Saturday 22 October 2016

€5m visitor centre for 1916 centenary set to attract just 114 extra tourists

Published 27/10/2015 | 02:30

The Irish flag flies in the Kilmainham Jail yard, where some of the 1916 leaders were executed.
The Irish flag flies in the Kilmainham Jail yard, where some of the 1916 leaders were executed.

A €5m project to create a visitor centre close to where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed will not result in any significant boost to tourist numbers next year.

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A business plan for the centre at Kilmainham Courthouse projects virtually static visitor numbers for 2016.

Some 329,000 visitors are projected, an increase of just 114 on the number of people who came to the Kilmainham complex in 2014, according to a plan seen by the Irish Independent.

It also reveals there are proposals to hike entry prices to the tourist attraction by 35pc immediately after the centenary of the Easter Rising next March.

The planned visitor centre at the courthouse is adjacent to Kilmainham Gaol, where leaders of the Rising were imprisoned and executed.

According to the Office of Public Works (OPW), work to convert it is scheduled to be completed in time for next year's centenary celebrations.

However, concern has been expressed at the low level of visitors projected in the plan, which was submitted to an all-party Oireachtas consultation group on commemorations. One member of the group, Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly, said the plan needs to be revised as it would not cater for the anticipated demand from tourists next year.

"The business plan produced is inadequate," he said.

"What they produced is a €5m plan which will only see an extra 114 visitors in 2016 at Kilmainham Gaol, where the Rising leaders spent their last night.

"This is totally unacceptable. They have to come back in and explain how they are going to facilitate the huge numbers of additional visitors who will seek to go there next year."

A spokesperson for the OPW said it was not possible to forecast visitor numbers with complete accuracy.

"However, it was reasonable and valid to project a number of likely attendance scenarios to estimate the financial outcome and this was the basis for the business case," she said.

The spokeswoman said the eventual aim was to have 500,000 visitors a year.

The document submitted to the consultative group described the visitor projection estimates as conservative.

Even allowing for this, it said the State's outlay of €5m on the new visitor facilities could be recouped in around four years.

Under the plan, premium admission rates, which are currently €7, would jump to €9.50 in April of next year.

Further price increases are provisionally scheduled for January 2018, when premium admission would jump to €11.50, and January 2020, when that rate could be hiked to €13.

The plan stated there would be a need to introduce a different charging model, which would see different price points for different tourist experiences. This would see prices vary depending on whether a tour of the facility was guided or unguided or limited just to the museum.

While projected admission numbers are almost static for next year, it estimates 50,000 additional visitors in 2017, bring the number up to 379,000.

The plan projected that up to 500,000 people will be visiting the facility annually by 2020.

Irish Independent

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