Killarney tops with overseas and local visitors

One of Ireland’s oldest destinations is still tops with overseas and local visitors, a review of the tourism industry in Killarney has found.

Most people come to Kerry because of Killarney, and the vast majority find it either meets or exceeds expectations. After their trip to Killarney they go to Dublin.

North American tourists spending €191.50 a day still spend more than anyone else in Killarney, more than double what the German or French visitor spends (€81.48), and nearly a third more than the UK tourist (€147.20) The direct spend, including day trippers to Killarney, is €180m annually.

But challenges loom — Killarney is suffering because of the poor road network into the town from Cork, Limerick and Dublin.

Of the 664,000 overseas visitors to the Kerry town, just under half come through Dublin Airport, followed by Shannon and Cork airports and most of these come during the tourist season.

And because the county ranked lowest of all western counties for IDA-led jobs, it could not fill off-season beds with business-led tourism.

Hotels had an occupancy rate of just 20% in December while in Limerick the figure could be 48% and in Dublin it was 71%, down to business tourists.

Within the town, traffic congestion is a negative experience for the tourist while Brexit is a worry for up to 60% of people in the industry, with most expecting a drop in business.

Minister for Tourism, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, who launched the Killarney Economic Impact Review at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel, said he will fight for the retention of the 9% tourism Vat rate introduced as a short-term measure in 2011.

Minister of State for Tourism Brendan Griffin fires a snowball at Paul O’Neill, president of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, at the launch of Killarney Tourism Economic Impact Review report at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney, watched by Mark O’Connell of W2 Consulting and Niamh O’Shea, KCTC. Picture: Don MacMonagle

And Killarney’s visitor numbers will continue to increase it was predicted, with 1.4m expected in 2025.

Already along with overseas visitors, Killarney attracts 424,000 domestic tourists making for 1.1m tourists.

“The tourism industry in Killarney has become a “yardstick” for measuring annual tourism performance in Ireland. It is Ireland’s tourism capital,” the report said.

For the visitor part of the survey, 500 tourists were interviewed face to face between August and October by W2 consulting , compilers of The Killarney Economic Impact Review ( T.E.I.R. One) for the Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.

Overnighters spent an average €129 per day. They said they spent a third on accommodation, and over a quarter on food and drink, followed by gifts and trips and with only 7% spent on night-time entertainment.

Only in August is it dearer than anywhere else and then the average room rate peaks at €126 per night compared to €117 nationally, and generally visitors found it was good value.

Paul O’Neill, president of the Killarney Chamber of Commerce, said there had been a dearth of facts about the Killarney tourism industry, the largest national tourism hub outside of Dublin, until now. With more than 10,000 beds it had the capacity to grow the industry all year round, he said.

Ross Castle, Killarney, Co Kerry, bathed in the early morning light. Picture: Denis Scannell

However there are challenges — getting to Killarney being the biggest.The tourism minister said he was committed to the N22 Macroom bypass.

“We are just 50 miles from the centre of Cork City, but driving it feels like 100,” Mr Griffin said.

Killarney was “as exposed to Brexit as counties along the border,” the minister also said. More than half of the hoteliers forecast a drop of as much as 4% in business because of Brexit.

On Vat he was confident he could retain the low rate: “The 9% rate isis the difference between surviving and continuing, and for other people on whether to invest and renew,” he also said.

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