Irish tourism experience‘Why on earth would I want to go around and experience the joy of people puking up next to me?’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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There is that old adage that, one assumes, most of us subscribe to, which dictates that each individual is entitled to criticise their own family, but woe betide anyone who makes the same criticism externally. It tends to apply to all kinds of groups beyond just family units, whether religious groups, racial minorities, any association, really. If you’re a member of the GAA, for example, criticise away. If not, you know where you can shove your opinion!

We Irish are amongst the most self-critical in the world. But in most cases, we can be very defensive when aspersions are cast on our precious little Emerald Isle from outside our own borders.

In most cases.

The one major exception is in relation to what used to be termed “rip-off Ireland”, a phrase coined by the Irish themselves during the heady Celtic Tiger days. It’s a phrase that’s come back to the fore recently, and it was very much the theme of one international tourism expert’s speech at an Irish tourism and hospitality conference last week.

Speaking to Cormac O hEadhra on the Today programme, Professor Michael Hall from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand was not rolling back. Here’s what the esteemed professor had to say about Dublin, for example.

“If you are coming for a booze up, I’m sure Dublin is lovely. What I found coming here for a short break weekend, honestly, it wouldn’t be worth it. Why would I do it? Cost of accommodation, how long it took me to get through customs and migration clearance. For a short break, it just isn’t worth it. For a short break, you have a time budget and a money budget.”

But apart from the price, the experience is not something that Professor Hall was particularly enamoured with.

“Why on earth would I want to go around and experience the joy of people puking up next to me?”

Ouch. Cue indignation from hordes of Jackeens.

Professor Michael Hall spent a good deal of time in the West of Ireland, which he thinks is beautiful and well worth the trip. However, most people come into the country through one major central location. Yes, you guessed. That same location not exactly beloved of Michael Hall.

“The problem is that Dublin is your gateway.”

And that gateway is nothing to write home about, he says. Coming to the airport, one of the most obvious things is our obsession with the nation’s dead heroes, whether famous writers or mythical heroes of old. But if we are trying to push our contemporary country, the modern, forward-thinking, technologically innovative 21st-century republic, where is this represented at the airport, the average tourist’s first experience of the country?

Out West, in places like the Wild Atlantic Way, the tourism offering is, potentially, terrific, says the professor. The problem is simply access. Public transport is dreadful, he says, even non-existent. This is a long-term issue which should be addressed, if we want to present Ireland as a green and sustainable destination in the long-term.

Prof Michael Hall certainly didn’t hold back, throughout an interesting and entertaining 12 minute interview which is well worth listening back to.

And so, to the listeners’ reaction, many saying the Professor has clearly never been to the likes of London or Paris, where the “rip-off” label could be just as applicable. Or New Zealand, for that matter, his own country, with some text messages decrying its outrageous prices. Others, however, welcomed Professor Hall’s description of the Irish tourism experience as entirely accurate.

To listen back in full, click here.

Photo credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

© The Listener 2017

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