Keys to the Kingdom
It's a truth universally acknowledged that Killarney is one of Irish tourism's honeypots. But exactly how valuable it is has remained a mystery.
Until now, that is.
A Killarney Tourism Economic Impact Review report published today reveals that tourism in the town generates €410 million every year.
The report, compiled by strategic research consultants W2 Consulting, also says Killarney receives 1.1 million visitors annually, supporting 3,122 local jobs.
Between now and 2025, it adds, tourism will grow by 30pc.
It's not all good news, however. 'Seasonality' and 'Regionality' have become buzzwords in Irish tourist industry circles in recent years, and it seems even the Kingdom is not immune to the effects of its rural setting and an off-season drop in visitor numbers.
In December, the report found, room occupancy rates drop to 20pc.
Although Killarney's large volume of accommodation skews comparisons somewhat (the town has around 10,000 beds), this figure compares to 71pc occupancy in Dublin and 60pc nationally during the same month.
The review, commissioned by Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, also noted that just 7pc of visitors travel to Killarney for business.
"There’s clearly a perception that all is well in Kerry because of tourism, but this report indicates that while we have an amazing product that is delivering on tourists’ expectations, there are areas we need to address,” commented Conor Hennigan, Development Manager with Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
“Tourism is hugely important to Killarney, but there are indicators within the report that confirm the economic imbalance on this island," he added.
"The fact that Dublin is the destination most frequently visited by tourists after their time in Killarney suggests that not enough of our visitors are spending time elsewhere in Co. Kerry or on the Wild Atlantic Way."
In terms of visitor attitudes, 41pc of those surveyed said Killarney exceeded and 57pc that it met expectations, the report states.
The town also scored strongly in terms of value for money, with 77pc rating Killarney as either ‘very good’ or ‘good’ value compared to 61pc for Ireland.
The average room rate for Killarney is €113, versus €139 nationally - although rates do nudge above the national average for two months in peak season.
“This report has been enlightening," added Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce president Paul O'Neill. With "the right approach and investment", he believes the industry can turn regionality and seasonality challenges into an opportunity.
Recommendations in the report include a new digital marketing campaign, support for direct international access to the west coast, investment in road and broadband networks, and enhancing Killarney's product mix to attract year-round visits.
Completing the Gap of Dunloe Greenway (photo above) is mentioned, for example, as is the Fossa Way and Lough Leane Loop Walk.
With British visitor numbers to Ireland down 6pc last year, the report also recommends meeting the Brexit challenge by building on Killarney's already strong appeal with the North American and Mainland European tourism markets.