Windsor and Obama visits: Good for Tourism?


At the moment, the predominant view in the Government , the media and in business circles is that the two large, high-profile state visits by the British Queen and the US President will give a massive boost to Ireland, both in terms of increasing tourism and in terms of improving Ireland's current image of a bankrupt and disfunctional isle in the eye's of the world's media.

However, is this viewpoint accurate? It seems to me to be a naive and ill-thought out endeavour, without thinking seriously about the facts and implications.

Currently Ireland is already incredibly well-known in the tourist market. We're loved the world over by prospective holiday-makers, and the majority of our tourists actually come from Britain (52%)1, with the next significant chunk coming from mainland Europe (31%)2. We host a huge number of European students during the summer months, and we are an adventurer's paradise (admittedly this aspect of our tourist industry and infrastucture could be improved, though I doubt we'll see Windsor surfboarding in Dingle!) The fact that someone might see their head of state walking around the place and think "hmm, that looks nice, I think I'll go there" isn't really realistic in our case. The UK is literally just across the water, they know all about us and what we have to offer, and they also know the downfalls of coming here (which I will cover below).

In fact you could argue that the only affect on tourism from the British Queen's visit could be that tourist numbers from the UK could drop after the inevitable ruck with the cops that will accompany the visit of the British Queen, and from that an unfortunate "anti-British" portrayal that would be spun on the news channels abroad (not to say that anti-British sentiment doesn't exist but it is marginalised).

The idea behind the visits and the bolstering tourism dialogue ignores the main reason that tourism has dropped for the past few years : Ireland is very expensive and people don't have disposable incomes anymore! In a survey published by Fáilte Ireland (the National Tourism Development Authority) covering 2009 it showed that 49% of British tourists surveyed3 said that Ireland was "Poor/Very Poor" in terms of value for money, with 38% of US tourists4 giving the same opinion. While I agree with the fact that Ireland is way too expensive and needs to be cheaper for the good of both tourists and ourselves who live here, I doubt I would agree with the ideas that would be put forward by the lads in IBEC as a solution, who would most likey argue for more "competiton" to drive down prices, i.e. lower wages. No thanks, how about less of a profit margin for yourselves good sirs? The fact that that during the visits the city centre and several key tourist sites will have restricted access/be closed isn't exactly beneficial to the tourist industry either. Likewise, is a thriving tourist industry necessarily a good thing if the workers in the industry continue to be paid on low wages while their bosses rake it in?

There may be some truth to the idea that Obama visitng his ancentral home of Moneygall, Co.Offaly would encourage Americans to come over and trace their own heritage, but I think that a large proportion of Americans who would be inclined to come and look up their roots do this anyway if they can afford it (he's hardly the first US president with Irish ancestry). North Americans made up 12% of the market share5 of tourism in 2009, and I reckon that they're never going to be a significantly bigger share, simply  because the US is literally half the world away and will always be expensive, difficult  and time-consuming to travel from.

The cost of the security for visits will total €30 million6, which seems quite a lot to pay for useless visits when apparently "we're broke as a country" and are cutting back on essential services such as Special Needs Assistants. Seems a lot to gamble for improving the tourist industry.

This article doesn't really touch on the political or moral reasons why the visit of Windsor or Obama might be right or wrong (though who thought it would be a good idea to have the British Queen in Dublin on the anniversary of the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings?), but is purely to conteract the predominant idea that having heads-of-states visit from countries already well-disposed and aware of us as a tourist destination would in any way bolster tourism.

Which they won't.

WORDS: Joseph White

More writings from WSM members on the royal visit

1: Page 4,

2: Page 4,

3: Page 9,

4: Page 8,

5: Page 4,


  • Author: JW