SHANNON Development has announced plans to open an office next year to capitalise on a global Irish homecoming in 2013.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar has described “The Gathering 2013” as Ireland’s biggest ever tourism drive and efforts to lure people of Irish descent back to the old sod during that year will see Failte Ireland work with local authorities to run events every city, village and town in the country.
An ambitious national target of 325,000 visitors has been set for 2013, numbers which could generate €220 million for the economy.
Shannon Development said it was determined to get its slice of the action and they believe it “has the potential to generate an additional €23 million in revenue for the Shannon region in 2013”.
As a sign of its intent, Shannon Development would be opening a regional Gathering office during 2012, the company’s tourism marketing manager Paul Ryan told members of the region’s tourism industry in Bunratty.
Tapping into the Irish diaspora could also form part of plans to develop an international tourism attraction on a 120-acre landbank at Bunratty, Shannon Development tourism product development manager Flan Quilligan said.
The company is seeking expressions of interest to develop the site next to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. While a theme park has been mentioned as a possibility, Mr Quilligan said any development “would have to in keeping with the authenticity of existing attractions at Bunratty”.
“A prospectus has been prepared and expressions of interest have been sought as part of a two-stage tendering process we commenced in 2011,” he said.
A closing date of March 31, 2012, has been set for these initial stage and Mr Quilligan said the company hoped “to have secured a shortlist of suitable developments by mid-year”.
“Family-friendly activities and cultural or heritage projects” would be looked at favourably by Shannon Development he said. When the competition was originally announced, Shannon Development suggested a genealogy centre for people researching their Irish roots was a possibility.
It is hoped that the competition will attract international interest and Mr Quilligan said some of the major tourism developments in the Mid-West – such as Doonbeg golf resort, Adare Manor and Dromoland Castle – had only been made possible through foreign investment.