Situated on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean overlooking Galway Bay and the majestically beautiful Burren National Park, Galway, Ireland has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. However, in recent decades Galway has also become a popular location to live and work year-round. The population of the city has expanded 58.5% since 1986. During the early years of the Celtic Tiger some commentators called Galway the fastest growing city in Western Europe.
More recently, Galway's international profile has been increased thanks to a marketing strategy called "The Gathering," introduced by the Irish government in 2013. The Gathering was an incentive launched by the Irish Government to increase the numbers of tourists in Ireland, and in particular, focused on people from the Irish Diaspora. The scheme proved to be a success, with a large increase in Irish tourism. In particular, The Gathering focuses on the west coast of Ireland- areas that historically suffered most from emigration. In Galway, the City Council helped the tourism industry by improving the city's infrastructure and tourism information facilities.
The increase in Galway's permanent population can be attributed to a regeneration scheme from the 1990’s (which I discussed in my previous blog). Galway expanded its workforce by relocating several multinational companies to Galway’s newly established technology and business parks, strategically located on the periphery of the city and well-connected to the core via quality infrastructure links.
With the emergence of these companies and factories, a highly skilled, young workforce was needed. For employers, there was no better place to look than the local universities. Galway is home to two internationally-recognized colleges, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and The National University of Ireland, Galway. Both universities began to expand in the late 1990’s, and therefore increased their student populations, which in turn boosted the city’s overall population. A high proportion of Galway Universities' graduates found employment locally and thereby avoided emigration.
Galway’s population is one of the most diverse in Ireland; ethnic groups from all over the world now call Galway home. This is a direct result of the upturn in Ireland’s economy in the early 21st century. Thanks to this upturn, as well as numerous initiatives started by the national and local governments, Galway has expanded its population. This is excellent for Galway; both economically and socially.
Has your city's population expanded similarly to Galway? What role did tourism, if any, play in the expansion of the city? Share your city's stories in the comments below.
Credits: Images by Alan Bannon. Data linked to sources.