Hoteliers are planning to extend their premises, and to build new hotels, to try to satisfy an expected surge in tourist demand in 2020, when Galway is European Capital of Culture.
Local hotels are already close to peak occupancy rates, as Galway enjoys a tourism recovery, leading to fears in some quarters that the city and county will not be able to cater for the massive increase in tourists.
Added to that is the use of city hotels as emergency accommodation for the homeless, which reduces bed capacity for tourists, and next year, one of the city’s most popular hotels, Westwood, is due to be closed to make way for student accommodation. That will result in the loss of 60 bedrooms.
One senior executive in a multinational company in the city said the earliest he could arrange for a large-scale event in Galway was June 2018, because many hotels hadn’t capacity or were already booked up.
“If it’s that busy now, how will the city cope when all these visitors arrive en masse in 2020,” he asked.
Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath has repeatedly stated that the culture designation will attract 50% additional visitors during the year 2020.
As it stands, Galway has roughly two million visitors annually and so they expect three million in 2020.
In subsequent years, the ‘bounce’ in tourism is between 20% and 40% additional visitors, which would mean an extra 400,000-800,000 visitors in 2021, 2022 and onwards.
Despite the apparent shortfall in bed capacity to meet demand, the local authority this week moved to allay fears that Galway cannot cope with the expected spike in visitor numbers.
“I wouldn’t call it a ‘concern’ but the logistics of the event is an issue that is considered as part of the bid,” a City Council spokesperson said.
For the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.