Restaurant and a young couple had just emerged from the Visitor Centre Gallery. Those few visitors and the staff aside, the place was empty.
Reliable industry sources believe that the planned restoration of the factory tour may include the provision of two cutting wheels in the gallery, a considerable downsizing on what had been previously available to visitors.
It is also believed that the tour, albeit greatly downsized from the previous incarnation, will not be revived until some time in June, with a specific date yet to be confirmed by KPS.
The damage that may be inflicted by a reduced Waterford Crystal tour, if and when it resumes, is said to be a cause of serious concern for local tour operators and hoteliers. If the buses will stay away from Kilbarry, negative word of mouth will spread and that is something the local tourist sector needs like a hole in the head.
A spokesperson for Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton told The Munster Express the company was doing everything it could to find a way to retain manufacturing in Waterford but it had to be commercially viable. To that end, a programme manager had been appointed to lead a task-force who would engage in discussions with the various stakeholders, civic and business. “We recognize the importance of such a manufacturing facility to Waterford and we will do what we can. It would be too early at this stage to say that we are optimistic of achieving a viable facility but we are genuine in our efforts to achieve one”, said the spokesperson.