An Taoiseach Mr Leo Varadkar, TD, pictured taking a walk in the ‘parc’ with Martin Dalby, CEO of Center Parcs and Daragh Feighery, General Manager of Center Parcs Picture: Marc O'Sullivan
The man who brought Center Parcs to Ireland cannot wait for this weekend’s official opening of the firm’s €233m Longford Forest and rightly so.
It’s a little over four years, April 2 2015, to be exact since the UK short break holiday giant announced its arrival to these shores.
In that time, Martin Dalby and his team of Center Parcs executives have been diligently working away behind the scenes with a view to bringing the most exclusive, unique leisure holiday experience to Ireland, and more specifically Co Longford.
“We have just welcomed our guests for this weekend, so everything is as it should be,” he said confidently, while reaffirming the 395 acre site at Newcastle Wood had been delivered on time and on budget.
The sense of conviction in Mr Dalby’s voice is well founded.
The firm’s first venture outside of a UK marketplace it has dominated for the best part of three decades is already booked out until Christmas.
Twenty per cent of that custom is from Northern Ireland, ten per cent from the UK with the remaining balance coming courtesy of the domestic Irish market.
“What people will see when they come inside is a top class forest with very high quality standards,” he said.
“There will be ten different restaurants, six retails shops and over 100 different activities for people to enjoy.
“There’s a fabulous spa there too where people can come for the weekend or in midweek and relax and enjoy themselves.”
Four years is a long time in most people’s book, but Dalby and those holding the Center Parcs pursestrings the mantra has always been making sure every box is meticulously ticked and every i painstakingly dotted.
“The site itself is lovely, the forest is really mature and very green and it’s strategically positioned,” he said.
“I am more than pleased with what we have achieved here, it’s really, really spectacular.”
An undaunted statement it may well be, its one Dalby firmly believes won’t just transform the Longford and Irish tourism landscape, but revolutionise it for decades to come.