The Wild Atlantic Way, a host of new festivals and events, and an ever growing cooperative community spirit, have all played a role in boosting visitor numbers to Ballina by a significant 12 per cent in the first nine months of the year.
That’s according to Ballina Chamber of Commerce, which runs the Ballina Tourist Office at Pearse Street.
The chamber says visitor numbers to the tourist office have increased from 3,516 in the first nine months of 2013 to 3,921 visitors in the same period in 2014, and local hotels are enjoying a bumper year.
Local community groups and clubs, festival committees, the business community, the county council, Mayo North promotions office, and Ballina Chamber have all been working together to promote the town as a vibrant destination by developing a busy progamme of festivals and events throughout the year.
“We have created a great buy-in and now Ballina business people are working together and getting very positive results,” said Kevin Connolly, president of the Ballina Chamber.
One local hotelier confirmed business has been very brisk in 2014.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in visitors to the hotel over the first nine months of the year,” said Michelle Ryan, sales manager at Hotel Ballina.
“The hard work of all the committees in Ballina in promoting Ballina town with festivals and events has paid off. This is a natural draw for the visitor to come and see the historic town of Ballina and we will see this continue to rise with hard work and planning.”
Ballina is located in the heart of the coastal driving route - the Wild Atlantic Way - which is quickly become a major player in the world of international tourism.
Niall Kerins, general manager of The Ice House Hotel at the Quay Ballina, said they are certainly reaping the benefits of the attractive driving route and their room nights have increased by 10 to 15 per cent this summer compared to last year.
“The Wild Atlantic Way has been a key provider in bringing tourism to the area this year,” he outlined. “A lot of guests are either passing through the town on their trail route or basing themselves in Ballina while they explore the key signature points around us.”
New festivals in 2014 included the Mayo Stages Rally, St Patrick’s Weekend festival, In Humbert’s Footsteps, and Food Fleadh Ballina, which attracted some 104,000 visitors, contributed 3,119 bed nights and generated an estimated €3.4 million for the local economy.
The Ballina Salmon Festival, which celebrated its 50th year this summer, continues to attract approximately 50,000 people to the town.
Two further festivals are taking place in 2014 - the Halloween Samhain Abhainn festival and the Frosty Salmon Christmas Festival.