Tuesday 17 September 2019

Weak Euro's silver lining for Wexford tourism

FLOWER GIRL Hope McKiernan at a Victorian Garden Party in Well's House last year. The popular venue reports a major increase in visitors this year.
FLOWER GIRL Hope McKiernan at a Victorian Garden Party in Well's House last year. The popular venue reports a major increase in visitors this year.

By David Looby

THE weak euro has meant an influx of English tourists to the county leading to great expectations for the summer season.

Sabine Rosler, owner and manager of Wells House, Ballyedmond, said she has noticed an increase in English visitors in recent weeks.

Ms Rosler said: 'We have a lot more English especially over the last month. Our food sales are up in the restaurant and all in all everything here is positive.'

The popular tourist attraction recorded an astonishing 100 per cent increase in visitors in May compared to the same month last year and Ms Rosler attributes this to the low admission fee of €8 and the many attractions at the house.

'Our figures have been consistently well up since January. We have added on a lot more attractions including a second woodland walk and we have the gardens also.'

She said having regular events at the house and gardens is also boosting visitor numbers.

Some of the upcoming events include: a Knights and Princess Party on June 28, a Victorian Garden Party on July 12 and two outdoor theatre performances, of Pride & Prejudice on July 18 and the Jungle Book on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

'We're looking forward to a very good season,' Ms Rosler said, adding that Wells House and Gardens is on course to significantly exceed its 90,000 to 100,000 footfall in 2014 this year.

CEO of the Dunbrody Famine Ship Sean Connick said numbers are on a par with last year.

'We are very busy so far in June and May was more or less on a par with last year. The car parks are full of buses and coaches.'

Mr Connick said local businesses along the quay and in the town are benefiting from the large number of visitors to the Dunbrody famine ship and visitor centre.

He said the problem is that many tourists only have 50 minutes to spend in the town so they often don't have time to explore its many charms.

He said the free, independent traveller will spend several hours, and in many cases, days in the area and spend significant amounts of money locally.

Mr Connick added that he is hopeful that large numbers of American and British tourists will visit the area this summer due to the weak euro, adding that in recent years more and more Canadians and Australians have been visiting Ireland.

'We are stabilising (our numbers) here. We get around 64,000 visitors each year. A lot of attractions peak and then go back and we are trying to increase our offering and the experience here. The quay front is working and you can see the people walking down to the Kennedy statue and to the plinth. I would be very surprised if there wasn't an increase in visitors this year.'

Manager of the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig, Maura Bell, said there has been a slight increase in English visitors and she expects a lot more over the summer months as they are expected to cash in on very favourable currency exchange rates.

'We are in the middle of school tour season so until the end of this week you won't see a big upsurge. We were busy over the June Bank Holiday weekend and we've noticed an increase in English visitors but in our experience they aren't spending, but it's early to say.'

Ms Bell, always a bell weather for how tourism in the Wexford town area is going, said: 'Everyone is upbeat and we've had a good few bookings.'

She said the €1.5m investment in the tourist attraction is paying dividends.

'We're on Ireland's Ancient East trail which will be a boost this year,' she said, adding that there are plans afoot for a new Viking attraction at the park next year.

Hotelier Bill Kelly, Kelly's Resort Hotel, Rosslare, said there has been a noticeable increase in spend from foreign and Irish visitors this year.

'I think the season looks very good. This is certainly the strongest season we have seen in seven years in terms of bookings. We're seeing a lot more English and a lot more Northern Irish people,' Mr Kelly said.

A very strong booking pattern has provided the ideal start to the summer for the popular hotel.

Traditionally American visitors keep to the west coast and don't frequent Kelly's, he added, but a 20 per cent increase in UK visitors has bolstered revenues.

'In volume terms it's still quite small but there is a very strong booking pattern right up to September and it's way in advance of where it was before when you had a lot of last minute availability which is not the situation at the moment.

'There is definitely a more optimistic feeling. You can see it in the area of disposable income. The spa and wine spend is up. We still have prices that are less than what they were in 2007 so in real terms it's great to see the good times coming back, but the margins are quite tight in the business and the costs have not gone down.'

The hotel underwent a major refurbishment last winter and the addition of the McGonigle room for conferences and special events for up to 60 people is another attraction for the area.

Nationally, tourism figures have shown an increase on 2014 and hopes are high that big spending American tourists will make their way to the Sunny South East this summer also.

Wexford People

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