Belfast Telegraph

Council could go fishing for visitors for Exploris Aquarium

By David Elliott

Having been "away on business", as they say, over the last few days there's been a bit of catch-up on the news. One standout story that didn't so much catch the eye as hook it with a feathered mackerel line was the proposed closure of the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry.

Now, before going any further it would be best to lay my cards on the table: I was born in Portaferry so have a close connection to the town.

But even without the benefit of inherent interest, it's as clear as the slightly chilly waters of Strangford Lough that closing the attraction would be the most short-sighted move Ards Borough Council ever initiated. In the confines of this column there's hardly room to do that statement justice.

But let's look at the economics of the aquarium, the very factor which has been used as a reason to close it.

We could use the council's own figures but in this case we'd rather use the data found in an independent report carried out by Global Tourism Solutions which was strangely not publicised by the council.

It's no secret that it costs the council £600,000 a year to run the aquarium and that's a big bugbear for some.

But GTS poinst out that the £600,000 investment is getting the types of return a hedge fund manager could only dream of.

It said the aquarium generates £3m a year for the local economy – five times the original investment.

The report points out that the council hasn't exactly been putting its all into maximising visitors, so a bit of a marketing push and that £600,000 could easily become a profit. These are the facts.

It might be an idea if Ards Borough Council woke up to them.

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