Skelligs feel the force as visitor numbers rise

Visitor numbers to Skellig Michael, the precipitous monastic island off the coast of Kerry which closed for the season yesterday, were up this year on the back of the success of Star Wars.

By the middle of September, a total of 13,500 people had visited the 6th century monastic island, a Unesco World Heritage Site, according to the Office of Public Works.

A rockfall, which required sensitive repairs to the main visitor road, delayed the official mid-May opening by just one day.

The island has become the centre of attention in recent years following the success of the latest Star Wars movie The Force Awakens.

Last year, 2015, some 12,560 visited Skellig Michael by season’s end in October.

Boatmen who ferry visitors across 12km of often rough seas to and from the island are again calling for the visitor season — the official period when OPW guides are living on the island to cater to visitors — to return to the traditional May 1 to October 31 season which ceased in 2007.

Seánie Murphy, a long-time Skellig boatman, operating from Portmagee, said 16 days had been lost this September because the boats could not travel due to bad weather; the season is already shortened by 74 days and this is directly affecting tourism business all over south Kerry.

“It doesn’t just affect the boatmen to the Skeillig, it affects everyone — hotels, guesthouses, bars in Killarney and all over the area,” Mr Murphy said.

Extending the season would help satisfy both the Star Wars attraction, as well as the latent demand there anyway, Mr Murphy said.

The OPW has previously rejected calls to extend the season, citing bad weather in October, as well as the need to protect the fragile island from too many visitors.

 

Source

Ireland Wants Star Wars Fans to Visit Location Used in New Movie

Tourism Ireland has released a video it hopes will attract Star Wars fans to Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Kerry used as a location in the box office blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The video shows film director J.J. Abrams and other crew members discussing why the team chose the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a film location.

“I remember when we all flew in, it was special and we knew it,” executive producer Tommy Harper said in the video.

TheJournal.ie reports the video will be shared around the world. The campaign comes despite concerns last year that filming at Skellig Michael would damage the island’s ecology, although government officials said there was no substantial damage.

Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said Skellig Michael’s appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens exposed the island’s beauty to “potentially hundreds of millions of people.”

“By the end of November 2015, we had surpassed our best ever year on record for the number of overseas visitors,” Donohoe said. “We are determined to build on that.”

Skellig Michael will also feature in the next film of the series, which will be released in 2017.

 

Source: http://time.com/4166951/star-wars-ireland-tourists/