Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Questions (108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113)

John Deasy

Question:

108. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his policy on charging entrance fees to national monuments and national historic properties. [35822/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

109. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current number of national monuments in State care; the number open to the public; and the number that charge visitors an entrance fee. [35823/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

110. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the overall annual cost of managing, maintaining and staffing the total number of national monuments in State care in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35824/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

111. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total revenue generated from visitor entrance fees at national monuments in State care in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35825/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

112. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons who visited national heritage attractions, managed by the Office of Public Works, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35826/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

113. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total revenue generated from visitor entrance fees at Office of Public Works managed heritage sites in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35827/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 to 113, inclusive, together.

The policy in regard to admission fees to National Monument and Heritage sites in State care which are managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) is reflective of a number of factors, including the need on an ongoing basis to defray some of the running costs, the Government's policy of supporting the wider tourism economy and, in some certain cases, the relative popularity of the site in visitor numbers terms.

Admission charges to State run Heritage sites, where they apply, are generally set quite low relative to other private sector comparators and in approximately 40% of OPW's attended (Guided) sites, there are no charges at all. This reflects the Government's wish to encourage interest in our heritage from both domestic and foreign visitors and to seek to minimise the costs to both the general user and the organised Tour Operator sector of experiencing some of the best heritage sites in the country.

This approach is also designed to support the wider tourism and hospitality industry by encouraging visitor footfall in parts of the country that might not otherwise be in a position to draw such visitors. In a small number of particular cases, admission fees are slightly higher, reflecting a need to control the level of visitors somewhat for conservation reasons and to ensure that the overall number is managed so as to remain consistent with the ability of fragile sites to cope sustainably with significant demand.

Notwithstanding this general policy, which has applied for some time, it is clear that in light of economic pressures on the Exchequer currently, and in particular having regard to the costs involved in maintaining visitor facilities at many of these sites, circumstances may dictate a relatively greater emphasis on cost recovery in the future. However, no decisions have been taken at this time in relation to increasing admission charges at sites, in the interest of continuing to keep costs low to the domestic visitor and the foreign tourist alike.

There are a total of almost 1,000 individual National Monuments in State care at 768 locations around the country. These are managed and maintained by the OPW and include both sites which are in full State ownership and others which are privately-owned but where Guardianship arrangements exist and where the OPW provides maintenance services.

As a general policy, OPW facilitates visitor access to as many National Monument sites as possible. However, access is not always feasible because of a range of issues including physical location, risks associated with dangerous structures and restrictions imposed in some cases by landowners who may wish to limit access, either temporarily or more longer term, by reason of accident risk, livestock etc. OPW would estimate that approximately 10% of the National Monument sites in its care are not accessible at any given time for various reasons.

As part of its remit, the OPW also provides enhanced visitor access, together with Guide facilities in some cases, at 70 of the more prominent visitor locations nationally. These include many of the most iconic heritage sites in the country such as Kilmainham Gaol, the Rock of Cashel, Newgrange etc as well as a number of smaller, less well known properties. Year round access with full Guide services is provided at 24. The remainder (ie 46 no.) are open with Guide services on a seasonal basis on varying dates and for different lengths of seasons generally between March and October. Admission fees are currently charged at 41 out of the 70 guided sites.

The OPW is responsible for the physical care and maintenance of all National Monument sites in State using a direct labour force headquartered at 6 separate Works Depots spread nationally. Works undertaken at National Monument sites fall into 2 broad categories:

- Ongoing light maintenance and small works undertaken by OPW's own direct labour force using materials and supplies taken from general stock on hands:

- Significant larger conservation projects undertaken over a period of years which have supplies of materials specifically provided.

Financial records of expenditures in relation to the management of the National Monuments in State care, including ongoing maintenance works and other overheads such as vehicle fleet costs, consumables, caretaking and other inputs, are kept globally only at a Depot level and are not broken down by site location. The cost of maintenance of the portfolio in the years in question is therefore not available but is subsumed into the overall costs of the OPW National Monuments Service.

The cost of maintaining a Guide Service (ie wage costs for the permanent and seasonal Guide workforce at each of the Guided site locations) for the year 2012 this was €9.4m. The figures for 2011 and 2010 are not available within the time frame as they have to be collated from a number of sources, but will be provided directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The revenue generated from visitor entrance fees and the respective numbers of visitors in the reference period was as follows:

-

2010

2011

2012

Admissions Income

€6.1m

€6.4m

€6.7m

Visitor Numbers (Guided sites only)

3.3m

3.5m

3.8m

(For clarity, it should be noted that some or parts of certain sites are also freely accessible without entering the Visitor Centre facilities concerned (eg Glendalough Monastic Site, Mellifont Abbey) where an admission charge might apply and the actual footfall may therefore be considerably greater, while various events/exhibitions occur on sites from time to time which may also affect visitor numbers, so the overall tallies, though well sourced, must be qualified to some degree.)