Dublin’s tourist Vault out to un­lock global suc­cess

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

The hour-long show — which will run up to four times ev­ery hour si­mul­ta­ne­ously— en­com­passes “a se­ries of scenes from Ir­ish his­tory, with a twist,” said Blanch­field. “It’s a lot of fun and very im­mer­sive. There’s a lot of com­edy in it. Visi­tors will find them­selves in in­cred­i­bly detailed sets full of ac­tors, light­ing and spe­cial ef­fects.

“We have just fin­ished a three-week cast­ing and we are cur­rently send­ing con­tracts to 28 ac­tors af­ter having over 550 ap­pli­ca­tions,” he said. “It’s a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for ac­tors and I think we will be the big­gest em­ployer of ac­tors in Ire­land.”

Blanch­field said if the Dublin venue proves suc­cess­ful it was more likely that fur­ther ex­pan­sion would be abroad rather than in another Ir­ish city.

“I don’t think Cork or Lim­er­ick would have the vol­ume for this. It is a very ex­pen­sive project from the point of view of fixed costs,” he said.

“From all the re­search we have done into this mar­ket, we see that what peo­ple want from a tourism at­trac­tion is sto­ry­telling, au­then­tic­ity, im­mer­sion — a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence. They want to be en­ter­tained. We can achieve that through the for­mat we have used and the Vaults in Dublin could be as eas­ily the Vaults in Bos­ton, Brus­sels or Paris by adapt­ing the sto­ries to the re­ally rich his­to­ries that are in all of those places.”

Blanch­field has ex­pe­ri­ence devel­op­ing tourist com­plexes in the south of France and said that devel­op­ing The Vaults con­cept there would be much more ex­pen­sive than in Dublin, but that there is a huge op­por­tu­nity.

“We have had an ini­tial look at Paris. There isn’t an at­trac­tion like the Vaults in Paris that is in English and when you go to Paris you re­alise how lit­tle there is aimed at English-speak­ing tourists with no French.

“The scenes we would de­sign would still be very French and in­cred­i­bly im­mer­sive, as will be the case in Dublin, but there would be shows in English as well as in French. You have a phe­nom­e­nal tourist mar­ket in Paris and plenty of room for new things to do.”

The Dublin venue is be­ing built to have a ca­pac­ity to host 450,000 visi­tors a year but it is pro­jected that the at­trac­tion will see 130,000 visi­tors in year one, ris­ing to just over 300,000 a year by its fifth year of op­er­a­tion.

“We know we won’t get a large amount of overseas visi­tors in the first year be­cause we are not yet in the var­i­ous dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels. So our pri­mary tar­get mar­ket in the first year is Ir­ish peo­ple.”

Find­ing a suit­able lo­ca­tion for the Vaults took a two-and-a-half year search, said Blanch­field.

“We are a startup and, re­gard­less of what money you put on the ta­ble, land­lords are wary of startups. And, worse, we are a startup in tourism. It is very un­usual for an at­trac­tion like this to be in the pri­vate sec­tor. Most tourist at­trac­tions are state-run.”

Blanch­field said that the pair had tar­geted Dublin’s Thomas Street area as the key lo­ca­tion for the at­trac­tion be­cause at least one mil­lion tourists walk along it each year on their way from the city cen­tre to the nearby Guinness Store­house.

Nev­er­the­less, Blanch­field was crit­i­cal at the lack of progress that has been made with a long-promised re­gen­er­a­tion plan for the area.

“We spent a long time search­ing for a site like this. Thomas Street is a fan­tas­tic area with amaz­ing po­ten­tial but it has to be brought back to its for­mer glory and that hasn’t hap­pened yet. From the point of view of Dublin City Coun­cil I don’t un­der­stand why that is the case.

“The foot­paths need to be dou­ble the size and street fur­ni­ture is needed, for ex­am­ple. I have seen the City Coun­cil’s plans for what Thomas Street could be­come and they are fan­tas­tic but I don’t un­der­stand why that has not hap­pened yet and why the po­ten­tial is not be­ing re­alised.”

Vaults co-founder Paul Blanch­field is pleased with the Thomas Street lo­ca­tion but is hop­ing coun­cil re­vamp plans go ahead. Photo: Lor­raine O’sul­li­van

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