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Tourists flock back to travel agents over troublespot fears



Holidaymakers are flocking back to travel agents – seeking alternatives to those troublespots that used to be high up the tourist agenda.

That’s according to an award-winning Galway agency which has just reported its busiest January since 2008 before the recession hit home.

Fahy Travel had more than one reason to celebrate this week on the back of increasing business – but also at the first west of Ireland winner of Travel Agent of the Year Award for those companies with under ten employees.

Maura Fahy of Fahy Travel said they were delighted to have secured a national award after winning the Connacht category for two years running.

“It’s great for Galway, great for us and that it was won by a female run travel agency. The award is run in conjunction with the Holiday World Fair which was held in the RDS at the weekend and it was encouraging to see the optimism after years of the industry taking a hammering.

“It has been the busiest January for us since 2008 before the recession and I can see already that this boom will last well into February.

“There’s a huge interest in family summer holidays this year and places are fast booking up.

“We had noticed in recent years stiff competition from tour operators and people booking holidays online but there seems to be a shift back to the bonded travel agents as well as more cooperation between us and tour operators.”

Ms Fahy believes that their increasing cruise business helped secure the award. Fahy Travel have opened a cruise specialist shop upstairs employing two full-time staff.

And last Saturday instead of having two on duty downstairs, they had five agents working to deal with the level of enquiries.

Fahy Travel acquired Corrib Travel a few months ago and One Stop Travel run by Colm McDonagh folded in November which no doubt has put more business their way.

She believes that the public are more optimistic about the economy and have more money to spend but she added that the threat of terrorism globally has made people more cautious when making travel arrangements.

“We have noticed a rise in enquiries after years of people booking holidays online and put this down to people wanting to deal with a bonded travel company for the security.

“Of course that global situation also means there’s more pressure on us to find accommodation in European destinations as Morocco, Tunisia and Egyptian markets are effectively closed to Irish operators.”

Those particular markets accounted for up to 600 holidaymakers a week from Ireland (400 alone to Egypt) which means those beds now have to be found elsewhere.

She said that the city break market was particularly hit by the global terrorism which was probably another reason people were returning to the more traditional sun spots.

Though much of the New Year bargains might have already been sold, there is no doubt, she added, that tour operators will be sourcing newer resorts.

That also means new routes will be opened from regional airports as tour operators try to encourage holidaymakers to other destinations.

A new service to Costa Dorada in Spain starts in June from Knock Airport and indeed Fahy Travel encourage people to use both Knock and Shannon where possible.

Spain remains the most popular destination with their customers and last year over 1.3million people travelled from Ireland to the mainland and its islands.

Ms Fahy said that Lanzarote continues to be the most popular of the Canary Islands with the Irish.

The big news in the holiday business is the huge interest in cruises from people of all ages and apparently there’s a cruise holiday to suit everyone.

Ms Fahy says that they are particularly good value this year as more and more people seek value for money with the all-inclusive packages.

Honeymoon budgets seem to be on the increase and money is no object when it comes to couples booking exotic and long distance holidays with the Maldives and Asia being the most popular among newlyweds.

Kellers of Ballinasloe is one of two travel agents outside the city (the second is Society Travel, also in Ballinasloe) which has developed its own holiday parks in France.

Pierce Keller said that families still continued to visit France via car ferry making their way to campsites and mobile home parks along the French coast involving a drive of anything between 90 minutes and six hours.

A family could spend as little as €1,200 on a two week holiday like this in France in the early part of the summer but that prices increase the further it gets into the season.

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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