LISDOONVARNA could be the Baden-Baden of Ireland, a local hotelier has claimed.
The German town rose to international fame when it was used as a base by the English soccer team, as well as players’ wives and girlfriends, during the 2006 Fifa World Cup.
The spa resort in the foothills of the Black Forest welcomes millions of day visitors and hundreds of thousands of over-night tourists each year.
Marcus White of White’s Hotel Group, which owns the Hydro Hotel, the Imperial Hotel and the Burren Castle Hotel in Lisdoonvarna, believes the North Clare town could boom in a similar fashion, if the town’s spa wells are developed.
Lisdoonvarna became a popular resort in the early 1800s because of the spa wells and its waters, containing minerals reputed to have health restorative effects.
Mr White last week announced deals with German tour operators that would see 60,000 additional bed nights filled in North Clare.
“I have talked to Government officials. I see gold where others see stones,” Mr White stated, adding that in Lisdoonvarna, the figurative gold is in the water.
“If I could get the spa wells developed, one of my German operators [who is bringing in 5,500 tourists to the North Clare town this year] says we could fill it 365 days a year. The town community has to be part of it. We need an investor in the spa wells and we could have an attraction like Baden-Baden on a smaller scale. This would be ideal for elderly people with arthritis and so on. We don’t know what we are sitting on,” he claimed.
Lisdoonvarna Fáilte is a community organisation currently working on restoring the spa wells.
Chairman of the group, Paddy Dunne told The Clare Champion the spa wells will be developed, but further investment is needed.
“We are currently working on the pump house. We are working around the clock to reopen that for May 4. We are going to reopen the spa wells and the first stage is the pump house,” he said.
“We have received some money from Clare County Council and we have workers under the Tús scheme from Clare Local Development Company. If people see what we have done with very little resources, they will see the potential that is there. The next stage is, hopefully, to get a master plan together for the overall complex. The spa wells area was neglected over the years and we are trying to fix it up,” he continued.
“It is a slow process but we are working on it. After the pump house, we are moving on to Maiville house. We are going to start work on that to make it a museum. That is our plan right now,” Mr Dunne outlined.
According to Lisdoonvarna Fáilte, the bath house needs major investment.
“We made a commitment to the community that it would not go into private hands, that it would be run by the community and open to the community, so hopefully we will get Government funding to develop it. It would create an incredible amount of jobs,” Mr Dunne stated.
“We would not say no to people who wanted to make a donation and we could make €5,000 stretch to €50,000 because local contractors and craftsmen have given their time over the last few months. Only for them, we would have had a very difficult time,” he added.
According to Mr Dunne, “Lisdoonvarna can and will be a spa resort again”.
“There would be jobs in tourism telling people the history of the place. People would be working in the wellness centre. In the bath house itself, there are saunas, showers and a gym there. We have it all here but it has to be upgraded. There is so much potential to develop it.
“The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark are working with us to try to get a master plan together. The local agencies are pulling together to see the potential that is there.
“If the spa wells was going right, then you would have it open all year around, not just for the season,” he concluded.
By Nicola Corless