…And when you think of Ireland……

When you think of France, what do you think about?

Good food, yes – once, it was the undisputed champion of good food – and French vineyards.

This month, our Main Story focuses on the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland’s latest report on the industry’s contribution to tourism here.

It points out, among other things, that Irish pubs play a major role in the highly successful tourism drive. They’re ranked fourth in terms of positive Irish overseas tourist experiences after people, scenery and culture/history.

And what do overseas tourists most want to experience when deciding to visit Ireland? Well that would be “an Irish pub” of course. It got mentioned by four out of every five tourists in Fáilte Ireland’s survey.

Similarly, the same research identified “listened to Irish music in a pub” as the highest response when overseas visitors were asked which Irish tourism elements they’d participated in or visited during their stay.

The message therefore seems clear to everyone. Except the Irish government and its tourism agencies.

Furthermore, Irish pubs abroad and Irish drinks brands Guinness, Jameson, Baileys – all have achieved iconic worldwide status, playing their significant part in attracting visitors to our shores.

Yet Irish pubs continue to be ignored for the most part by our state tourism agencies as a catalyst in promoting this country to leisure-seeking consumers abroad.

But it’s our pubs that tourists want to experience the most. It’s what they think of when they think of Ireland. Ask our tourist board.

And without our pubs we’ll be a much poorer country.

Figures released by the Scottish government show that some 72% of alcohol – nearly three-quarters of the total – is now purchased from the off-licence. Twenty years ago off-licences accounted for 49% or less than half of alcohol sales.

“Will the Scottish Government ensure that actions target where the major source of the problem of abuse of alcohol lies?” asked Scotland’s former Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill in adducing the off-trade figures indicating the demise of the on-trade establishment over two decades.

Aye Mr McAskill – and might our own Government and tourist authorities see the bigger picture and perhaps light the way towards a brighter future for the Irish pub industry before it’s too late?

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