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Bunratty Folk Park

Bunratty needs ‘more marketing’ – Tourism Minister

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As Shannon Heritage plans to bring more sites under its control, Tourism Minister Shane Ross has stated its marquee attraction, Bunratty Castle requires extra marketing.

Now running eight sites across the country, Shannon Heritage receives no State funding. In recent years, it won contracts to operate sites at Malahide Castle and the 1916 exhibition at the GPO while also receiving the tender from Fingal County Council to operate Newbridge House.

Managing Director, Niall O’Callaghan had previously stated their aim is to have fourteen sites under its control by 2021. Such a move has prompted Bunratty residents to contact The Clare Echo outlining their view that Bunratty Castle and Folk Park deserves more attention and that Shannon Heritage is becoming more vested in its Dublin interests.

“I don’t think that would be a good thing,” Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross told The Clare Echo of Shannon Heritage over-focusing on the capital. He did note that the visitor experience operator “is expanding in a couple of areas” and had been “successful” in Dublin.

Launched back in 1963, the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is one of the longest running tourism attractions in the country. During peak season, 350 people are employed by Shannon Heritage with the figure dropping to 145 for full-time all year round staff.

In May, plans were lodged for an €8m investment which will be one of the biggest projects of its nature carried out in Ireland and aims to deliver the country’s first ever 4D 270 degree visitor experience.

Minister Ross visited Bunratty Castle and Folk Park on Thursday last where he was briefed on the development plans. Speaking to The Clare Echo, he expressed the view that more marketing is needed for the attraction which welcomed its highest amount of visitors in 2017 when 369,275 people came through the doors.

“I was in Bunratty this morning, I saw the vigour that is there, I had a wonderful time going through the street and seeing what things were like 150 years ago, it is very special what they have created, it needs more marketing and they have the energy to do that, they are going to do that. The numbers are down slightly, it is still one of the iconic visiting places for tourists in Ireland and I’ve no doubt Shannon Heritage will continue to flourish”.

Brexit has impacted on the amount of tourists coming to Ireland in 2019, Minister Ross confirmed. “Tourism is not quite as successful this year as it was the year before last, it will come back, it has had real difficulties because of Brexit, Shannon Heritage has had difficulties because of that and because British tourists aren’t coming in the same numbers or spending in the same amount, that will come back. What Shannon Heritage has to offer is quite wonderful and it won’t be lost”.

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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