AFTER a €6m revamp, visitor numbers to King John’s Castle have increased by as much as 120% since it re-opened this summer.
Tony Brazil, a director of Shannon Heritage, a subsidiary of Shannon Development which oversees the operations of the castle, said since its re-opening this June visitors numbers are 120% greater than last year.
Speaking at a transport and infrastructure meeting at City Hall this Monday, Mr Brazil had earlier called for a traffic and parking plan for visitors attending the 13th century castle, however the report has not been finalised.
In particular, he is concerned that the main car park close to the site - a 110 unit car park on the Orchard near the Bishop’s Place - is to be used for a €4.1m elderly residential development under the Regeneration plan.
Mr Brazil said while he has heard nothing but positive reports about the redeveloped castle, he said when it opened “people were kicking the counter” out of frustration, saying “I’ve travelled from Galway” and couldn’t find any car park space in close proximity to the castle.
“It is easily attainable to get 200,000 people there on an annual basis, and next year there will be a plethora of extra tours on a daily basis,” he said.
“The six-month period of re-opening has done wonders with very limited support, and next year many more operators will have the castle on their schedule for the full year,” he told the Limerick Leader.
Mr Brazil said King John’s Castle is Limerick’s equivalent of the Titanic centre in Belfast, “not a one-hit wonder”, and urged that every measure should be put in place to safeguard its continued success in the future.
Fine Gael councillor Diarmuid Scully, and former mayor, said he supported Mr Brazil in his motion before the council and his sentiments.
“Maybe we’re not used to dealing with successes in Limerick,” he said, calling for a full report on traffic demands for the castle. He added that any development on the Orchard site would be a “retrograde step”.
Prior to the redevelopment, tourist numbers to the castle had dramatically dipped to 40,000, and the works were due to double those numbers to 80,000.
However, official projections for the year ahead will be released by Shannon Heritage later this month during the official re-launch.
While the financial investment may take some time to see a return, Mr Brazil said “making Limerick a better place to visit and showing off the city in its best light” also brings its own return.
A major fireworks display is planned for the castle on New Year’s eve, as part of major celebrations in the city that night, as Limerick enters the year of City of Culture.