For Oral Answer on : 23/09/2021
Question Number(s): 71 Question Reference(s): 45489/21
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the operation of the entry fee waiver for OPW sites and the subsequent effect on visitor numbers to such sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
In line with the Government’s announcement that museums and galleries could reopen from 10th May, the Office of Public Works (OPW) were delighted to commence reopening additional heritage sites from mid-May. Together with the OPW gardens and parklands that had remained open throughout lockdown, our reopened heritage sites played an important role in providing additional amenities for citizens’ health and wellbeing and in reviving cultural life. To assist the recovery further, admission charges to all fee-charging OPW heritage sites were waived from 14 May on a temporary basis, until the end of 2021.
Both individual visitors and business clients such as Tour Operators, benefit from the measure. There is no change in respect of other sales such as publications and visitor memorabilia, at OPW heritage sites and the OPW continues to apply facility fee charges in respect of any third party events that arise at sites. All admission charges will be reinstated with effect from 1 January 2022 and will apply at the same levels as previously applied.
The measure was adopted as an incentive to domestic tourism in the summer period and to encourage staycations for Irish citizens. It was also intended that the arrangement would remain in place into the pre-Christmas period to encourage short stay breaks, weekend trips etc. in regional areas particularly. The heritage sites managed by the OPW are widely dispersed regionally and act as prime locator points for tourist ingress, supporting relevant local economic enterprise activity in surrounding areas including accommodation, bars, restaurants, other activity providers etc. and encouraging considerable aggregated economic spin-off.
Fully audited visitor numbers for 2021 are not yet available but anecdotal evidence points to strong visitor numbers when taken in the context of the pandemic and associated site restrictions, notwithstanding that some sites have had to limit capacity in order to meet social distancing requirements.