Rock of Cashel: reopened for online bookings this Monday
Cashel is getting to "rock" again with tourists with the reopening this Monday of its iconic Rock of Cashel for online bookings.
And already, the visitor numbers are coming back with the majority of its dedicated times filling up fast.
According to Martin Lynch of Cashel Chamber, they had been in discussion with the OPW for the past number of weeks to get the site reopened. However, nothing could be finalised until a direction came from the Minister of State for the OPW.
That direction has now come with more OPW sites reopening around the country.
Mr Lynch explained that the Rock of Cashel and the town itself had concerns because the Chamber operates a voucher scheme for visitors allowing people free access to the Rock providing they spend €15 in the town.
"There was no provision for a voucher scheme under the new guidelines," said Mr Lynch.
It has now been agreed that the Rock can open with half-price admission, the only OPW site in Tipperary to be allowed to do so, and only one of five countrywide to have that facility.
"We talked to the OPW because we had concerns," said Mr Lynch. "The vouchers scheme was valuable to the town as tourists could come and eat or pre-book a B&B and get free entry to the Rock."
He said the Minister had been toying with the idea of half-price entry to some sites, but Cashel was not on the list.
"Following discussions with the OPW, they agreed that Cashel could be on the list because we were losing our voucher scheme," he said. "It is the best case solution for a worst case scenario."
Visitor numbers to the Rock will be restricted to just one quarter of what they had been, with a maximum of 360 people being allowed inside on any one day.
Under the online booking scheme, people will be given a designated time to turn up at the outside gate.
"We have already had a lot of enquiries and while all of the pre-allocated times are not full, they will be filled," said Mr Lynch.
He is hoping that visitors will either arrive early and visit the town centre or stroll down to the centre after their visit.
The online bookings and minimum numbers will continue until at least December, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic pans out.
"We will have no tourist season until next St Patrick's Day," he warned. "The town has built itself around the Rock, which is worth an estimated €250,000 each year."
However, he estimated that figure could potentially be slashed to just €50,000 for 2020.
While the town escaped the worst ravages of the last recession, Mr Lynch said that this time around it was being affected.
"We have no foreign tourists and are reliant this year on people living in Ireland to visit," he said.
One of the facilities that Cashel now needed, said Mr Lynch, was an 80 or 100-bed hotel to cater for coach tours when tourism does return.
This was even more important now that Cashel was a designated Fáilte Ireland Destination Hub.
"You can be in most places around Ireland in about 90 minutes from Cashel," Mr Lynch pointed out.