A LIMERICK tourism trail known as “The Red Mile”, linking the city’s mediaeval quarter with Thomond Park, will benefit from a multi million investment to double visitor numbers in the Mid West by 2020.
The money will come on-stream next year when Shannon Heritage will upgrade visitor facilities at both King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle as part of a wider strategy to enhance its premium tourist attractions.
Shannon Heritage managing director Niall O’Callaghan told the Limerick Post that 2018 could be a bumper year for the group that manages seven day visitor attractions and four evening entertainments including the world famous Shannon Castle banquets.
And it will all get under way with a spectacular projection show on the walls King John’s Castle this New Year’s eve at a cost of more than €100,000.
Mr O’Callaghan, who joined Shannon Heritage after serving as IDA regional development manager, said he is very impressed by Limerick City and County Council’s efforts to create a new tourism strategy which will be “really, really strong for the entire Mid West region”.
“The bottom line is that about 800,000 visitors come to the region every year, 100,000 of those visit King John’s Castle. If we work together, there is no reason why that can’t rise to 1.5 million in the next couple of years. All local attractions, and not just those in the Shannon Heritage portfolio can win as a rising tide lifts all boats.
He believes that “The Red Mile” concept which directs visitors along a route from the city, through Nicholas Street, over Thomond Bridge and out to Thomond Park, will be of great benefit to enhancing the local tourist offering.
Next year’s multi million investment is expected to maximise the space and outdoor events potential at King John’s Castle which has seen the likes of Imelda May, The Coronas and Limerick’s Hermitage Green perform sell-out gigs.
The Croagh man said that this will continue in 2018 as part of a wider remit to attract local and Irish visitors to Limerick.
“We have recently announced Walking on Cars, Bell X1 and a return of Hermitage Green as the 2018 gigs for the castle
“Ireland is extremely successful in terms of tourism promotion but it is very focused on international visitors. Without a shadow of doubt, there is an untapped business that hasn’t been grasped yet,” he said.
As part of his vision for 2018, the new Shannon Heritage boss said he is hoping to focus on attracting local visitors to the castle for more than just medieval games and tours.
“The economy is back on its feet and now we have to concentrate on persuading those theatre or cinema goers to come to us.
The former IDA boss said that King John’s Castle and Bunratty Castle will benefit from an immediate multi million euro investment to maximise their usage as corporate and events space.
“Obviously I am very familiar with the amount of multi national companies we have coming in and are already here. We need to tap in to that market.
“We need to sweat the assets and have our sites open longer because the longer they are open, the more benefit they are to the community.
Events like “Movies at Malahide” can be replicated at King John’s Castle and Bunratty.
Further investment is in the offing, according to Mr O’Callaghan who added that year-round activities at the castles will be included in Shannon Heritage’s plans for 2018.
“We are also in discussion with Fáilte Ireland to support our investment and enhance both sites from a tourist attraction perspective.”
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