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West needs investment to realise tourism potential

Denise McNamara

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A new report by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation has urged the Government to direct over half of their tourist investment to the west, with at least €125m needed over the next four years to transform it into “the quintessential Ireland destination”.

The influential representative body of the tourist industry believes that as well as redressing the west’s infrastructural deficits in communications, transport and utilities – created through chronic underinvestment – the State must deliver at least one flagship additional attraction by 2020.

The major report, titled ‘Tourism In The West – An Engine For Growth And Jobs’, has described the potential to grow tourism in the west as significant now that demand for holidays in Ireland has returned to growth – but only if the right policies and actions are pursued.

“Not only have visitor numbers and expenditure to the west been growing in recent years, but the area has been regaining share of the demand for holidays in Ireland. The diverse landscape, heritage, cultural and outdoor experiences, coupled with its people and tradition of hospitality, uniquely positions the west as the quintessential Ireland destination.”

A focused strategy to bring more visitors to the western seaboard, encouraging them to spend more and stay longer, could see the region capture at least 55% of the total tourist spend by 2020. This can be achieved through three pillars for growth: investment, branding and leadership, insists the industry body.

The ITIC wants investment on authentic ‘real Ireland’ experiences: heritage and culture; outdoor activities and exploration; maritime tourism; food and drink; The Gaeltacht; and festivals and events.

They also call for a particular focus on the development of extended walking and cycling ways, including the creation of a long distance Pilgrim Way.

A previous report in 2011 by the confederation included a recommendation to create an ‘Atlantic Coast Drive’, which Fáilte Ireland and the local authorities developed into the Wild Atlantic Way.

Now that the Wild Atlantic Way has been such a success, the focus should turn to the branding of a wider area around the route as Ireland’s top compelling ‘must visit’ year round destination.

One of the key challenges to increasing overseas visitor numbers is to improve air access as tourists who arrive at airports outside the capital spend more bed nights across the region.

The report found that the share of capacity into the West has been slipping as airlines increasingly concentrate services on Dublin. There have also been several instances in recent years of new routes into the west leading to a discontinuation of other existing routes.

“As the evidence points to the greater value of tourists arriving directly into the west, the development of sustainable summer routes from the principal source markets in mainland Europe – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia – and securing an increase in transatlantic services into Shannon present a particular challenge for the tourism sector in the west.”

An industry-led alliance to improve collaboration and the coordination of tourism development along the Western Seaboard was crucial to capturing a growing market share, according to the report.

Up to three geographically based forums are proposed, with an annual meeting to allow for engagement by the private and public sectors in planning and monitoring tourism development and marketing growth strategies.

They also propose a three to five year strategic investment programme with the Government and the alignment of plans by local authorities and state bodies, based on multi-annual budget commitments.

Greater engagement with the Office of Public Works (OPW), National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Coillte and the Western Development Commission is also essential to developing tourism.

ITIC chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh pointed out that Ireland is currently benefiting from unusual circumstances created by a weak euro against the dollar and sterling, as well as a significant drop in oil prices. These benign trading circumstances cannot be relied on to continue indefinitely.

“Tourism, along with the agri-food sector, is the largest industry in the western seaboard and cannot be taken for granted and the future is positive but only if the government and agencies work closely with the tourism industry and national policy aspirations are underpinned by adequate investment in product and overseas marketing,” he stated.

ITIC chairman Paul Gallagher said while the volume of business and market share has increased , much work is needed to help tourism realise its full potential for the west of Ireland by redressing the competitive disadvantages in terms of transport, communication and utilities.

CITY TRIBUNE

Party-goers in Galway hit with Covid fines

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most senior Garda has issued a renewed appeal this week for young people to desist from organising or attending any house parties as the local Covid-19 situation worsens – last week Gardaí were called to break up a number of gatherings in different parts of the city.

A total of 15 people were found to be attending one house party in the Salthill area last weekend while Gardaí were called to two other smaller gatherings – one in the Doughiska area and the other in Rahoon.

Cautions and Fixed Payment Notices (fines) were issued to a number of those involved. This week, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley has pleaded with young people ‘to stay away at all costs’ from such gatherings.

“We have very high Covid incidence rates in the Galway area over the past week; death rates from the disease are at their highest ever level; and the last thing we need now is groups of people coming together in confined settings.

“If one person has Covid at such a gathering then, in all probability, most others there will pick it up too and spread it their contacts and family members. I am pleading for people just not to do this.

“We are entering into our most critical period in trying to contain the spread of Covid-19, with the next month or so absolutely vital in our efforts to keep everyone healthy and safe and to try and avoid further loss of life,” he said.
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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Community gives new lease of life to Merlin allotments

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – In 2018, the allotments in Merlin Woods were in danger of falling by the wayside, with declining numbers and underuse blighting a facility that had huge potential.

Since then, the community has pulled together to create a space that locals are proud of and one that its advocates are hoping could be a template for other communities across the city.

Chairperson of the Committee behind this new lease of life is Michael Tully, who says the allotments have become a focal point for area, bringing together locals from all walks of life.

“It’s all about netting the community together and the response we’re getting has been unbelievable,” says Michael, who joined the committee in 2018.

“I started off as a user of Merlin Woods, walking by the allotments and thinking to myself that it would be great to grow my own fruit and veg.

“I started talking to a few of the plot-holders like John Rabbitte, Martin Lohan, Jim McCormack and Daithí O’Brien and they told me how to apply. I applied to the City Council and got my allotment in early 2018 and there were about eight allotments in use at that stage, all of us working away on our own.”

Two years later, all 42 allotments are in use, but it took the cooperation of Galway City Council and Trojan work from the community to get it to this point, explains Michael.

“We came down here every Saturday to clear the paths, dig out the weeds and make the place better. The sense of community was unbelievable. Anyone who couldn’t dig was bringing down flasks of tea and cakes to those that were,” he laughs.
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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

National Transport Authority to progress Galway’s Park and Ride

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A dedicated unit established within the National Transport Authority will look at the potential of Park and Ride to help solve Galway City’s traffic congestion problem.

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, said that Park and Ride facilities should not be restricted to the east, and sites needed to be located to the west and north-west to take account of commuters from Connemara.

Mr McGrath said Park and Ride would be advanced this year as part of the Galway Transport Strategy. He said that the Council, in conjunction with the dedicated unit within the NTA, would investigate feasible sites for the location of Park and Ride facilities.

Mr McGrath said that site selection and acquisition of land could commence in the second quarter of this year. He said he expected that Park and Ride would be progressed well before the Galway City Ring Road was built.

Director of Services for Transport, Ruth McNally, also said that the NTA was looking at the potential of sites in the city for Park and Ride and she insisted that money – or a lack of it – was not halting progress.

“Money is not a major issue for capital projects,” she said.

They were responding at Monday’s City Council meeting to councillors who lamented the slow progress on developing Park and Ride.
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.

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