Shannon Heritage boss hopes profile boost will help profit

The chief executive of tourism firm Shannon Heritage confirmed yesterday that he is hopeful of the firm recording a net profit in 2012 after moving towards a breakeven position last year.

John Ruddle spoke after reporting that the firm’s attractions — including Bunratty Castle and Folk Park — recorded an overall increase of 6% in visitor numbers last year.

The profile of Bunratty Castle was recently boosted with Chinese vice- president, Xi Jinping and his entourage sharing dinner with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the venue.

The company’s accounts show that its pre-tax losses reduced by 26% from €239,764 to €176,987.

At peak season, the company employs 260 people and the figures show that the firm’s gross profit fell from €6.9m to €6.5m in the 12 months to the end of Dec 2010.

Mr Ruddle said that 2011 was “a much better year after the experience of the previous three years”

Mr Ruddle reported that the evening entertainment side of the business was up 12% and the day visitor side was up 5%.

The figures for 2010 show that 417,470 visited the company’s night and day attractions, with 343,517 visiting Bunratty Castle and Folk Park as well as 73,953 visiting the various evening banquet attractions.

On the 2010 results, Mr Ruddle said: “We were very satisfied with the result overall, as it was a much reduced loss from 2009 and our cost control meant the operation was very efficient.

“We were happy that we more than retained our market share and feedback from all of our customers to our unique range of products has been excellent,” he said.

“The international visitors are definitely going back home having been well impressed with what we have to offer.”

Looking to the future Mr Ruddle said: “Shannon Heritage has a number of exciting projects in the pipeline — among them a €5.7m redevelopment of King John’s Castle in Limerick and we are seeking expressions of interest for a major visitor attraction on a 120-acre site next to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.”

He said: “We are working hard to generate additional business. We work with local hoteliers to put good value packages together which include the medieval banquets and our attractions. We introduced a new online reservations system which is already attracting new international customers.”

Mr Ruddle explained: “The Shannon Heritage operation is vitally important to tourism in the Shannon Region as it continues to contribute an estimated €15m annually to the local economy.

“It indirectly supports many more jobs in the wider region, in terms of spin-off business in the accommodation and tourism services sector.

“People coming to a banquet will usually stay overnight in the area, visit other local tourism attractions, use local car hire, etc,” he added.

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