Shannon hire boat company Emerald Star has announced an investment of almost €2 million in new boats.
Some 11 new Horizon-class boats are to be deployed by 2020 with anticipated average occupancy of six people per boat, at an average cost of €2,000 per week.
Emerald Star currently has 63 boats at bases in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim and Portumna, Co Galway, before the addition of the new vessels. The boats offer cruising over more then 500km of waterways from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, on Lough Erne, to Killaloe, Co Clare, at the foot of Lough Derg.
The company said it expected to bring about 8,700 clients to the river Shannon region this year.
Based on an average weekly spend of €300 per person, Emerald Star boaters will be leave some €2.6 million in pubs, restaurants and shops in the Shannon river region this season.
The new boats are made in Poland by Delphia Yachts and come with up to three en-suite double cabins and large saloons. They have built-in barbecues, and dining and sun lounging areas on the roof. In coming years larger models will include four and five-cabin boats.
During the economic crisis, demand for Shannon cruising fell sharply, with bookings at Emerald star dropping from more than 4,000 in 2009 to fewer than 1,000 in 2014, the company said.
In 2017, bookings numbers are back to about 1,500, a 12 per cent increase on last year, reflecting a a steady increase in the number of bookings from both domestic and international markets.
After Ireland, the highest visitor numbers come from Germany and the UK.
Originally created by the Guinness family in 1970, Emerald Star is now part of Le Boat, which operates in eight countries with a fleet of more then 900 vessels.