Speech made by Councillor Terry O’Flaherty, Cathaoirleach of the West Regional Authority

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Ladies & Gentlemen,

As Chairperson of the West Regional Authority, and Mayor of Galway City, I am delighted to welcome you to Galway for this TOURAGE Project Meeting.  I trust that you have enjoyed your time in our city and region since your arrival on Monday, and I hope that this morning’s meeting is a useful and productive one.  I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the delegates visiting from Finland, Latvia, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Bulgaria & Spain, and of course to our representatives from the West Regional Authority in Ireland.

I am particularly pleased that the West Region is hosting a meeting for a project such as TOURAGE which has a very strong tourism focus.  As I’m sure you are all aware, Ireland has experienced a very severe economic downturn in the last number of years, and the tourism industry is critically important for the economic recovery of the country as a whole, but especially for the West region, which comprises the geographical area of counties Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon.  The region has a very strong tradition of tourism generally – our main urban centre of Galway city has hosted many high profile international events in recent years, such as the Volvo Ocean Race, the worlds most prestigious offshore race, in both 2009 and 2012.  This is in addition to the many events held in the city annually, such as the Galway Races, Galway Arts Festival, and Galway International Oyster Festival, which draw huge crowds and generate significant and vital revenue for the city and surrounding areas.   

The wider region is also home to some of Ireland’s top tourism destinations, from the wild and beautiful landscape of Connemara to charming traditional towns such as Westport, which you visited yesterday. 

In terms of the importance of tourism to the West Region, the numbers speak for themselves.   Irish Tourist Board reports show that, in 2010, more than 1.1 million overseas tourists visited our region, with an associated revenue of 348 million euro.   While these figures are significant, it is important to note that the number of 1.1 million overseas visitors represents a decrease on the 2007 visitor total which was well in excess of 1.4 million.

This trend underlines the importance of examining new approaches and learning from best practices elsewhere,  and in my view,  it is essential that we diversify, specialise, and explore new niche markets to optimise the economic benefits for our region.  The 2010 figures show that 15% of visitors to the West region in this period were in the 55-64 year age bracket, while a further 13% were aged 65 or older.  In this regard, I feel that the TOURAGE project, with its focus on senior tourism is of particular relevance to our region, both in terms of the domestic and overseas market, and I am delighted that the West Regional Authority is involved as a project partner.

I would like to acknowledge all the work of the West Regional Authority staff in compiling an extensive programme for your visit and I sincerely hope that you enjoyed your stay, and will return in the future.  Of course, I wish to also acknowledge the support of the European Union for the project through the INTERREG 1VC programme.

In conclusion, I wish you all every success with the TOURAGE Project and I have no doubt that the West Regional Authority’s involvement will yield significant benefits for our region through exchange of best practice with all the project partners."

Speech made by Councillor Terry O’Flaherty, Cathaoirleach of the West Regional Authority


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