Waterford city and county’s annual tourism spend is an astounding €500 million less than that achieved in Galway, according to a report prepared for Waterford City & County Council.
The Deloitte report, titled ‘Project Ireland 2040 – Discussion of Opportunities for Waterford’ reveals that in 2016, Waterford’s total tourism spend came to €124m, with €75m of that spent by international visitors and the remaining €59m outlay sourced to domestic visitors. This compares to €475m spent by international visitors to Galway, in addition to a domestic injection of €166m, coming to a total spend of €641m. The ground Waterford aims to gain on the tourism front is also reflected in the 2016 tallies for Cork (€742m; International: €588, Domestic: €154m) and Limerick (€239m; International: €212m, Domestic: €37m).
However, there’s no doubt that the opening of the 46-kilometre Waterford Greenway in March 2017, a significant interim development taking Deloitte’s 2016 figures into account, is already playing a significant role in boosting tourist spending. This was evidenced by an Amárach Research report published last December, which revealed that 80 per cent of non-Waterford visitors accessing the Greenway from outside the county during its first nine months were spending over €100 per night here. In addition to this, 41 per cent of the 1,177 respondents surveyed by Amárach spent an average of €28.50 per Greenway visit.”Tourism and retail present significant growth potential at a regional and county level by closing the ‘Gap to Galway’ and bringing Waterford in line with the other cities,” the report states. “Marketing techniques and the North Quays SDZ development will help to grow the region’s tourist trade.”
Annual visitor figures to Waterford between now and 2030, as projected by the local authority, are set to reach two million by 2025, in addition to a increased annual tourist spend of €500m.
The report states: “A clear strategic plan to attract tourists to the region is required to correct the imbalance between tourism in the South East and other regions in Ireland.”
Factors that are expected to contribute to this sunny projection for the region include:
* The North Quays/Michael Street development, including the new hotel and conference centre,
* The improvement of “connectivity infrastructure” to the region and
* Further investment in tourism marketing.
The significance of securing Waterford Airport’s long-awaited runway extension has been re-iterated by a range of stakeholders who see its delivery as a vital component in the enhancement of the region’s infrastructure. “Direct access for international visitors would be a significant help in what is a growth story in tourism,” according to Waterford City & County Council Chief Executive Michael Walsh. “International tourists bring greater economic spend and benefit and patently an airport with a few hundred thousand passengers would deliver significant numbers – it would help in terms of industry confidence and in securing more tourist accommodation that we need and would also be helpful for enterprise in general.”
Regarding the future of the Killowen facility, Minister of State John Halligan (IA) stated: “Shane Ross (the Minister for Transport) has given a guarantee that he will not leave Waterford Airport close. As a matter of fact, we got emergency funding that was never heard of for any other airport, about €390,000 to €400,000 to keep staff there in wages and I continue to meet with airport management and workers regularly.”
Speaking to this newspaper, Minister Halligan continued: “The difficulty with the airport – and by the way, I was on the Airport board for five years – is that they cannot get a prop(eller) flight at the moment and that has led a lot of people to ask why is it being kept open? And this has been said to me by TDs whenever I bring up the runway extension. ‘Sure ye haven’t got a plane,’ more than a few TDs have said to me. We remain in tentative negotiations at present, and there are matters I cannot publicly comment upon at the moment. We’ve met with the potential investors, I’ve met with airport management, I’ve met with the (City & County) Council CEO and I’ve held specific meetings with the Taoiseach in relation to the airport. Look, this is difficult and there’s no point saying otherwise. The negotiations are ongoing but I will say this: it is unusual, in fact I believe it is unprecedented that private investors would invest in a regional airport. That kind of commitment is not offered in a ‘willy nilly’ manner.. So the talks go on.” Fellow Minister of State John Paul Phelan (FG) told a post-Budget briefing in Kilkenny that Waterford Airport is “underfunded and in need an extra strip of runway that will bring it up to international standards”.