Visitor numbers to the Rock of Cashel have surged since Queen Elizabeth 11’s visit to the site less than a month ago and Irish tourists account for a significant portion of the increase, according to the Rock’s chief guide.
And many tourism enterprises in the town of Cashel are also reporting a boost in business on the back of the rise in the Rock’s popularity due to the historic royal visit and the national and international publicity it received.
Rock of Cashel supervisory guide Elaine Moriarty said the number of visitors to the Rock rose by 16% in the first four months of this year compared to the same period last year.
While the royal visit can only partly be credited with this increase, Ms Moriarty says the 25% increase in visitors to the Rock in April compared to the same month last year was a direct result of the announcement that the Rock was included on the itinerary of the Queen’s Irish State visit.
“This was a huge increase and was definitely due to the announcement of the royal visit,” she told The Nationalist. “We had people coming to the Rock before the royal visit and telling us they were following the Queen’s route.”
While visitor numbers to the site since the royal visit haven’t yet been fully collated, Ms Moriarty says they will show a very significant increase.
She said the week before the Queen and Prince Philip toured the site there were getting in the region of 650 visitors a day to the Rock but when the site re-opened to the public from May 21 onwards the number of visitors rose to between 1000 and 1400 a day.
“We are getting a lot of positive feedback on the tours. Ann O’Donoghue, one of our guides, had an elderly group of ladies on a tour today and they wanted to know where did the Queen walk and where did she stop on the tour. We are delighted to tell people and have made the royal visit part of our tour now as the last monarch before Queen Elizabeth 11 to set foot on the rock was Henry 11 in 1172.”
Elaine pointed out that the were finding that a lot more Irish people are coming to visit the Rock since the royal visit. “These visitors are telling us ‘I haven’t seen the Rock in ages and decided to come or I pass it every day going up and down to Cork and said I would call, which is lovely. It’s great to hear the Irish voices and to see Irish people are making the effort to come.
The rise in visitor numbers to the Rock of Cashel is having a knock on benefit to local restaurants, hotels, pubs and shops as many tourists venture into the town after finishing their tour of the historic site.
Joe Ahern of The Rock Bistro at the foot of the Rock of Cashel said business to his restaurant was up about 10% in May compared to the same month last year. “We are very busy and I could definitely attribute some of it to the Queen’s visit,” he said.
And he echoed Elaine Moriarty’s assessment that the number of Irish visitors is up. “We have definitely found that as well. Everyone wants to visit Cashel now. You couldn’t buy the publicity and marketing that the Queen’s visit brought to Cashel. The big impetus here now is to keep our standing (in the public consciousness). It’s been brilliant. The Queen should come back every week.”
Mr Ahern believes the fact Cashel is looking so good at the moment due to the cleaning and sprucing up carried out by the local council and people in preparation for the royal visit is enticing more passing traffic to stop in the town.
Olivia Quinlan, manager of Cashel Tourist & Heritage Information Centre, told The Nationalist there has been a marked increase in visitors to the Centre arising from the Queen’s visit and reported that they were mostly day trippers rather than tourists wishing to stay overnight in the town. Just before the Queen’s visit to the town, the Centre posted its new DVD promoting Cashel as a tourist destination on You-Tube.
She explained that the road network linking Cashel to the rest of the country was now so good that the town was very accessible for day trippers, whose visit to the town benefited local restaurants, pubs and shops as well as the tourist sites like the Rock.
“Hopefully in the long term we will see an increase in the number of people staying in the town and that next year they will have Cashel planned as part of their holiday itinerary,” she said.
A spokesperson for Bru Boru Cultural Centre also reported a boost in tourist numbers in recent weeks. “In the immediate weeks after the royal visit there were a lot of buses and visitors. It has quietened down a bit this week but we hope the benefit will continue through the summer.”
Shane Cummins of Kearney’s Castle Hotel on Cashel’s Main Street said business at the hotel was up about 15% on last year and there was noticeably a lot more visitors around the town so far this summer compared to last year.
He said Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Rock has been a factor along with some recovery in the Irish tourist market as many countries around the world have come out of recession and the great value for money tourists are now getting from tourism businesses in Ireland.
Over at the Cashel Holiday Hostel, PJ Quinlan said they hadn’t experienced any increase in business yet but reported a lot of enquiries for bookings for the middle of July and for August, which was normal.
He believes the benefit of the Queen’s visit will be more long term for tourism accommodation providers like the hostel and points out that the big boost it has given is to the public perception of Cashel as a good place to visit.