I am grateful to Waterways Ireland for letting me have the Shannon traffic figures for August 2014.
Regular readers may wish to skip this section
All the usual caveats apply:
- the underlying figures do not record total waterways usage (even for the Shannon) as, for instance, sailing, fishing or waterskiing on lakes or river stretches, which did not involve a passage through a lock or Portumna Bridge, would not be recorded
- the passage records would not show, for instance, a change in the balance of types of activities from those in larger cruising boats to those in smaller (sailing, fishing, waterskiing) boats
- figures like these will not necessarily be representative of those for the year as a whole. The winter months, January to March, see little traffic in any year; for April, May and June, the weather can have a large influence on the amount of activity especially, I suspect, in private boats.
On the other hand, the figures do include the Shannon’s most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business. And they are our only consistent long-term indicator of usage of the inland waterways.
I thought that the good weather in July might have brought more boaters out in August (when the weather was not so good), but it didn’t. This is the lowest eight-month figure in my series; traffic is just under 56% of what it was in 2003.
Nothing much to cheer about there. Traffic was very slightly higher than in 2012.
Maybe lots of people have taken up sailing, and thus been confined to the lakes, instead of cruising. If, gentle reader, you can think of a way of measuring sailing usage, let me know.
As I said last month, the pace of decline seems to have slowed, but this is still the lowest figure in my series.
Percentages of 2003 levels
The eight-month figures for private traffic are a bit worse than the seven-month, but perhaps September’s extraordinarily good weather will prompt an increase. There is no good news for the hire business, but perhaps the profitability of the remaining operators will be improved.
Private -v- hired
What is the Shannon’s USP?
Are figures available for hire boat usage on other European canal networks? And if so, how does the Irish slump compare with trends there?
It would be interesting to see if this decline in tourism reflects a general decline in disposable income for what is not exactly the cheapest way to have a holiday, or whether Irish canals are regarded by European visitors as a bit rubbish.
Please feel free to Google and report back.
Note that the Shannon is not a canal.