Blarney Castle owner calls for government support for privately-owned tourist sites

Colthurst says attractions need support in order to return to contributing taxes to State

Blarney Castle: A medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland dates from before 1200.

Blarney Castle: A medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, Ireland dates from before 1200.

 

The owner of one of Ireland’s most successful tourist attractions, Blarney Castle, has called for increased supports for privately owned visitor attractions amid a collapse in visitor numbers due to Covid-19.

Sir Charles Colthurst, whose family owns and operates Blarney Castle and Gardens, said ticket receipts for the Co Cork tourist attraction have dropped by 85 per cent as a result of restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

According to Failte Ireland, Blarney Castle and Gardens was the 10th most visited paying tourist attraction in the country in 2018 when 460,000 people visited but Sir Charles said the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated visitor numbers.

“Blarney Castle supports 90 full-time and part-time staff during the height of a normal summer season, when as many as 65,000 tourists visit monthly. This year, the number of visitors during August fell to 10,000,” he said

“Efforts are being made to protect the jobs of 30 full-time staff at Blarney Castle and Gardens during the off-season, but the impact on gate receipts and shortfall in Government support has had a significant impact.”

Sir Charles said he was extremely grateful to the people of Blarney and Cork who have bought season passes to access the castle and grounds and have supported the attraction during the pandemic.

He said the priority for private operators of attractions such as Blarney Castle was “to keep the lights on, protect the income of our employees and ensure that we are well positioned to take advantage of an upturn in business.”

“Unlike public tourist attractions, where state funds flow freely into upkeep and maintenance, those in the private sector have to carry that weight alone,” said Sir Charles whose family have owned Blarney Castle for 300 years.

“I would ask the Government to consider a special package of measures to support businesses such as ours. We will return to being significant contributors in terms of taxes, but not if our businesses are not supported in the meantime.”