Never on a (Good) Friday

Last year, the number of overseas holidaymakers to Ireland increased by 647,000 with a corresponding jump in spend of nearly 28%.

Of course, quick to welcome good news, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring put out a statement reminding us that a strong marketing campaign was underway for 2016. Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative is taking place across the world at a time when many people are planning their holidays “… giving Ireland an unparalleled platform to encourage people to pay us a visit” – but not on Good Friday. Because then we revert to a Jurassic Parkian legislation that lost the economy €30 million this Spring.

Good Friday closing simply perplexes the Hell out of visitors to this country and denies them (and we poor bloody locals) any choice in whether or not we’d like a relaxing drink in an Irish pub – the reason that prompted four out of five overseas visitors to choose coming to Ireland in the first place according to Fáilte Ireland research.

Visiting a pub numbered third out of the Top 21 things to see and do in Ireland in the latest Lonely Planet travel guide.

There’s a serious dichotomy here between Government aspirations for tourism and putting marketing feet on the licensed trade ground to back it up.

Northern Ireland put the problem at its plainest recently. There, the hospitality industry sustains 60,000 jobs and contributes £1.1 billion to the NI economy each year. But growth in this sector is hampered by a similar lack of a modern legislative framework and especially by a lack of modern licensing laws according to Hospitality Ulster.

“A real opportunity now exists to drive tourism growth and develop the visitor experience that’s often celebrated by our elected representatives,” stated Hospitality Ulster recently, “What they fail to mention when making big speeches about how great we are here in Northern Ireland – is the fact that they’re not dealing with the legislation that will unlock further growth.

“In fact the Year of Food and Drink has been a turning point for the industry in that it’s highlighting how the Assembly has ignored the sector and failed to do anything about the antiquated liquor licensing laws.”

That’s a clear case of “snap!” then.

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