One in five overseas visitors to Ireland last year came to Galway, making it the third most popular destination in Ireland in what was the busiest year yet for the Wild Atlantic Way since its inception.
Fáilte Ireland’s Chairman, Michael Cawley, the senior management team and the board of Fáilte Ireland – the National Tourism Development Authority – gathered in Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, last week for its quarterly meeting.
A number of representatives from local Galway tourism businesses from the region were invited to brief the Authority members on their season to date and their future business plans.
These included the Connemara Sands Hotel, the Renvyle House Hotel, Blath na Mara Seaweed, Udaras na Gaeltachta, Galway County Council and the Connemara Aran Islands Tourism Network.
The Authority told the meeting that the agency is continuing to work on the Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Connemara Coast and Aran Islands which was launched in 2018. It will identify the stand out features for the area and aims to increase visitor dwell time and spend.
Fáilte Ireland’s vision for the Wild Atlantic Way is to deliver sustainable growth to all areas of the West Coast for the benefit of local communities and businesses.
One of the agency’s main aims for Galway is to gain a broader spread of tourism across all parts of the county including Connemara Coast and the Aran Island and extend the season so that tourism businesses can stay open beyond the traditional summer season.
Fáilte Ireland would continue to invest in this, stressed Miriam Kennedy, Head of the Wild Atlantic Way at Fáilte Ireland.
“Last year was our strongest yet since we launched it in 2014, we had over 3.7m international visitors, over 4.7m domestic visitors and between them they spent €3bn, supporting over 80,000 jobs along the West Coast.
“Galway continues to be a popular tourist destination – 18% of overseas tourists to Ireland visited Galway in 2018, making it one of the three most popular counties in the country for overseas tourists.”
However, this had been a challenging year for the tourism industry particularly with uncertainty around Brexit.
“As the National Tourism Development Authority, we continue to work with the local industry to sustain Ireland as a high-quality, competitive and best in class tourism destination.
“We do this by supporting tourism enterprises to innovate and through delivering tailored programmes that help assess the risks, respond to changes, access tourists using the right channels and diversify into other markets.”
Over the last five years, the agency has invested amounts of between €1.95m and €73,000 on ten projects across the country, with the investment totalling €10.5m between 2015 and 2019.
This summer, Kylemore Abbey opened its new visitor experience with €1.7m Fáilte Ireland investment. It has also spent €1.9m in the Connemara National Park to develop of an additional 10.5 km of new trails, a children’s natural play area and carpark facilities. Both are now open for visitors year-round.
Fáilte Ireland has identified festivals as a key driver for tourism growth, particularly during off-season times. Over the past two years the agency has invested €729,000 into four Galway festivals – the Galway International Arts Festival, the Oyster Festival, the Galway Film Fleadh and the Vodafone Comedy Festival with a further €73,000 given to the two local authorities to distribute to local festivals.
The latest industry figures show that 38% of holiday makers stay in hotels with one fifth staying in guesthouses and B&Bs. Hotels are favoured by Americans and the British while the French and German tourists prefer to stay in homes.
In 2018, there were 84 hotels across Galway with 11,913 beds, 16 guesthouses with 425 beds, 122 B&Bs with 1,300 beds, 107 self-catering units with 544 beds, 14 hostels with 1,123 beds, four caravan and camping parks which can accommodate 799 people and a further 14 homes with the Irish Welcome standard with 595 beds.
Public meeting on sludge hub plan for Tuam
A public meeting to discuss the intake of thousands of tonnes of sludge from various parts of the country to Tuam is to take place next week.
And it has been stated that the proposal would result in around 80 lorry loads of sludge coming in and out of the town on a weekly basis.
The meeting on Monday in the Corralea Court Hotel at 8pm will voice resistance to the proposal – the public have until October 22 to make submissions on the proposal. Local Cllr Donagh Killilea said that the existing wastewater treatment plant in Tuam can only cater for the town itself and believed that this plan could pose a threat to the River Clare.
Irish Water have confirmed that both Tuam and Sligo are being looked at as being ‘sludge hub centres’ which would mean that waste from a variety of plants would be brought to the North Galway town on a daily basis.
It is being resisted locally on the grounds that the existing wastewater treatment plant is at full capacity and that any additional waste would prevent further development in the town.
According to Irish Water they have selected Tuam as a potential location for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge – they are inviting the public’s opinion on this issue. Irish Water say that sludge hub centres form part of Irish Water’s National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan to ensure the safe and sustainable management of sludge.
“A sludge hub centres is a centralised treatment facility for the effective treatment of wastewater sludge prior to reuse or disposal.
“The site selection report identifies Tuam and Sligo Wastewater Treatment Plants as potential sludge hub centres in the North-West region,” they have stated.
But Killilea said that if this is allowed come to Tuam, it will further damage the image of the town at I time when efforts are being made to rebuild its reputation.
“Tuam must say no to this disgusting development. Why should we take waste sludge from landfills, gas works, chemical industry and other hazardous plants, and have farmers spread it on their fields and go through our drinking facility,” Cllr Killilea added.
