Hotels on course for best year since the downturn
GALWAY'S hospitality and hotel sector is bracing itself for its best year since the downturn as the city's annual races kick off.
The city's entire hotel capacity has been sold out for the second half of the annual races, with restaurant bookings also seeing a marked increase.
Over 150,000 are expected to descend on the city over the week. And more than 3,500 hotel beds across the city have been booked to capacity from tomorrow onwards as punters flock to the city.
The news is a huge boost for hoteliers and the hospitality sector that had been holding out for a windfall. The races are estimated to bring between €60m and €70m into the local economy over the week.
Paul Gill, Galway chairman of the Irish Hotels Federation, said booking had been "very positive" leading up to the races.
"It is already ahead of booking patterns. From Wednesday onwards it's almost full capacity and sales for the early part of the week are going well. A lot of hotels are doing deals with race tickets and transfers and they are proving very popular," he added.
The high sales have also seen hotels increase their workforce.
Mr Gill, who is the owner of the Claregalway Hotel, said he had taken on an additional 10 staff for the races and knew of a large number of other hotels which had done likewise.
"Between the hospitality sector and the racecourse itself the numbers of extra people employed for the races is between 5,000 and 6,000. It's a huge boost for the local economy," he said.
Sales for race tickets are also well up on last year with manager of the Galway racetrack, John Maloney, predicting a 20pc increase in sales this year.
"We're up 20pc on pre-sales which is higher than we expected and we're very happy overall with the sales. We'd expect that to follow through throughout the week," he said.
The bookies are also bracing themselves for a bumper week and are expecting to take in €40m.
Hayley O'Connor, from Ladbrokes, said she believed the week would be one of the biggest in recent years.
"We bring a lot of employees to Galway for the races and this has been the most difficult year to get hotel rooms or hospitality bookings. My phone has been going non-stop with people calling looking for tickets this year.
"I really think it's going to be a bumper year. It's only the first day and already our phonelines are going non-stop," she added.