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Bunratty Castle

Government funding sought to rescue iconic tourist attractions

WITH hoteliers and others in the tourism business furious about the early closure of Shannon Heritage sites this year, Shannon Group has said it has approached the Government seeking very significant funding.

It says it is already losing money at the tourist attractions and there is no way that it could keep them open beyond August 31 without substantial funding to cover operational losses.

In response to a query from The Clare Champion, Shannon Group said it has already made a submission to the Government looking for funding for the Shannon Heritage sites, in particular Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle.

It claimed it had done so to assist with the long-term survival of these heritage operations, in the context of the sudden collapse in international visitors due to Covid-19.

On the level of support being sought, a spokesperson said that “a multi-million euro support package” is required.

While Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle are the most well-known Shannon Heritage attractions, other local ones include Dunguaire Castle, Knappogue Castle and Craggaunowen. It also has attractions in Dublin and Newbridge House and Farm.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is one of the county’s top tourist attractions, only rivalled in Clare by the Cliffs of Moher, and many business people in the sector have warned that its closure in little over six weeks will be a further blow, in an already extremely difficult year.

However, the Shannon Group spokesperson said that the sites are already loss-making, even at the height of the season. “Unfortunately, even with an anticipated surge in domestic visitors, it will not compensate for the lack of international visitors.

“In fact, domestic tourism numbers booked to visit these sites between now and the end of August have been very poor.Despite an extensive national marketing campaign by Shannon Heritage, it is continuing to lose money on these sites.”

Shannon Heritage relies heavily on overseas visitors, with more than 70% of its revenue due to them and spokesperson said it would not be financially possible for the attractions to remain open into September, without Government help.

Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that Shannon Heritage’s managing director Niall O’Callaghan was leaving his position.

In its annual report for 2019, Shannon Group chief executive officer Mary Considine said that Shannon Heritage had been going well, prior to Covid-19. “In 2019, over 963,000 people visited our Shannon Heritage portfolio of eight visitor attractions, an increase of 4% in total visitor numbers. During 2019, we were delighted to secure a new visitor attraction when Shannon Heritage was awarded a contract from Fingal County Council to operate the new Casino Model Railway Museum in Malahide, County Dublin.

“Over 85,000 visitors attended our annual calendar of seasonal Easter, Hallowe’en and Christmas events organised at our visitor sites in 2019. This is a 16% increase on 2018, cementing the company’s position as Ireland’s leading developer of seasonal family fun events.

“We look forward to welcoming them back to our sites once the Covid-19 crisis abates.”

Representatives of Shannon Group are due to meet with the all-party Oireachtas committee on Shannon towards the end of the week and supports to keep the tourist attractions are bound to be high on the agenda.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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