A whirlwind tour of Chinese cities by a delegation led by Mayor Niall McNelis could reap a rich dividend in terms of both tourism and industry for Galway over the coming years.
Mayor McNelis said that while the six-day trip was intensive and involved a lot of travel, he felt, it had sown a seed of interest among many influential Chinese political and business leaders.
As well as the two urban ‘biggies’ in China – Shanghai and Beijing – the Galway delegation also visited the cities of Huzhou, Wuhan and Enshi where they distributed a leaflet, written in Mandarin, entitled: ‘Why Galway’.
“China is one of the biggest economies in the world and in the context of Brexit, they are extremely interested in locations that will give them ongoing access to European markets.
“Our job last week was to get the message across that Galway City is a very welcoming location for any Chinese business or industry outlet that’s contemplating a move to Ireland,” said the Mayor.
He pointed out that the Galway-Chinese link was already quite strong, involving the city’s third level colleges, while over the past year so, both the Chinese Minister for Education and the Chinese ambassador to Ireland (Dr Yue Xiaoyong) had visited Galway.
The Galway delegation on the visit to China also included Galway West TD, Noel Grealish; Chamber of Commerce President, David Hickey; Patricia Philbin, CEO of Galway 2020; as well as city business and Galway Port representatives.
“Given that Galway city employs one third of Ireland’s 25,000 medical device employees and is also home to four of the five top IT sector companies in the world, I believe that we are in a very strong position to entice Chinese companies here,” said the Mayor.
He said that what was difficult to grasp during the delegation’s visit to China was the population scale of even what would be regarded as some of the smaller cities of that country.
Mayor McNelis said that even as things stood, there was already a significant level of co-operation between Galway and China in both scientific research and with projects involving both GMIT and NUIG.
He said that with the Chinese visitor market to Europe and Ireland set to grow further over the coming years, one of the key tourism messages they delivered, was in relation to Galway’s half-way house position along the Wild Atlantic Way.
“The development of Galway Port is also something that will offer the city many opportunities in terms of its ability to cater for cruise liners that can lead to major expansion in terms of tourism in the city,” said Cllr McNelis.
He also pointed out that given the Chinese interest in all things cultural, the selection of Galway as 2020 European Capital of Culture, was also something that attracted a lot of interest in China.
“We also got fantastic media coverage during the event, featuring in many of the larger provincial newspaper titles and in the local television stations.
“We all certainly did our level best to sell Galway as a hub for industry, business and visitors to Ireland and I would have to add that our message seemed to go down well everywhere we went,” said the Mayor.
He said, that while back the centuries the old Silk Road trade route between China and Europe was well known, the Chinese now saw Galway as being a final destination point in their Belt Road projections.
Under the Chinese One Belt One Road strategy for development and investment, they are targeting various trade expansions in routes across Europe and then stretching onto the United Kingdom and Ireland.