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Significant increase in visitor numbers over six months



Galway looks set to benefit from an upward surge in tourism – with new figures showing visitor numbers are up by twelve per cent nationally for the first five months of the year.

Head of the Wild Atlantic Way Programme with Fáilte Ireland Fiona Monaghan said while a regional breakdown of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) data had not yet been released, the agency’s “barometer” of feedback from the tourism industry locally showed there was growth of up to ten per cent in business so far this year.

The new chairman of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Shay Livingstone, said bed nights have increased steadily over the last two years, with visitors choosing to come more often and outside of high season.

For the first time, they are also deciding to book well in advance, a key change for Irish people on a ‘staycation’.

The CSO study found that visitor numbers jumped by 13.4% for three months between March and May and twelve per cent overall for the first five months of the year. That growth was particularly evident in the North American market, with numbers from the US up by 17% between March and May and almost 14 per cent so far this year.

The data is taken from the Country of Residence Survey conducted at Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry airports and Rosslare, Dun Laoghaire, Ringaskiddy and Dublin ports. It was based on the replies of 110,500 passengers.

The feedback from tourist operators to Fáilte Ireland across Galway reported strong advance bookings.

“Business is definitely growing – up on average seven to ten per cent. On top of that the spend is higher. The strong dollar and sterling is making Ireland a very attractive destination so tourists are spending more across a spread of businesses such as hotels, restaurants, cafes,” explained Fiona.

“While our barometer is based on anecdotal feedback, Galway City is doing well, Connemara is doing well and the islands. For more remote areas, the season is shorter. But the evidence on the ground is that more overseas visitors have come this year and over a good geographical spread.”

The manager of the Connacht Hotel said it had been “an extra good year” to date and confirmed Galway’s position as second only to Cork in tourist hotspots.

“As opposed to overnight, there has been steady growth for the last two years. This year the forward bookings would be ahead of expectations. All around it’s a good story. We are expecting a vibrant summer, a vibrant year.

“I put it down to the Galway factor. Galway knows how to cater for the Irish market as well as international market due to the festivals and the warm welcome,” said Shay, who took over the Galway reins at the IHF in April.

While city hotels are traditionally full for July and August, they are also reporting high occupancy rates in the shoulder seasons, including May and the mid-term school holidays in April.

“For that week of sunshine we had 40 rooms who wanted to stay the following night.  The locals are getting their bookings in order and making them much more in advance compared to previous years. We had two in ten bookings booking earlier than in previous years gone by,” explained the manager who moved from Cork four years ago.

The increase has also reverberated around the county – although lack of broadband continued to be an issue for conference bookings.

“Conferences can’t come and go to Clifden or Connemara because of the lack of wifi, they say they may as well have no fresh air. It’s down to coverage. The Government needs to look at it. But I can speak for the county hotels and say [growth is] definitely reverberating around the county.

“Access is another huge factor. The road has meant a Dublin person who might have stayed two or three times in the past is coming four and five times a year now. It means they can leave work 4pm on a Friday and be sitting at a table in the city centre for 7pm.

“They need to have enough regular flights or coach tours to increase the numbers further.”

The 9% VAT rate has been credited with helping the industry compete with international destinations for visitors.

The upturn in overseas tourism has also been helped by Fáilte Ireland initiatives such as the creation of the Wild Atlantic Way and the recently launched Ancient East trail.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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