Councillor forecasts poor summer for Mayo

- saying the county has become 'stale' and Mayo County Council has questions to answer

A Westport Fine Gael councillor has asserted that Mayo is set to have a poor tourist season this summer as a result of a shortage of accommodation due to the housing of Ukrainians, tied in with the fact that, as a county, it has become 'stale' in terms of what it offers visitors.

Cllr Peter Flynn told members of the council's Tourism SPC on Monday last: "The feelings and soundings in the West Mayo area I have been hearing over the last number of weeks are not very positive, with a lot of concerns about bookings for the year ahead, which are way down on previous years.

"Irish Hotel Federation data for last month shows a very worrying story for Mayo, in terms of government reliance here on hotel beds, with 26% of our hotels being used by the government itself - and that does not even include some of the smaller hotels we have, in places like Swinford and Kiltimagh. It doesn’t include guest houses - I know of six now out of circulation in Westport, as well as a large hostel on the edge of town, also Lough Lannagh Holiday Village - and any amount of B&Bs that have been converted over.

"We are all trying to do the right thing regarding the Ukrainian crisis but this is going to have a significant impact on how our county develops in the coming months and years. In Mayo for 2022, at least €10m has been lost in income from hotels here. That does not include the lost footfall and spending that would go with it - and the knock-on effect this has on local service providers."

"Mayo has become stale. We have nothing new to see."

Cllr Flynn continued: "I ask, what is the reason for Mayo to be lagging behind the entirety of the country - and the answer is - Mayo has become stale. We have nothing new to see.

"The Greenway was a fantastic project but is now over 10 years old; Turlough House, also a great project, is now 20 years old. We have created nothing new regarding festivals, while our regular annual events are really struggling to get footfall.

"In terms of greenways, in Cork, Kerry, Waterford and the midlands, they are all moving ahead at speed. People have now already done the Achill to Westport greenway - and when you look at it now - it is substandard, compared to the rest of country.

"In terms of outdoor facilities, provision for camper vans etc, we haven’t done any of that either and we are so reliant on the domestic market. We just seem to have missed the boat and I think we are sleepwalking into a really bad year for Mayo in 2023."

Cllr Flynn went on to assign responsibility to the local authority for having played a hand in the situation he outlined, saying: "Mayo County Council has a significant role to play in this. When I look at Failte Ireland plans for Mayo to help it drive ahead - it is two years since new beach facilities were announced; the Mayo Dark Sky project is great but trailing behind; The Clew Bay Trail has failed; any investment in Croagh Patrick has come from outside bodies with just minor funding from the council - nowhere near the level of investment required; similarly with the Grace O'Malley trail and Slievemore trail. Yes, there have been some fantastic developments in Achill, but right now, Mayo, as a whole, has a very serious problem ahead."

He told his Strategic Policy Committee colleagues: "This is a tourism SPC and we really do need to figure out where we are going as a county because if we keep on doing what we are doing we will fall further behind. I propose we bring our Chief Executive to the next meeting and the whole Ukrainian situation needs to be part of that discussion. They are going beyond the call of duty to engage with hotels, hotels and holiday villas but that is going to have a serious impact on Mayo.

"We need to figure out where we are going to put our investment in, so that we get the 'wow' projects back to Mayo. All the 31 other counties are moving on and we need to be realistic. What is our strategy to get people into Mayo and how are we going to deal with the massive accommodation shortage now here? We seem to have gone to where this seems to be a year-round process - and it is leaving all the other sectors in bother, the suppliers of food and drink, hairdressers, salons beauticians, your retail outlets and bars and restaurant, which all are going to fall. If we don’t react to this we will get in to a major problem here. The Chief Executive has a main role to play here, particularly regarding the side-effects we have created out of the Ukrainian situation. How we tackle those two sides have to be discussed with the CE at the next meeting. "

SPC Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said he understood that Mayo has the highest number of Ukrainians in housing per percentage of population and added: "Tour operators are now saying there is no accommodation available in Mayo because some places are fully booked out for the season, some towns nearly; and places that are available, the prices have increased substantially."


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