The West of Ireland is expecting a €60m bumper bonus this week as over a hundred thousand people set-off for the legendary Galway Races.
John Concannon, the chief executive of Ireland West Tourism, said between €60-70m is expected to be spent in the Galway region as around 120,000 people head West for the week long festival.
“It is the biggest event in the West of Ireland in terms of visitor numbers and economic benefits,” Mr Concannon said.
“With all the international access and flights in from the UK we are seeing stronger numbers coming through and we expect that to show at the races.”
The tourism chief said there are now over 250 flights each week travelling into the West of Ireland airports. He said the massive increase in the numbers of Ryanair flights landing in Shannon Airport would also ensure a strong international turn-out at the festival.
“The recent Galway Arts Festival has done well and was reported strongly in the States, with the races on the back of it we are set for a real bumper event,” he said.
The summer festival at the Ballybrit race course kicks off tomorrow and runs until July 31 – with some of the main races including the Galway Plate on Wednesday and the Galway Hurdle on Thursday, July 28.
Around 200,000 people attended the summer festival meeting last year and the betting turnover hit the €25m mark.
Mr Concannon said the festival also proved to be a major showcase event - highlighting the region as a holiday destination to UK and international travellers.
“When you are coming to race week, even if you are not interested in racing, there is plenty that goes on,” he said, highlighting shopping excursions, day trips to Connemara, the Druid Theatre’s plays as well as the hectic nightlife.
Accommodation in the City of the Tribes and close to the race course is often booked up weeks in advance as people plan their holidays around the annual event.
However, the tourism boss added: “It is late in the day for accommodation but it might be possible to pick something up.”