Sunday 25 September 2011

Bunratty theme park planned

PLANS FOR a multimillion-euro themed adventure park beside Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are being pursued by Shannon Development.

The regional development agency is seeking expressions of interest from third parties to develop a major tourism development on a 120-acre land bank in Bunratty, Co Clare, which would boost tourism revenues in the midwest.

The agency states that it will complement Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which occupies less than a third of the lands that will accommodate the new tourist attraction. The castle and folk park is already one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions with 400,000 visitors annually.

In tender documentation, Shannon Development states that there are gaps in the market for a themed adventure park aimed at the family market and the location on a major inter-urban motorway and proximity to Shannon International Airport are added benefits.

Another proposal for the land bank put forward by the agency is an “Ireland through the ages history and cultural centre”, incorporating a diaspora visitor centre and genealogy centre.

The agency’s research indicates that there may be an opportunity to develop a “one-stop shop” for visitors to learn as much as possible about Ireland’s history and culture in one location.

The tender documentation states: “It is estimated that the size of the available market for cultural tourism in Ireland from main source markets of Britain, United States, France and Germany to be of the order of 65 million.”

Sample themes/interpretation spaces could include: Ireland and the world; timeline of Irish history; diaspora centre; genealogy centre and county hall of fame; culture and activity orientation centre; retail, restaurant etc.

A third approach for the land bank, according to the agency, are innovative proposals relating to “activity, outdoor adventure and soft-adventure” tourism.

According to Shannon Development, its preferred option is to enter a development and management agreement with a party for the development and operation of the attraction. It says at least five candidates will be invited to submit detailed tenders.

Shannon Development says the 120 acres are within a strategic development zone that allows a wide range of developments to be considered. The documentation states: “Informal discussions have taken place with Clare County Council who have indicated that they would welcome a tourism-related planning application for this strategic site.”

Vice-president of the Irish Hotels Federation Michael Vaughan said yesterday: “Hats off to Shannon Development on this.

“We are delighted that they are taking this initiative and such a project could lead to a reversal in the tourist fortunes of Limerick and east Clare.”

The Lahinch-based hotelier added: “Bunratty does need to reinvent itself and this innovative idea is very worthwhile. This proposal could also lead to a resurgency in Shannon Development’s core competency of developing tourism products. It has been a long time since the agency developed a new product.”

Mr Vaughan said that because of Shannon Development’s finances, it required a third party to pursue the opportunity. Interested parties have until March 30th to lodge their expressions of interest.

Irish Times

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