Galway ready for the off as 150,000 visitors expected
Businesses in Galway are gearing up for a bumper race week with hotels in the city at full capacity and presales for the races up 15pc on last year.
As the Galway Races gets ready for the off, few hotel rooms remain throughout the city.
Racecourse manager John Moloney said he expected a strong turnout from crowds throughout the week of racing.
"We're expecting at least 150,000 over the week. Presales are very strong this year, we're up 15pc on last year and we always do well with sales on the day," he said.
Mr Moloney said a big attraction for crowds this year was the increase in prize money.
"Things are good and the punters are in for a treat. The prize money is €1.8m, which is well up on last year. The Guinness Galway Hurdle is up to €300,000," he added.
Mr Moloney said they had also seen a surge in UK entries for the races. He said the numbers were slowly increasing but were still well below the numbers during the boom.
"Helicopters are slowly on the way up. We have a few more booked in than last year. We have 20 this year, but it's still a far cry from 349 in 2007," he added.
Hotels and businesses around the city are also looking eagerly ahead to the influx of visitors.
Shay Livingstone, of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, said pre-bookings had exceeded all expectations, with the city's 3,800 hotel rooms almost full.
"Some hotels were full for race week as far back as three months ago on certain days. It has all the hallmarks of being the best festival for many, many years," he said.
Mr Livingstone said they were also seeing an increase in younger visitors booking in for the latter part of the week.
Project manager with the Galway 2020 bid team, Patricia Philbin, says the races - the longest race meeting in Europe - are very much central to the culture of Galway.
"The tradition of 'are you going to the races' remains a high point in so many people's lives," she said.