File picture: Dirk Mathienz from Pixabay
A 'world class' Kilkenny water sports hub looks a step closer following confirmation of a funding boost from Government today.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin and Fáilte Ireland have announced a major new investment worth €19 million. The funding will be used to build world-class facility centres at 22 locations across the country, including Kilkenny.
The significant increase in people enjoying outdoor water-based activities such as kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and open water swimming is expected to continue to grow year on year, and not just during the summer months. This means all-weather changing facilities, secure storage and bathrooms at beaches and inland water spots will be in huge demand.
Kilkenny Water Sports Hub will be developed under this scheme, in partnership with Kilkenny County Council. Each centre will provide hot shower, changing and toilet facilities, secure storage, induction spaces, equipment washdown and orientation points.
They will be fully wheelchair accessible and built using sustainability best practices such as solar heating panels to meet ‘Nearly Zero Energy Building Standards’.
This investment scheme, developed in partnership between Fáilte Ireland and local authorities, will support the local economy and the outdoor activity sector by significantly enhancing the overall visitor experience, providing new business opportunities in local communities and allowing for the extension of the tourism season beyond the traditional summer months.
A second phase is expected to commence in 2023 under Fáilte Ireland’s Platforms for Growth capital investment programme.
“Ireland is world-class when it comes to providing water-based activities which are enjoyed by local communities and visitors along our stunning coastline, rivers and lakes," said Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin.
"We’ve seen a significant upward trend in people enjoying outdoor water activities over the last year and we know the appeal of the outdoors will continue to grow post-Covid-19 so we must ensure the Irish experience meets and exceeds visitor expectations.
"The scale of the investment I am announcing today with Fáilte Ireland will have a key role in Ireland’s recovery. It will support the local economy and the outdoor water-based activity sector by significantly improving the overall visitor experience, providing new business and job opportunities in local communities, particularly in rural areas and allowing for an extension of the traditional tourism season beyond the summer months. It is also important to note that the facility centres will be sustainable, accessible and integrate into the natural environment of their locations.”
Paul Kelly, CEO Fáilte Ireland said in order for Ireland to be recognised internationally as a best-in-class activity destination it is critical that we invest in building a sustainable activity infrastructure, compelling visitor experiences and developing the capacity of activity providers.
"This investment scheme will not only strengthen our appeal as a country with strong outdoor water-based activities and facilities, it will also create new opportunities for activity operators that will benefit local jobs and businesses while helping to spread visitors across the regions," he said.
"Today’s announcement outlines Phase 1 of this scheme, which has an expected completion date of Summer 2022 and we will look at a potential second phase in 2023.”
Welcoming the announcement, Cllr Andrew McGuinness, Cathaoirleach, Kilkenny County Council said it was great news for Kilkenny to be in a position to develop a water-based activity hub along the River Nore in the city.
"Developing an activity hub to increase access to the Nore that will be accessible to all is a great initiative for Kilkenny’s tourism and hospitality providers and our local outdoor enthusiasts alike. The on-going support of Fáilte Ireland is very welcome as we prepare to reopen business and avail of the local tourist trade for the summer of 2021. The water-based activity hub will add another string to Kilkenny’s bow in terms of attractions in the years to come," he said.