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West needs investment to realise tourism potential



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.

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway



The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base



The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.


Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number



Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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