Athenry is the base for tourism in East Galway

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Galway East Tourism marketing will play a pivotal role in promoting the attractions of this beautiful and historic area, states Karen Smyth Marketing Manager.

Galway East Tourism Marketing Limited is based in the Galway Rural Development office on Old Church Street, Athenry, and promotes the Galway East area to overseas tourists.

After years of hard work by voluntary groups and state agencies, Galway East Tourism Marketing Ltd was established with the assistance of Bord Failte to market all the communities in the region under the brand ”Galway East”. The company was officially launched by Mr. John O’Donoghue TD, Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism in Athenry Castle on the 3rd of March, 2003.

Under funded

Galway East is defined for tourism marketing purposes as the area of County Galway east of Galway City and Lough Corrib. This area encompasses Tuam to the north, Ballinasloe to the east and Gort and Portumna to the south. Even though County Galway attracts a million overseas tourists every year, Galway East has not traditionally benefited from this business. In fact, Galway East was  identified in the National Development Plan as being seriously under-funded from a tourism point of view. Research has shown that occupancy levels in hotels and Bed and Breakfasts in rural areas of the West is only 20%.

Tourist attractions

Galway East Tourism Marketing Ltd. was set up to address this decline, and to promote the attractions of Galway East. The area has a lot to offer the overseas tourist, but until now, the promotion of the area’s attractions was uncoordinated, and this made it very difficult to attract visitors in big numbers. Now that Galway East Tourism can carry out promotional activities on behalf of the many B&Bs and visitor attractions in the area, Galway East can be marketed as a a tourist destination in its own right.

Galway East attractions include a very rich heritage, which cannot be found in other parts of County Galway: It boasts the heritage towns of Athenry and Gort, as well as Athenry and Portumna castles. The countryside is dotted with the remains of other castles, “big houses” and religious sites. Ireland’s literary history is reflected in the former home of W B Yeats in Thoor Ballylee and the estate of Lady Gregory in beautiful Coole Park.

A wide range of Family activities and attractions include: Athenry Heritage Centre, Turoe Pet Farm, Pallas Karting, and Dartfield Horse World. Specialist activities on offer in Galway East include angling, horse riding, golf and cruising, as well as walking and cycling routes.

A wide range of festivals — some are internationally known such as Ballinasloe Horse Fair and Clarenbridge Oyster Festival. There are also some exciting new festivals in the area such as the Baffle Festival of Poetry and Craic in Loughrea and the new arts festival, An tSuca Fiain in Ballinasloe.

Touring base

All of these attractions are offered in a rural setting that never becomes congested, even in the summer months. Galway East is starting to have an appeal as a touring base for the West of Ireland — tourists can base themselves in the area for a week, and do day trips to The Burren, Galway City, Connemara and Mayo.

Marketing brand and visitor guide

The company started activities in October 2001 and employed a full time Marketing Manager in February 2002. Since then, the company has established the “Galway East” brand and developed a Visitor Guide for the area. The Visitor Guide includes details on 59 businesses in the region as well as general information on activities, historical sites and towns. The company also launched a comprehensive website www.galwayeast.com in June 2002.

Galway East is now being recognised as a tourist destination as a result of targeted advertising campaigns, which included joint campaigns with Aer Arann and Anglers World Holidays. The company has also carried out consumer promotions at Holiday World shows and Shopping Centre promotions in co-operation with Connemara Tourism and Ireland West Tourism. People at the Holiday World shows were delighted to learn about a “new” part of Galway! Some of the promotional work included attending trade shows to let tour operators know about the area — there is already interest and enquiries from tour operators in Scotland, the UK, Italy and Germany.

Attractive website

The website www.galwayeast.com now attracts an average of 450 visitors per week, and 75% of website visitors know the website address — this is a direct result of advertising and consumer promotions. A number of enquiries and bookings have been made through the website and at least one tour operator is bringing a group to the area as a result. ln the words of Minister O‘Donoghue at the launch of Galway East Tourism Marketing Limited: “This heralds a new dawn for tourism in Galway East. From Tuam in the north, Gort in the south, Ballinasloe in the east to the limits of Galway City in the west, this new company will commit itself to promoting the area as one of the premier tourist destinations in the West of Ireland.”

Karen Smyth is Marketing Manager for Galway-East Tourism.

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About this record

Written by Karen Smyth

Published here 13 Feb 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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