The decision to temporarily close Shannon Heritage visitor attractions in the Mid-West at the end of summer season clearly demonstrates COVID-19’s impact on tourism sector dependent on international visitors
Reacting to the news, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “The recent announcement that Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle will temporarily close at the end of the summer season until 2021 was a difficult decision for Shannon Group.”
“COVID-19 has forced businesses throughout Ireland to make so many difficult decisions in the past few months. This decision is compounded by the fact that international air travel is not expected to get back to 2019 levels until 2023, as communicated by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Minister Ross. It is unlikely therefore that tourism businesses will have any international visitors for the remainder of the year and beyond that, if predictions are accurate.
“All of this information informs a decision which has been a very difficult one for everyone involved, employees, the county and the Mid-West region.
“We understand that Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle will open for the summer season and the reality is that off-season tourism business will be hard to sustain with just a domestic audience. We can see the challenges facing the tourism sector, especially if you factor in social distancing, which will severely limit the number of customers.
“This has been a very difficult decision for the Shannon Group to make. It is equally difficult for the employees who work in these visitor attractions. We would encourage those planning staycations this year to spend time in the amazing range of visitor attractions that have been developed in the Mid-West and across Ireland. They are more dependent that every before on domestic visitors this year,” added Ms Downes.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Councillor has welcomed the passing of her motion concerning Shannon Heritage at today’s Clare Council meeting. Co-signers of the motion were Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) and Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG).
Sinn Féin Councillor for Shannon, Cllr Donna McGettigan said: “Shannon Heritage plans on laying off workers at Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Knappogue and Craggaunowen until 2021 or even later. While Shannon Heritage to open Bunratty for a six-week window in the summer and keep the remainder of its attractions closed until 2021. It is imperative that Shannon Heritage engage with the regions and councils and worker’s unions without further delay to see what can be salvaged. Their plans as they currently stand will only add further to Clare’s Covid related woes and make local economic recovery all the more difficult.”
“At the moment staff are in a limbo, I visited Staff and have also been in contact with them through email and phone. Since a sister company to the Airport, is their future being taken into consideration as part of the Shannon Airport task force remit?
“Staff are extremely concerned and are willing to make a huge effort to ensure that we can rebuild it and make it stronger for the future. One thing that really stood out for me when talking to staff is the passion they have for their jobs, for them it is not just a place of work but a way of keeping our culture and heritage alive for future generations. This closure will also have effects on local business in the surroundings areas. People in Ireland may be looking to holiday at home this year so this is a real opportunity to develop the domestic market and serve thousands of our fellow citizens, we will not attract visitors in numbers needed if we are forced to close some of our greatest tourism assets,” Cllr McGettigan said.