Historical attractions play a major role in ensuring that Galway is Ireland’s premier tourist destination, that is according to Galway West TD Seán Kyne.
Deputy Kyne made the comment while welcoming an initiative, announced by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes, which gives free access to all OPW heritage sites on the first Wednesday of every month.
It is hoped that the initiative, which began on July 6, will help to stimulate an interest in Ireland’s built heritage and to encourage visits from both those living in Ireland and also visitors to the country. Several Galway heritage sites which are maintained by the OPW have benefited greatly from the initiative with figures showing a dramatic increase when compared to the equivalent days of the previous month.
The figures show the following: Visitor numbers for Athenry Castle went from 24 on June 1 2011, to 86 on July 6 2011; At Aughnanure Castle there were 96 visitors July 1, this increased to 181 on July 6; Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór attracted 183 on June 1, and the figure shot up to 485 on July 6; Portumna Castle and Gardens attracted 22 visitors on June 1, and 59 on July 6; and Patrick Pearse’s Cottage in Connemara had 10 visitors on June 1 but 46 on July 6.
Commenting on the initiative, Deputy Kyne said: “The importance of tourism to our local economy cannot be overestimated and supporting the businesses and jobs which they provide is a key priority for the Government.
“The OPW initiative represents a small but important step towards making some of Galway’s most historically valuable sites and structures accessible to both the Irish public and tourists alike.
“It is very encouraging to see significant increases in visitor numbers to the locations across Galway on the days on which the OPW initiative operates.”