Galway's reputation as one of the tourist capitals of Ireland is not in any danger, according to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland. Despite the grey cloud over the country's financial future, the tourism industry is one of the few within the nation that remains intact.
According to CSO figures, Ireland witnessed increased growth from many of its traditional markets. Simon Gregory, director of markets at Tourism Ireland, commented on the figures by praising the continued growth in overseas visitors to Ireland “for the five-month period January to May 2014, with an overall increase of 228,000 additional visitors. I particularly welcome the strong increase in British numbers of 140,000 additional visitors. 2014 is also set to be another record year for tourism from North America, with growth of 30,000 additional visitors recorded for the first five months of this year.” The figures also showed growth from other areas, such as continental European countries like Germany, Spain, and the Nordic region. Domestically, Galway continues to be a popular destination for Dublin-based holiday-makers.
Describing Galway as “the focal point of the west”, Tourism Ireland says that Galway has a broad appeal for varying groups of tourists, from young couples without children looking to “get under the skin of Galway” and visit Galway's rural towns and villages for their authentic sense of culture, large families looking for a wide variety of outdoor activities, to city-based travellers looking for a shopping experience.
Commenting on whether Ireland's economic woes would adversely affect Galway's appeal to holiday-makers, Gregory remained confident that the city hasn't lost any of its charm: “During 2008, Ireland experienced some very bad publicity but recovered very quickly”, with last year “being a record year for attracting US tourism. Great Britain is not back to what it was, but Ireland is currently doing great with continental European countries like Germany.”
Galway is set to see the benefits from tourist projects like the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal route that spans seven of Ireland's counties that will see tourists travelling along from Donegal to Galway then through to Cork. The Wild Atlantic Way, according to Gregory, is set to “compete with Route 66” with its “dramatic scenery” and various outdoor activities. Along with the Galway Arts Festival and the Oyster Festival, the Wild Atlantic Way has the potential to earn a place on Galway's tourist map.
While international tourism is growing, domestic tourism is challenged, though not stagnant, with events like the Galway Races still attracting crowds from across the country. Fiona Monaghan of Fáilte Ireland insisted that the “the 2014 Races will be stronger than ever”. Mostly attracting international crowds from Great Britain, the Galway Races still has “excellent word of mouth appeal” and the attraction of “what happens after the event”. Monaghan also stated that there would be a large upswing in the market for B & Bs and hotels, with year on year increases of 90 per cent in activity being reported.