Virtual reality tourism expected to vie for €150m Fáilte Ireland funding

State tourism body seeking to promote immersive heritage and culture attractions

Fáilte Ireland will give grants of €2.5 million upwards and focus on ‘immersive’ projects. Photograph: iStock

Fáilte Ireland will give grants of €2.5 million upwards and focus on ‘immersive’ projects. Photograph: iStock

 

Virtual and augmented reality-based tourist attractions are expected to be among those seeking access to tens of millions of euro worth of State investment as part of a scheme announced on Wednesday.

Fáilte Ireland, the tourism development authority, will make €150 million available for future projects aimed at helping funnel visitors into the country.

“The return to us is the economy,” said Orla Carroll, Fáilte Ireland’s director of product development. “If you have a successful attraction in a town then you will have more coffee shops, you will have more other businesses opening, you will have more accommodation.”

The Platforms for Growth strategy will be aimed at attractions designed around Ireland’s cultural heritage – commercial ventures outside of that scope cannot receive funding under State aid rules.

However, the appeal is clear – Fáilte Ireland data shows that last year 70 per cent of visitors to the country went to an “immersive heritage and culture” attraction, which can include museums, historic sites and interpretive centres. Virtually every American visitor (98 per cent) will have one on their to-do list.

Alternative attractions

In recent times Fáilte Ireland has noted a shift toward alternative attractions such as aerial parks, tree-top walks and experiences based around virtual and augmented reality.

“I think technology is going to play a much bigger part and that seems to be the kind of stuff coming through. We have a lot of people with tech backgrounds interested in getting into the sector,” said Mary Stack, head of attractions.

“[It is] less of the galleries, the museums and more of the high tech immersive types of attractions or the outdoor parks.”

While Fáilte Ireland has about 50 large-scale capital projects under development around Ireland, the Platforms for Growth initiative is a new funding stream – its largest to date – aimed at attracting partnerships with investors. It expects to receive interest both from the private sector as well as potential community/public tie-ins.

“Previously investment in the past wouldn’t have been as high but tourist numbers are growing . . . from an investor’s perspective there is less risk and actually there is an opportunity,” said Ms Carroll.

Fáilte Ireland will give grants of €2.5 million upwards and focus on “immersive” projects.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s launch, Fáilte Ireland chief executive Paul Kelly said the initiative would play into its strategy to create a more regional spread of visitors to the country.