All parts of County Galway will benefit from being part of a tourism strategy when a Wild Atlantic Way Region and a new marketing brand promoting the midlands will be launched in 2018.
The two new initiatives will provide a very tangible tourism boost to areas which claim to have been ignored by Fáilte Ireland, according to the outgoing head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan.
The midlands branding will aim to replicate the successes of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin: A Breath of Fresh Air.
The proposed brand, set to be unveiled by the end of next March, will run from east Galway to Westmeath and south from Cavan down to Killaloe in Co Clare.
“This will involve a significant investment in infrastructure, in marketing – initially targeting the home market before it’s extended internationally. There are recognised gaps in this area so there needs to be major investment with partners such as the local authorities, the OPW (Office of Public Works), the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) with grant scheme for private businesses.”
The Wild Atlantic Way Region will be launched in early 2018 showcasing areas not physically on the 2,750km driving route to encourage visitors to go off the beaten path and explore.
“Businesses in this new region will carry a new logo, they will be offered all the support available to Wild Atlantic Way towns and villages and we will run workshops to give them to tools to make the most of the designation.
“The aim is that every county will be part of one of the four brands in some shape or form and nowhere gets left behind.”
The rewards could well prove lucrative, if the experience of the industry in 2017 is anything to go by.
While figures per region have not yet been broken down, Fáilte Ireland expects forecasts of a 4% increase in overseas tourists as well as domestic visitors in the west to be reached – and in some areas exceeded.
Nationally there was a jump of 16% in tourists from North America while the number of mainland Europeans increased by 4.5% to the end of October. British visitors were down by 6%.
“The North American market was especially strong for the west – as was the French and German market who are drawn to Galway and Connemara as they like that rugged coastline and the island. In fact, there was a big increase in interest in the island experience and Galway is lucky in that it has the Aran Islands and Inisbofin, both very different experiences,” explained Fiona.
The forecast for 2018 is for national growth of 3%, but some parts of the Wild Atlantic Way less trafficked will likely exceed that as demand further increases.
“We are spending a lot of time encouraging accommodation providers and attractions to stay open in the shoulder seasons. We are often surprised businesses don’t know how much it costs to put on the lights, keep staff on in order to break even and make a profit. Sometimes it’s a lot smaller than they think and they only close because it’s traditional to do so,” said the marketing executive.
“Clifden was traditionally a six-month destination – it’s become at least eight months; Dingle is now open ten months. You see in Clifden a big contingent decamping from Dublin to Clifden for the New Year for a family getaway since the recession.”
Fáilte Ireland plans to extend the loop of the Wild Atlantic Way to Loughrea, Gort, Craughwell and Oranmore in 2018.
After a long period of consultation with stakeholders, they will launch a visitor experience plan in early January giving out ideas for activities and trips within the region.
With the designation of European Region of Gastronomy 2018, Fáilte Ireland will be targeting overseas and local ‘foodies’, who tend to spend higher and stay longer.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that spending in Ireland by overseas visitors for the first nine months of the year rose by 5% compared with the corresponding period of 2016.
Hospitals cope with overcrowding and staff shortages as Covid crisis peaks
Confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to skyrocket in Galway, as virus-related frontline healthcare staff shortages persist and now overcrowding emerges as a new threat.
Galway experienced four days of record-breaking positive case notifications in the past week, as hospitalisations grew exponentially and pressure was heaped on the critical care units at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Portiuncula.
Hospital management said it was unsure whether community transmission had peaked locally yet – and they expect hospitals to be under ‘significant pressure’ from Covid admissions well into February.
Nurses have highlighted how overcrowding in the Emergency Department of the county’s two main public hospitals has returned – some 112 patients were stuck on trolleys awaiting admission to UHG and Ballinasloe on five mornings in the past week. Meanwhile, it hasn’t yet been officially confirmed that the new UK variant of Covid is present in Galway, but authorities believe it is.
The latest data shows there has been no let-up in new cases notifications in Galway – 604 confirmed cases were notified for Monday, the highest in Ireland and Galway’s worst ever day by a long shot.
It was a frightening figure but it was not for one day and was part of clearing the backlog of cases over Christmas and New Year, the HSE said.
That pushed Galway’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 to 1033.9 more than double what it was a week ago and eight times what it was a fortnight ago. Some 2,668 new Galway cases were notified in the fortnight to midnight Tuesday.
Read the full story and comprehensive coverage of the Covid-19 crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Suffer little children – report shines a light into shameful past
The final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes shines a light into the darkest recesses of our shameful past; young women and tiny babies neglected by Church and State – fellow, frail human beings whose lives and deaths somehow didn’t matter at all.
These women and their children were punished, hidden out of sight; mistreated at best; physically and sexually abused at worst – and way, way too many were left to die without a shred of dignity in their lives or in their passing.
The Trojan work and dedication of people like Catherine Corless lifted the stone on the shame – but it is only in their shocking stories, as we’ve read and heard this week, that we can get any sense of the depths of this depravity.
Many of the mothers were little more than children themselves, who had their little babies taken from them and given away with even a sliver of consent.
There were no records of their adoption, and no willingness, even decades later, to help those babies to find their birth mothers. Because to do so would have exposed the cruel and heartless manner of their forced adoptions in the first place.
And yet exposing this scandal is only the first step; an apology was the very least they were entitled to. Now we as a nation, and particularly those religious orders who ran the homes, must do everything to redress this wrong.
We must open the files so that they can discover their full life stories, find their living relatives, and be compensated so that at least the rest of their lives are in complete contrast to all they’ve endured until now.
We need to look at how we can give hundreds of innocent babies a proper burial – however belated and insufficient that may be.
Nothing will undo the damage – but now that the depths of this depravity have finally been laid bare, there must be no equivocation, no prevarication; just a commitment to doing whatever it takes to try and right a terrible wrong.
See full coverage of the Commission’s Report in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway couple celebrate a remarkable 75th wedding anniversary
THEY are without doubt the King and Queen of Rosscahill – 104-year-old Martin McEvilly and his 96-year-old wife, Kathleen – who last week celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.
Both Martin and Kathleen still live at home as part of the Killannin community, and although Covid has presented its difficulties, they still managed to have a small anniversary celebration on January 7 last.
The couple tied the knot back on January 7, 1946, just three months after World War II had ended, when Martin was 29 and his bride – also a McEvilly (from nearby Oughterard) – was just 21 years of age.
Seven children later – three boys and four girls – there are now also many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on the McEvilly lineage, and hopefully too, the genetic gift of longevity.
Two of ‘the lads’ – Pat and Mike – still live locally as do daughters Noreen (now a carer for her parents) and Madge, while John (the youngest) is in Boston, with daughters Mary and Christina in Sydney and Australia.
Son Pat, who lives in Knockferry, said that the 75th diamond wedding anniversary, was still a very special occasion for the family and one of great happiness.
“You don’t hear of them too often – 75th wedding anniversaries – and it was a very special occasion for all of us, to have our parents still alive and well,” said Pat.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie