Tourism Ireland is reporting a bumper year for visitors to our shores and that is a good thing. Tourists bring in money for our ailing economy that we wouldn't otherwise receive, so it can be looked at as an "Export Industry" in this regard. The secret of any healthy economy is always foreign earnings. What baffles me though is why so many people come here in holiday. Don't get me wrong, there is no where else I would rather live, but this summer in particular has been rotten weather-wise. Some days we have had all four seasons during a single 24-hour period. No outdoor event can be planned without accepting that it may not go ahead due to the weather. And then there is the price of everything. Ireland must appear to be a damned expensive destination for Americans and Europeans, never mind all the new Asians we keep hearing about.
I have written here already about the appallingly high cost of drink for example and don't even get me started on tobacco. So we are expensive, cold and wet and can only be accessed over the ocean. What then is it that we possess that so beguiles the visitor. Well, according to the Irish Examiner, it's ourselves and our pubs. Apparently these foreigners think we're grand people to talk to and they love the Irish boozer as well. Come to think of it, you do see and meet a lot of tourists in the pubs at this time of the year and they're mad for chat as well.
Anyway, according to 'De Paper,' "New research, commissioned by the Support Your Local campaign, shows that 54% of tourists ranked the pub factor as the main reason for their trip to Ireland." Noreen O’Sullivan, a publican in Tipperary and president of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said the survey was an important insight into the factors that drive tourism, to which you can only add, the lady has a point. What is there to do when it rains here if you're not working and you have no home to go to? The Irish Public House welcomes you from 10.30am to 11.30pm and many of them will feed you also. If you think about it too, just where else could a foreigner strike up a conversation with one of us? I know we're friendly but I would be dubious about being accosted on the street by a tourist simply asking to talk for a while. But down the boozer with a pint in front of me I would be most approachable and amenable to a chin-wag.
So there you have it. Tourism is what this country needs now and the tourists are flocking over to us to chat with the natives in our boozers. Surely then everyone is delighted with this. Perhaps even our Government is considering a grant we can apply for to buy the visitors a round as we regale them with tales of leprechauns and fairy forts?
Sorry! I must have dozed off there for a moment.
Anyway, being Ireland, the begrudgers and the nay-sayers are never far away. Voices are being raised to discourage the tourist from enjoying our company on the high stool. Alcohol Action Ireland, (wouldn't you know it), want to force us, sorry that should read encourage us, not to drink alcohol. Well, that's not entirely true either. You see, like the anti-tobacco crowd, the anti-booze lot have their grant money from the State linked proportionately to the income from the demon they oppose. The more we drink the more they get to appear to try to stop us drinking. This means that any increase in Excise for the rest of us has a positive net effect on their bottom line as an organization.
Connor Cullen, the Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland, was damned if he was going to let the idea of tourists talking to us in pubs take root. In a letter to the Irish Times he makes the point that any such rumor is being spread by those who are demanding a drop in Excise by citing the tourist's preferences. I suppose though he'd have to say that. I imagine that were the Minister to announce in the next budget that drink prices would be dropped to the EU average, one could visualize the CEO of AAI calling the aforementioned Connor in to discuss his advocacy skills. Indeed the CEO might advocate that Connor take home less in his pay packet or indeed, advocate for someone else instead. So as is the way of these things today, both sets of bullshitters blather away in their own interests and the whole shebang is dressed up as caring for nobody but you.
Pass me the sickbag!!!