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Tourists just love Ireland for the craic and friendliness

Ireland’s recovery owes a lot to tourism, but to keep them coming there are a few things that we still need to do, writes Damian O’Neill.

Damien O'Neil

TOURISTS LOOKING FOR a good time in the Emerald Isle have contributed to it being the fastest growing EU economy, though we’re not out of the woods yet.

While some economists have praised the Irish economy and claim that it is back to “pre-crisis levels”, others have questioned whether the data economists are talking about accurately reflects the reality for ordinary Irish people.

The other possibility, a compromise between the two positions, suggests that the economy has grown in some areas, but not in others. One thing for certain is that the tourism industry is doing just fine.

In 2013, 7 million tourists (that’s more than the population of the whole island) helped to generate €4 billion for the Irish economy. So why is that tourists love Ireland so much? And how can we make sure that this recovery is more than just a flash in the pan?

Here for the craic

When Leo Varadkar was Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, he argued that tourists come to Ireland because of “clever overseas marketing, more air access, good value, a great tourism offering and Government support”. This makes a lot of sense as there are many great online services out there that can help people from anywhere in the world decide what they want to do in Ireland.

Yet while it is true that these things have helped tourism in Ireland, they also help tourism in any country. In other words, to use “clever” marketing, you need something to market.

shutterstock_141719404 Source: Shutterstock/nunosilvaphotography

Getting into specifics then, a survey of American, British, Canadian, French, and German tourists reveals that over half of them say they come to Ireland to experience the unique pub culture. What is more, 90% of the people surveyed agreed that “friendly” is a word that they associate with the Irish.

Friendly pub culture is why tourists are coming here. In other words, they’re coming here for the craic. Varadkar agrees with this and states that Irish people need to “maintain our good value and warm welcome to ensure a sustainable recovery”. This makes sense when this survey lists the Irish people themselves above scenery as the top reason tourists visit.

Good Business 

Clearly, friendly Irishness is serious business in the tourist industry. Dublin was named the 5th friendliest city in the world in 2014 and this year it has been named the 2nd friendliest.

Polls give an interesting insight into what tourists value and, evidently, what they value is friendly customer service. While being friendly is something we should all do anyway, in business it is especially important.

Businesses in the UK lose 12 billion pounds a year because of bad customer service while over the pond American businesses lose 83 billion dollars a year. The friendliness of Ireland is a big factor for tourism, yet not all Irish businesses in the tourist industry seem to recognise this. Ryanair, for example, was voted as the worst for customer service in a Which? survey of air travel providers in the UK.

00159079 Source: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

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How to make the most of our friendliness 

As previously mentioned, the second most popular reason tourists come to Ireland is its scenery, which is probably why so many movies and TV shows have been filmed here.

Game of Thrones and Harry Potter have utilised the country’s wild and mythical looking landscape to keep audiences spellbound, while films like Saving Private Ryan, King Arthur and Barry Lyndon have capitalised on the well preserved historical architecture of Ireland in order to transport their viewers back to the past.

It is clear that the top four reasons people come to Ireland are friendliness, scenery, pub culture, and history. However, when the main factors of your tourist industry are such timeless things, seemingly integral to Ireland itself, then it is easy to get complacent about the future of your tourism economy.

shutterstock_229609669 Source: Shutterstock/Voyagerix

However, businesses should not relax just yet because there are still things that need be done. For example, improving customer service is a way for businesses to improve their lucrative friendliness.

The scenery needs to be taken advantage of by tour guides and hotel owners, as well as protected by wildlife agencies. And the pub culture needs to be preserved with good pub food and landlords who are passionate about a good pint. Ireland is a fun place to visit, and the job of everybody in the tourist industry is to keep it that way.

Damian O’Neil is a writer, television personality, and an expert on Irish tourism. As the founder of Fun.ie, he provides a website for people looking for things to do in Ireland.

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Damien O'Neil

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