Opinion

An “attractive” tourist destination – don’t get carried away just yet

December to February CSO figures indicate overseas trips to Ireland up 10%. All this “… will help to ensure that Ireland will be an attractive and competitive option for visitors” commented Fáilte Ireland’s Shaun Quinn. Hmmm.

While I’d dearly like to agree, “attractive” and “competitive” seem a bit wide of the market if we consider some tourism basics.

Looking at the nuts and bolts of our offering, parallels exist between one’s impressions of a pub and of a country on first entering.

I offer you the following basic examples in need of address if we’re to make progress in looking after our tourists/customers.

Having spent five days in Berlin recently, I could only marvel at the courtesy shown by its denizens. Cheeriness also pervaded every interaction with the retailers and bars in the city. Street hygiene was exemplary. Everywhere.

How quickly I was brought down to earth on returning to this ‘attractive’ isle. It began with the first sourpuss I’d seen in five days courtesy of the flight hostess.

As always, we arrived into Dublin Airport’s gloomy baggage reclamation area. Little or nothing has been done over the years to brighten up this stygian hall where incoming tourists get their first impression of our national airport. It got worse – no paper in the baggage reclamation area toilets. I compared this to the always-stocked toilets in the farthest recesses of Berlin.

And so into Dublin city centre – unchanged from my last experience here: full of dubious characters and drug addicts – where we got the first feeling of being threatened in broad daylight, a feeling not experienced at any hour of the night in Berlin.

If we take ourselves seriously as a tourist destination of note, we need to tackle these basics, these same simple easy-to-get-right things that seem so difficult for us to address here in Ireland.

You may argue that this was just Dublin, but like it or not, Dublin’s the gateway to the rest of the country and as in visiting a pub, first impressions last.

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