Jude Collins

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Well hello, tourist! Wanna good time?

Arlene Foster is excited. She’s in charge of tourism here and apparently last night they had quite a do, with Van Morrison and all, to push the north as a tourist destination. Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh this morning interviewed her and Dermot Murnaghan, late of this parish,  so they could both express their excitement and remind everyone of the many tourist attractions we have. Like the Giant’s Causeway and the Titanic (sort of) and, um, the Antrim Coast Road. Oh, and  apparently if they get off the beaten track visitors can discover  all sorts of hidden gems as well.

God knows we need every penny we can get, but the whole tourism thing makes me feel uneasy. Kinda soiled, even.

Firstly, Ireland abroad, in terms of tourism, is now marketed as one.  So is Arlene complaining that visitors who’ve come to check out Killarney or the Burren or the Dublin pubs are being encouraged to take in the north as well? Emphatically not. But if visitors ask over half the population here if they’re Irish, they’re likely to be told No. Eh? I’ve come all this way to Ireland and now you tell me you’re not even Irish? That should encourage them to come back.

Secondly, I know tourism is a vast industry throughout the world. But when I hear a visitor on, say, Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh asked if they like being here, I close my eyes and shove the nearest cushion in my mouth. What do they expect the poor divil to say – that they can’t stand the place? Or that they wish they’d gone to Disneyland instead? Or that the much-vaunted Merchant’s Hotel is over-priced and far too-red-plush? The term ‘emotional blackmail’ springs to mind.

Thirdly, there’s something about tourism that borders on prostitution. In Ireland particularly, we pride ourselves as being welcoming hosts to any visitors to our shores. In fact we scour the world looking for people, do all we can to persuade people to visit our shores, give them the come-on. Why? Because we really like them? Because we want to spread happiness? Because we feel guilty enjoying all this beauty on our lonesome? Uh-uh. We seek them out, lure them here so we can show them a good time, but only if they’ll then leave a sizeable part of their wallet on the bedside table before they leave.  And when they do quit the premises, it’s not unknown for us to imitate the way they talk or the things they say, and have a quiet snigger to ourselves.

You find the prostitution comparison too harsh? Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s more like encouraging people to pay a visit to the zoo and marvel at the antics of the monkeys.

Yes, you’re right,  we need their money. But some day, I know, we’re going to discover something better to sell than ourselves. 


  1. Yeah - tourism in the North is a lost cause.
    On our last visit home from Canada we were able to drive the coast (rope bridge, causeway, Dunluce castle etc.) in an afternoon - on our way over the Foyle bridge towards Donegal and a beautiful several days in Bunbeg.

    Belfast is worth a day to look around, but ultimately as a tourist destination the North is somewhere to pass through on the way somewhere else.

    I say that as a native, and sometime emigrant, who now can see the place through a visitor's eyes on a regular basis.

    Also, I have to say the security at Aldergrove was the most annoying I have experienced anywhere in the world. The geriatric search freaks there have put me off ever traveling through it again.
    The media talks about the US a lot - but it is nothing to what I saw and experienced there.

  2. More hurling in the ditch.
    All countries promote whatever tourist appeal they have, except maybe North Korea;just as all businesses advertise themselves.
    If Jude went for a job interview (with the Irish News say), I'm sure he would put his best winklepickers on. It's all selling.
    Our attractions are modest enough I suppose, but it is being obtuse to dismiss it as an afternoon up the Antrim coast.
    Also, most people here would not be likely to deny they are Irish. Frankly that is rubbish.
    They might use something like 'British and Irish', or 'Northern Irish' or just Irish.

    1. "Also, most people here would not be likely to deny they are Irish. Frankly that is rubbish. "

      If you're passing through the Village in the near future ask a few random people if they are Irish.
      Let us know how you get on.

  3. Anonymous 01:13pm
    You are extrapolating from the particular to the general. I'm sure if you think about it for a minute you will realise your mistake.
    The actions of a bunch of neanderthal thugs tells us nothing about how the majority of people identify themselves.

    1. Fair enough.
      Try it in Carryduff then.
      You may not get the beating, but you will certainly not be invited round for afternoon tea!

    2. So all the people of Carryduff would say no to the question "Are you Irish?" Or is it most of them? Or some? You don't know and neither do I.
      Even if the entire population of the village area and Carryduff answer in the negative, you have a bit of a way to go to reach "over half the population."
      It's a silly argument by Jude, and you are only compounding it.

  4. Typical Irish we dont know how good we have it. I have lived abroad for years and love coming back to see the sights. For the size of the country it packs a lot in and the best bit is it is all easily accessible and you never have to drive far to see the next sight or attraction. The big problem for locals is because something is on their door step then they dont bother taking an interest but yet these same people would travel to say Australia drive 2000 km through a desert to see a rock they cant even climb and be happy! The weather isnt great but on a good day Ireland is hard to beat!

    1. Boondock - you realize the article is about Northern Ireland specifically? (i.e. the 6 counties)

    2. 6 counties or 32 counties the argument is the same. If you want to have a holiday only in Northern Ireland there is still plenty to see and do but like I said earlier all too often we dont appreciate whats on our own doorstep.