Dr Vincent Cunnane was commenting after recently returning from the US where he met with prospective parties about developing the Clare-themed park.
“We were getting a good bit of traction and we are hopeful that something very significant will happen at Bunratty. I’m confident that we will receive several expressions of interest,” he said.
Dr Cunnane said he received “good hearings in the US” from prospective interested parties, stating the parties were impressed this was a “state-backed opportunity”.
“We are asked ‘how can you go to the market at this time?’ But I would say that it is probably the best time to go.
“While the money may not be in Ireland, there is money elsewhere and the best value can be had at this point in time.”
The agency chief executive said the development of the themed park on a 120-acre land bank at Bunratty “represents a unique opportunity beside an existing tourism attraction visited by 400,000 people per annum, adjacent to Shannon Airport and two hours by motorway from Dublin”.
Shannon Development had placed a deadline of the end of March for expressions of interest and this has now been extended to the end of May, stating that “due to the nature of the project, additional time is required”.
In its tender documentation, Shannon Development states there exists gaps in the market for a themed park aimed at the family market.
Another proposal 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 has undertaken research on the issue and has indicated 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 & 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”.