Centre Parcs has announced plans to invest a further €85 million in its Longford Forest holiday village, near Ballymahon, which will see it add 200 lodges to the 400ac site and create an additional 250 jobs. The company said it will submit a planning application for the expansion by the end of this year.
Center Parcs UK & Ireland’s chief executive Martin Dalby said that in spite of what had been “a challenging year” as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the operation had “great confidence in both our business and the Irish domestic tourism market, backed up by our extremely positive forward bookings for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022”.
He said there was a huge amount of work to be done in terms of design and site works and suggested it would be a two-year project. The first step will be to commence detailed design and site survey work, as well as a programme of community engagement, in advance of submitting a planning application, with a target date of the end of 2021 for the submission.
Construction is likely to commence in 2023 and as well as the 250 permanent jobs to be created on the site, there is likely to be in the region of 300 jobs created during the construction phase, Dalby said.
He said that as well as the addition of the extra lodges, there will also be four luxury tree-top lodges installed as well as an expansion of some of its key facilities including its sub-tropical paradise and the Aqua Sana spa.
He said that despite the pandemic, which saw the park closed for most of the last 12 months, the first two years of its operation in Ireland had been “a huge success” and he said the company had kept on its 1,000 staff, most of whom were from the local area, since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dalby said that in spite of travel restrictions meaning visitors from the UK had been unable to visit the site since March of last year, there had been sufficient demand amongst Irish holiday makers to ensure that bookings had been solid during the periods when the site was allowed to re-open. Since it opened in July 2019, Center Parcs Longford Forest has had average occupancy of 90 per cent during peak periods.
It was allowed to re-open earlier this month and there are currently guests on site although some of its facilities remain closed as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
The general manager of Longford Forrest, Darragh Feighery, said that the sub-tropical swimming paradise would be reopening from Friday although public health restrictions mean that people will have to book specific two-hour slots in order to visit.
Feighery said that feedback from guests already on the site was “really, really positive” and he said that additional facilities, including an outdoor waterpark had been added to the facilities on the site.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadka described the news as fantastic, adding that Center Parcs was a “really valued employer in the area”.
He said the company had “made a huge effort to work with the local community and I’m sure that will continue with this further expansion, which will see €80m-€85m invested, 250 permanent jobs created and a further 300 during construction. I wish the team the very best of luck and thank them for their continued commitment to Ireland.”