THE most popular fee-paying state attraction last year was the National Botanic Gardens with 550,000 visitors – but the gardens were unable to pay their way through gate receipts.
Last year 4.5 million people visited Office of Public Works (OPW) heritage sites across the country. Figures provided by Minister for State at the Department of Public Expenditure Brian Hayes confirm that over 15 million visitors were admitted to the entire OPW portfolio, which includes unguided sites.
In response to a written Dail question from Galway West TD Brian Walsh, the information shows that the Botanic Gardens is one of a host of attractions unable to pay its way through gate receipts alone.
The figures show that the €2 fee charged for guided tours of the gardens generated €121,950 – however, it had €2.3m in staff costs. In total, the staff costs at the 60 visitor attractions were €10.32m compared with €6.84m taken in gate receipts in 2013.
A large number of sites generate income from restaurants and cafes and that revenue is not included in the information provided.
According to Mr Hayes, "many of the sites operated by the OPW Heritage Service do not function as commercial concerns as such but rather are operated for the public good as part of the celebration of the nation's culture and heritage".
The overall disparity in staff costs and gate receipts takes into account the €2.1m spend at the Farmleigh Estate in the Phoenix Park, where it was free for the 435,476 to enter last year. Also, combined staff costs of €5.3m at the Phoenix Park and Dublin Castle relate to functions beyond the paid visitor attractions.
Some of the best performers included Kilmainham Gaol, with an income of €1.32m from 326,206 visitors, with staff costs totalling €546,553.