Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has today (Friday) officially opened the €4.5 million Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, Co. Kerry’s latest tourism attraction.
Minister Varadkar described it as a great example of nature and ‘soft adventure’ tourism, one of the fastest growing sectors in international tourism.
The nature park and eco-friendly visitor centre focuses on the Tralee Bay Nature Reserve, while offering wildlife boat rides, water sports and walking and cycling routes. Its target is to attract 70,000 extra visitors to Tralee per annum. Minister Varadkar described the opening as ‘the culmination of many years of planning and dedicated effort by Tralee Town Council’.
The development features:
- a viewing tower with panoramic views of Tralee Bay and links to nesting sites on the nature reserve;
- a multi-lingual safari boat ride through habitats reflecting the diversity of the wetlands environment;
- a 1.5 hectare artificial lake for light water sports activity;
- 2.2 km of walking and cycling routes linking up with the existing riverside walk.
The new centre employs three full-time and 10 part-time staff, in addition to five people in the lakeside café.
“Tralee has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure, particularly in all-weather visitor attractions, since the 1990s and tourism now supports 600 jobs in the town. The new €4.5 million Wetlands Centre will add significantly to the broad range appeal that Tralee has to domestic and overseas visitors. It will have a significant spin-off on local hotels, restaurants, bars and shops,” Minister Varadkar said.
The wetlands will also be an educational resource, and a focal point for local wildlife enthusiasts and research including Bird Watch Ireland and the Brent Geese Research group.
Tourism is a vitally important industry in Co. Kerry, with 0.75 million visitors in 2010 providing €154 million in revenue. A key factor in bringing the Tralee Wetlands Centre project to fruition was the funding of almost €3 million provided by Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Capital Investment Programme.
Failte also supports Kerry tourism through a Business Support Programme, and last year provided financial support for the Kerry Tourism Bus promotion to the UK. It will invest almost €0.25 million to support events taking place in Kerry this year.
Minister Varadkar also used the visit to promote the Gathering Ireland 2013, a year-long community event and festival of festivals. This was launched in Ireland last week by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, and Minister Varadkar echoed their call to every community to play a part in the biggest tourism initiative ever staged in Ireland. The Gathering Ireland 2013 will consist of a year-long programme of festivals, events and other gatherings in every region of the country.
The initiative is targeted at people living abroad with a connection to Ireland, whether through birth, ancestry, family connections, friendships, business, education or personal interest as well as at those who simply are curious about Ireland. More information is available form thegatheringireland.ie
Minister Varadkar paid tribute to Tralee Town Council and its officials, and said its prudence allowed it to develop the project free from borrowing by ring-fencing funds obtained from land sales. And he thanked the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which comes under the remit of Minister Jimmy Deenihan, which facilitated and assisted with the development.
“I wish to acknowledge one person, in particular, here today. Frank King from Blennerville has spent almost 80 years observing and studying the bird life on Tralee Bay, and provided invaluable information which is contained in the new visitor exhibition,” he said.
Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport Press Office: 01 604 1087/01 604 1090