Leisure-savvy Briton plotting a 'sequel' to Trabolgan's fairytale
Ireland may soon get its second holiday village,to be modelled on the first one, Trabolgan in Cork, snapped up in 2002 by UK leisure mogul Trevor Hemmings, writes CATHERINE TROY
BRITISH millionaire racehorse owner and leisure entrepreneur Trevor Hemmings plans to cash in on the estimated 4pc growth in the Irish tourism and leisure industry this year.
Having just invested ?8m in Trabolgan Holiday Village, his major enterprise in Ireland, Hemmings - worth ?480m according to recent 'rich lists' - is now looking at developing a second holiday village, at Buncrana in Donegal.
In Britain, his property interests include Blackpool Towers, on the 'Golden Mile' of that country's leisure industry, and he is also the largest shareholder (4.3pc) in brewery Scottish & Newcastle, whose share price has soared amid takeover speculation.
The former bricklayer from Lancashire showed his knowledge of and insight into the Irish leisure market when he picked-up Trabolgan for a mere ?12m in 2002.
The 140-acre former estate, close to Midleton, has recorded profits of ?7.6m in 2003 and has estimated profits of ?8.5m for 2004.
With the Government forecasting a 4pc growth in the Irish leisure and tourism market, there has been speculation over the prospect of Ireland's second holiday village at Buncrana, to be aimed primarily at the Northern Ireland Tourist market.
"The Irish Leisure business is expected to grow in the coming years," confirms Seán Woodgate, director of Trabolgan Holiday Village.
"Hence Mr Hemmings' ?8m investment and discussions about a second holiday village in Buncrana, Donegal. At present, Northerners have the benefit of the sterling exchange rate. Also, they are familiar with the concept of the holiday village market, in that many of them would have visited Pontins Holiday Complex in Britain."
Trabolgan Holiday Village is the only holiday village in Ireland. Over 90pc of its visitors are Irish and over 60pc of its business is repeat business, affirming the popularity of such holidays among Irish holiday-makers, especially families.
This year, Trabolgan expects to make profits in excess of ?8m over its 34-week season, that runs from March to November.
The Holiday Village is one of the major employers in East County Cork. In the past two years, Youghal Carpets, Irish Fertilisers, Irish Steel and General Semi-Conductor have all closed.
"Many traditional companies in East Cork have closed in the past two years." says Seán Woodgate, who is also chairman of East Cork Tourism.
"The leisure and tourist industry seems to be one of the most sustainable industries in East Cork. I would like to see governmental investment, favourable tax incentives and retraining programmes for East Cork."
Trevor Hemmings, who also owns a stud farm in Kanturk, Co Cork, developed an interest in Trabolgan in 2002 and bought it from the Dutch pensions company that had established it in 1972. The complex includes 172 self-catering housing facilities, with indoor and outdoor activity centres.
Mr Hemmings is also thought to be working on a campaign to bring resort casinos to leisure complexes in Blackpool. A parliamentary committee of MPs is currently hearing the case for gaming deregulation, ahead of proposed legislation.
Mr Hemmings believes resort casinos could transform the fortunes of Blackpool's Golden Mile, much of which he owns.
His campaign points, among other possible benefits, to a similar transformation enjoyed by Atlantic City in the US, a once-dilapidated East coast seaside resort, that was revived after the relaxation of the US gaming laws.