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big business

Just how much money will Sligo be making from the Fleadh Cheoil this week?

The annual festival of traditional Irish music will see hundreds of thousands people in attendance.

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NEXT WEEK THE annual Fleadh Cheoil festival is set to take place in Sligo.

It is the second year the event has been held in the county and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the world’s largest traditional Irish music festival.

A lot of organisation and work goes into a bid to host the event, and not without good reason – the extra footfall is seriously lucrative for local businesses.

But just how big will the benefits be for Sligo this coming week?

How much is the event worth? 

Public relations officer with Fleadh Cheoil Michéal Ó Donhnaill estimates that the event will bring somewhere between €40 million and €50 million into the town with somewhere in the region of 300,000 to 400,000 people visiting over the course of the week.

This is based on research carried out by Fáilte Ireland when Cavan held the event between 2010 and 2012.

Ó Donhnaill explains that local businesses are involved, “Right from the early application stage. That means the commitment is there, and when you are gifted the right to hold the Fleadh Cheoil, the proper arrangements can be put in place and you know you have the facilities to put on the event.”

One thing that Ó Donhnaill noted was the big volunteer effort that allows the festival to happen.

“Everything is done on a voluntary basis. We’d have a huge amount of volunteers working, organising the Fleadh Cheoil. When the actual event comes around, you’d have several hundred more. Around 1,500 people in total who get involved,” he said.

The Fleadh is probably the biggest volunteer run festival anywhere in the country… and compares easily with anything that’s run on a commercial basis.

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Paul Keyes, the chief executive of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce, puts a slightly more conservative figure on the amount the festival might be worth, estimating a net of €30 million from 300,000 visitors over a period of 7 days.

The organisation that he is head of and businesses throughout the town are putting a priority on ensuring good service over the course of the week.

“What a lot of businesses have done in Sligo”, Keyes explains, “is that they have signed up to a charter called ‘In Tune with the Fleadh’. They sign up to provide excellence in quality, value and service to our visitors. Recognising the importance of a big welcome and that they will enjoy their stay in Sligo and that they will come back again.”

Who is it that the event benefits?

The benefits from next week’s event will be spread throughout the local economy, but will be a particular bonus for the hospitality sector.

“It is a boost not only for Sligo”, said manager of Strandhill Lodge and Suites Hotel, David McCoy, “but also I imagine it is as boost for Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and north Mayo.”

Despite being a fifteen minute drive from the city centre, his hotel is fully booked out for next week and it is estimated that there will be a 20% increase in business overall.

Michael (Tricky) Caheny, owner of Tricky’s McGarrigle, a music pub in the centre of Sligo and Caheny’s Bar, a family pub dating back to 1890, explains that as much the Fleadh Cheoil benefits Sligo, it is important for business owners to invest in the event.

“I do think there will be a big cash influx into the town, but it is important to make sure it gets dispersed around as many people as possible. While a good lot of money comes into the town it is nice to see it go out in extra gigs and extra people getting employed,” he said.

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Long term benefits

A major factor for those who will be involved in the festival next week is the long-term benefits of the festival to the local area.

Far from being a one off, everyone involved sees it as an opportunity to showcase the town and drive up longer-term tourism.

“Sligo sells itself,” Paul Keyes explains, “It is way above the national average in terms of the amount of repeat visitors. Absolutely, one of the legacies of the Fleadh is the amount of people coming to Sligo for the first time in their lives – and they are already starting to come back.”

Read: Looking for something to do this weekend? Here are the best events from around the country

Also: Your handy one-stop Irish gig guide for August

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