Fáilte Ireland has claimed that it would cost a whopping €300,000 to kit-out a new premises that has been offered free of charge as a possible new location for the tourist office, currently situated in Athlone Castle.
The tourist office’s location in the castle has been a point of frustration for local councillors for a number of years, with motions frequently raised at Municipal District level to have it relocated to a more central location in the town.
Mayor O’Rourke told Monday’s meeting of the Municipal District that a business person on the west side of the town had offered up a premises free of charge for the tourist office. The mayor said representatives from Fáilte Ireland had inspected the premises and found it to be ideal.
However, despite its suitability, Fáilte Ireland has decided not to relocate the tourist office from its castle location. In their reply, Fáilte Ireland added that it would take up to €300,000 to kit out the new office to modern standards, which it cannot commit to in its budget for 2018.
Councillors expressed their shock at the quoted figure. Mayor O’Rourke said the building in question is only 600 or 700 square feet, and could not understand how kitting out such a small space could cost so much.
“You would probably build a couple of houses for that,” he commented.
Cllr Michael O’Brien called the figure “ridiculous” and said it would be interesting to see a breakdown of the cost.
Cllr Paul Hogan (SF ) felt the figure was designed to deflate the councillors’ efforts to have the office moved.
Director of services Barry Kehoe responded by saying he would not be surprised if the quoted figure was accurate, due to the high standard such facilities are kitted out to today. He added that when the castle was closed for refurbishment works the tourist office was temporarily moved to the Civic Centre and then to a unit on Church Street, during which time its number of visitors seriously declined. He said the investment Failte Ireland has made in the tourist office at the castle also must be respected.
Mayor O’Rourke added that the staff working in the office do an amazing job, and that it is simply the location that is the issue. He said that he wants to maintain the positive relationship the council has with Fáilte Ireland, but that the issue is one which must be followed up on.