There is plenty of optimism in the air this week as the local economy is in line for an injection of more than €90 million due to the success of the Galway International Arts Festival and the numbers going through the turnstills at the Galway Races so far up on previous years.
The city’s streets have been packed all summer long with domestic and international visitors, according to head of operations at Fáilte Ireland Fiona Monaghan, who added that the feedback from the industry is that business is up on last year. Ms Monaghan said: “Galway has benefitted significantly. The city has been so busy for the past four to six weeks. So far the numbers are up for the Galway Races on last number of years. Hotel occupancy last week was up 100 per cent. The Galway Races contributes €70 million and we’re very confident that it will reach or exceed that this year. It is expected that there will be 250,000 visits through the turnstills. The Galway International Festival, which has had its best festival to date, contributes between €20 and €22 million. Based on ticket sales being so strong and the visitor numbers, with stays an average of five nights, we expect that figure will be exceeded.”
Galway Races punters were certainly ready and willing to get to the Ballybrit track and pick their winner on Monday with total attendance for the evening meeting reaching 18,938, compared to last year’s figure of 17,989. Total attendance the second day of the races came to 19,156 as opposed to last year’s 18,248. Tote turnover as of Tuesday was €723,830 compared to €645,912 in 2013 and Bookmaker turnover so far is €1,232,503, compared to €1,254,283 in 2013.
Hotel bookings looking strong, says Paul Gill of Irish Hotels Federation
Paul Gill, managing director of The Claregalway Hotel and chairman of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation told the Galway Advertiser on Tuesday that hotel bookings for Race Week was “looking strong” and that there is already advanced bookings for August and September. The high numbers in attendance for the Galway International Arts Festival also reflected well in hotel bookings in the city with most hotels booked out or in reaching occupancy rates of between 85 and 90 per cent. Galway hotels also benefitted from the fallout of the Garth Brooks concert fiasco with bookings receiving a boost last weekend.
“There is a lot more certainty. So far this year there has been a small increase of between three to four per cent on last year. That would be on the back of growth from 2013 with events such as The Gathering. Over the last two years it has been very strong with visitors from continental Europe, the US has been holding strong and there’s more confidence from the Irish market. Value for money is the primary factor, and if we keep offering that in Galway we will be okay,” said Mr Gill.
Record breaking two weeks for Galway International Arts Festival
Galway certainly does have a lot to offer as the 180,000 visitors to the 2014 Galway International Arts Festival discovered as they enjoyed a programme which boasted 213 events in 27 venues. It was a record breaking two weeks for the festival which drew to a close last Sunday. As well as a number of sell-out shows, the new gallery spaces proved very popular with audiences as did the street theatre programme, while the First Thought Talks achieved its largest audience to date.
Festival chief executive, John Crumlish commented: “This has been a fantastic year for the organisation and I would like to thank our audiences for making this year’s festival the biggest to date. People embraced this year’s programme and responded very positively to our new brand. The numbers visiting the city over the two weeks were exceptional and I would hope that this is reflected in the return to the city. On behalf of the festival I would like to thank everyone who supported us and in particular our funding agencies and sponsors who must share in this success.”
Festival highlights included RedBall Galway which captured the imagination of children and adults as it inhabited iconic locations throughout Galway city for seven days while street spectacle shows Dragonus and Hallali drew huge crowds to experience breathtaking performances. Huge hits with theatre audiences included performances of a Beckett Trilogy, the stage adaptation of the Joseph O’Connor book Star of the Sea, Ballyturk, Chapatti, iD, and the family show Bláth. The continued development of the First Thought Talks focusing on wellbeing and creativity were sellout events over two days. Music highlights included high-energy performance from The National along with sell-out performances from the The Coronas, Imelda May and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s sublime performance closing the Festival Big Top for 2014. Intimate shows from Owen Pallett, Samantha Crain, Cathey Davey, Sarah Jarosz and Cass McCombs were also well received. The Absolut Visual Arts Programme and Gallery was visited by thousands of people throughout the two weeks with Janet Cardiff’s sound installation The Forty Part Motet in the beautiful setting of the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway, and the transformation of an Absolut Festival Gallery in the former Connacht Tribune former print works building attracting large crowds daily.