Kilkenny City is ‘under-performing’ in terms of its potential to capitalise on international tourism revenue, Kilkenny Borough Council has heard.
Amanda Horan of Failte Ireland spoke to the members at a recent council meeting, and highlighted a number of areas in which Kilkenny needs to improve on its offering. Meanwhile, the chair of Kilkenny Tourism, Colin Ahern, has written to local representatives urging them not to cut industry funding any further.
New figures from Failte Ireland show that overseas holidaymakers to the city spend approximately €100 per day, while overseas visitors contribute €65 per day. Domestic overnight visitors spend around €60 per day, with domestic ‘day trippers’ spending on average €40 per day.
“At the moment, we are achieving in excess of 200,000 visitors to [Kilkenny] Castle per year,” said Ms Horan.
“International visitors to Kilkenny contribute 25% more than than domestic visitors. We are under-performing in terms of international revenue.”
The number of these international visitors to Kilkenny rose from 206,000 in 2010 to 214,000 in 2011. This represents 30% of all visitors to the southeast region.
A number of suggestions have been put forward as to how Kilkenny can improve on its offering to visitors and boost numbers coming to the city.
Coach-parking facilities at the north side of the city, it has been suggested, would be of significant benefit to the tourist attractions at that end of town, including Rothe House and St Canice’s Cathedral. Rothe House currently attracts around 50,000 visitors per year – a quarter of that of the castle, where there is ample parking space.
“The challenge is that a lot of tour operators do not leave that end of town,” Ms Horan told the borough council.
“They park the coach, people visit the castle, have some lunch, they are back on the bus and gone. It’s a day trip.
“We have to convince visitors and tour operators that to see Kilkenny, you have to do the whole ‘Medieval Mile’ – and critical to that is Rothe House.”
Cllr David Fitzgerald (FG) said that there was land available suitable for this purpose.
“Can I re-emphasise that we have a piece of land in Greensbridge near the Diageo site?” he asked.
“If we are serious about this Medieval Mile project, we must begin the process of creating a coach-parking facility at that end of the city – even a temporary one. It would be hugely important in terms of bringing in more numbers.”
His fellow Fine Gael Cllrs Martin Brett and Jimmy Leahy wanted to know what could be done to increase the time spent here by visitors to the region.
“It has been identified that visitors come to Kilkenny on a tour bus and then leave that night,” said Cllr Leahy.
“We have the best of restaurants, hotels, entertainment and heritage attractions. Have we identified why this is happening and what group we can target to get people to stay one night or two?”
Answering this question, John Ryan of the Pembroke Hotel said that there were a number of factors at play, including the new motorway, which has made it easier for people to move around quickly and forgo the need to stay over in places.
“We need to give people another reason to stay,” he told the members.
“We need to broaden the offer, and also get the information out there.”
Roisin McQuillan and Joe Ledwidge from Rothe House had made a presentation updating the borough council members on the house’s status. At present, the house is entering the final phase of its ‘Renaissance Conservation Plan’, which aims to upgrade the visitor experience through the use of interpretative media and interactive displays.
The Rothe House team also made an appeal at Monday’s meeting of Kilkenny County Council. Asked by Cllr Paul Cuddihy (FG) how much money they were seeking from the council, the Rothe House representatives said they would be grateful if the council could match the €20,000 it gave them in 2012, although they understood that the council was under pressure financially.