Overseas tourists were ‘driven wild by the Atlantic Way’ and visited Galway and the West of Ireland in record numbers last year.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures prove that 2014 was the best year since 2007 for tourism in Galway and the West as overseas visitor numbers returned to record ‘boom’ time figures.
Local tourism industry chiefs predict that 2015 will be even busier as word spreads about the Wild Atlantic Way, a brand specifically developed to compete internationally for overseas tourists.
Fiona Monaghan, head of operations at Fáilte Ireland West, said it is encouraging that overseas visitor numbers to Ireland grew in 2014, which was the year after the Gathering (2013).
“Last year was well up on the previous year and 2014 was our best year since 2007. We are only now returning to 2007 levels and we are confident that we can build on that again in 2015 with the Wild Atlantic Way,” said Ms Monaghan.
Ms Monaghan said that Ireland’s overseas markets only returned to growth in 2012 and 2013, helped by the Gathering, which was boosted by North American and British tourists.
What is encouraging about the latest statistics for 2014 is that all markets – including mainland Europe that doesn’t have a big Diaspora returning as part of the Gathering – have now returned to growth.
She explained that over 50 travel writers were guests of Fáilte Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way last year and the boost from that exposure is only going to ‘kick-in’ in terms of bookings and visits in 2015.
Fáilte Ireland will continue to promote and further developer the Wild Atlantic Way this year, she said, in order to drive tourism numbers to Galway and the West, including through online social media and traditional outlets.
In Connemara, for example, almost €1 million has been allocated for a tourist discovery point in Connemara, one of 15 along the Wild Atlantic Way, which will be completed before the yearend.
The point, to improve the visitors experience, will celebrate the Marconi Wireless Station, the world’s first transatlantic station in 1907, and the site where Alcock and Brown landed, marking the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919.
One of the challenges facing Galway and the West was that over 70% of all overseas tourists visit the East coast.
“Particularly the British, which is our biggest market, and so we will be trying to attract more of them to the West. Galway, which is mid-way along the Wild Atlantic Way, and which is the largest urban centre on the Wild Atlantic Way, is ideally placed to be a starting point, or finishing point for visitors to the Wild Atlantic Way due to its proximity to Dublin and access to Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport in Knock,” she said.
The Wild Atlantic Way stretches along the west coast from Donegal down to Cork. It is designed to attract overseas visitors, and particularly to boost visitor numbers in the off-season, with unique out-of-season pursuits such as whale watching or storm-watching.
The CSO tourism figures reveal that at over 7.6 million visits, overall trips to Ireland were up 8.9% in 2014 compared to 2013. Visits from mainland Europe grew by 7.1% in 2014, to 2,638,100 visits; North America registered an increase of 14.7% for 2014 (1,328,600 visits); visits from Great Britain were up by 8.0% for 2014 (3,163,900 visits); visits from the rest of the world (mostly long-haul and developing markets) totalled 473,800 for 2014 (representing an increase of 8.7%).
“We are very optimistic that the Wild Atlantic Way will continue to delivery growth in overseas numbers to Galway and the West of Ireland in 2015,” added Ms Monaghan.
Fáilte Ireland West held an industry workshop with businesses in Salthill Hotel on Wednesday of this week.
Water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna due to burst watermain
Galway Bay fm newsroom – There are water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna this morning due to a burst watermain
The burst is in a rising main from Clifton Hill in Galway City to Tonabrucky Reservoir
The city council and Irish Water says while every effort is being made to maintain supply to as many customers as possible, the burst has caused water levels in Tonabrucky Reservoir to deplete
Houses and businesses in Knocknacarra, Barna and surrounding areas will experience low pressure and outages.
Dedicated water service crews have mobilised and repairs are underway and are expected to be completed by mid-afternoon.
Traffic management will be in place and Letteragh Road will be closed between Sliabh Rua and Tonabrucky Cross until 6pm.
Householders and businessses are being asked to conserve water where possible to reduce the pressure on local supplies and allow reservoir levels to restore.
Woman sustains serious injuries after being struck by firework in Eyre Square
Gardaí are appealing for witnesses after a young woman was struck in the face by a firework in Eyre Square in the city overnight.
It happened shortly after midnight and gardai say it’s understood the firework had been launched from close to the Tourist Information Kiosk.
The young woman suffered serious injuries and was hospitalised as a result.
Gardaí understand there was a large group of people in Eyre Square at the time and are now asking that any person who may have witnessed the incident make contact with the investigating team.
In particular Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have video footage of the incident, either on mobile phone, CCTV or dash-cam to make contact with them.
This incident comes just days after a policing committee meeting was told of increasing concern about anti social behaviour around Eyre Square.
Garda chief suggests closing Eyre Square to curb anti-social behaviour
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Closing Eyre Square at night-time was among the radical suggestions put forward by Galway’s top Garda this week – in response to claims that the city centre’s famous landmark had become a ‘no-go area’ after dark.
It comes as Gardaí confirmed that since January they issued almost 500 fines for breaches of the city’s alcohol bylaws, which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.
Responding to claims that people were afraid to visit parts of the city centre at night due to anti-social behaviour, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that the authorities might have to look at closing Eyre Square at certain times.
Chief Supt Curley also said that improved lighting and better CCTV were other tools that could be used to deter anti-social behaviour and to detect crime in the city centre.
“I’d need another five officers in there – and I haven’t got them,” said Chief Supt Curley of the requirement for more Gardaí on patrol in Eyre Square.
He was responding to a charge by former mayor of Galway, Councillor Frank Fahy, who said Eyre Square was dangerous at night. “It’s a no-go area,” he said at a City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting this week.
Cllr Fahy said that the illegal activity and anti-social behaviour in the city centre was a product of the Covid-19 pandemic and people socialising outdoors. Eyre Square was safe pre-Covid, he said.
In a written reply to the JPC, Chief Supt Curley said that anti-social behaviour issues had been ‘de-escalated’ along the city’s canals, Woodquay and Spanish Arch ‘as a result of extra Garda patrols’.
“The resulting consequences have led to crowd movement from these areas (and they) are now congregating at Eyre Square. Garda attention is concentrated on Eyre Square, however the return of students and the continued restrictions has led to increased numbers,” he said.
(Photo: a scene from Eyre Square at night this week taken from a video circulated on social media)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.