Publican prosecuted for allowing smoking
A lit cigarette on a ledge inside a Loughrea bar during a HSE inspection led to the publican being prosecuted and fined for allowing smoking in a specified place on the premises.
Michael Dempsey of Aggie Madden’s Bar, Main Street, Loughrea, and his bar tender, Carmel Guinen, both pleaded not guilty to Section 47 of the Tobacco Act on December 9 last year.
Peter Gaffey, Environmental Health Officer with the HSE, told the Court there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke as he went through the front door of the bar and that he spotted a lit cigarette on a ledge between the pool table area and a stairs leading down to toilets and a rear exit entrance.
Downstairs, there was construction going on and he also noticed a cigarette butt on the floor of the men’s toilet, which also smelled of smoke.
He inspected the premises again on Monday evening, September 30 as part of the protocol before a Court hearing and again he got a strong smell of smoke around the premises.
He said he didn’t document whether there were ‘no smoking’ signage around the premises but equally didn’t document if there had been an absence of the signs on his first visit. However, he did notice signage on his last visit last week.
Another Environmental Health Officer, Chloe Harper, who accompanied Mr Gaffey on his December visit, said she too got a strong tobacco smell on entering the premises.
She said, after the lit cigarette was found, Ms Guinin had asked the four young men playing pool who had been smoking but they didn’t answer left the bar.
Michael Dempsey told the Court that he had run the bar with his wife for the past six years and employed three other people.
He said that he always made sure nobody smoked on his premises and told the Court that he had spent money on providing a steel canopy over the rear exit door seven months ago at a cost of €1,400 where his patrons could smoke.
He further explained that the cause of the tobacco smell on the premises was due to people leaving the front door open while they smoked outside on the street.
But he said that there was some confusion over E-cigarettes and whether it was legal to smoke them on a licensed premises or not.
“I have made every effort I can to provide a smoking area. There would be absolute war if I found anyone smoking on the premises. . . but I don’t know if the E-cigarettes are legal or not. Some customers tell me it’s legal. I have a zero tolerance to smoking as I don’t smoke myself,” he said.
Carmel Guinen told the Court she was working on her own the night of the HSE inspection and that one of the young fellows playing pool had lit up and she had asked them to cut it out.
She had accompanied the inspectors during their visit and answered their questions.
Judge James Faughnan said he was satisfied that the HSE had made their case and convicted both Dempsey and Guinen. He said there was lots more Dempsey could do to make sure his customers didn’t smoke on the premises.
Pat Carty, defending, said Mr Dempsey was not running a thriving business and to take that into account by giving him more time to pay a fine.
Dempsey, who has a previous conviction for allowing smoking on the premises, was fined €1,000 plus €1,750 costs and has been restricted from selling tobacco for one week starting on November 1.
Guinen was fined €200. Recognisances were fixed for both and he gave them four months to pay.
Tuam Stadium unveils its new look
Spectators at last weekend’s county senior football semi-final at Tuam Stadium got a first glimpse of the revamped seated area that will become part of the long-awaited extended stand at the GAA venue.
That’s after planning permission was granted for the complete revamp of the stand which will involve the removal of the old ‘shed-like’ roof and the provision of new seating.
That ensures that, when completed, Tuam Stadium will have a covered stand with almost 4,000 seats, so that the venue will be able to host some of the top national football league and championship games.
Former Football Board Chairman John Joe Holleran said that works were progressing satisfactorily on the redevelopment of Tuam Stadium.
He also revealed that works would take place on the terraced areas which would provide the venue with a capacity of around 18,000 which would be sufficient to accommodate any provincial decider – although these matches are required to be played in designated county grounds…and Tuam is not.
But Mr Holleran, who is one of the driving forces behind the Development Advocates for Tuam Stadium (DAFTS) confirmed that more than €350,000 had been raised for the redevelopment of the venue and this has been boosted by a €110,000 plus sports capital grant.
However, he stressed that further funding needed to be raised in order to complete the project and that it why it was difficult for him to provide the Connacht Tribune with a timeframe for works to be completed.
Tuam Stadium was the first venue in Connacht to have a covered stand and the existing bench-type seating date back to the 1960s. They are in urgent need of replacing.
Works at the venue so far have included the provision of four new dressing rooms and the completion of a terraced area which will be equipped with around 1,800 seats that will eventually be covered in.
It was interesting to see the attendance at both the county senior semi-final between Corofin and Salthill-Knocknacarra – and the earlier county junior final between Glenamaddy and Salthill-Knocknacarra – make the most of the works that have already taken place.
Some of the maroon seats have already been provided and the white seats will be installed during this week and into next week, weather permitting.
Planning permission has been granted for the provision of a new roof for the existing stand but this will be extended over to new terraced area where the maroon and white seating have been provided.
Recently, local company Tommy Varden Limited provided €50,000 towards the provision of the provision of the new seating at the venue and that was an additional significant boost to the development.
Indeed, the late Tommy Varden, who was a staunch supporter of Galway football and an advocate of the development of Tuam Stadium, will have his immense contribution recognised at the ground.
John Joe Holleran said that the legacy that he left was immense and had to be recognised. “He was the fabric of Galway football during his whole life,” he added.