The perception that Ireland had become a very expensive country – a rip-off Republic – emerged during the Celtic Tiger boom era of the 1990s and early part of the current century.
With near full employment (only 4% unemployment at the height of the prosperity – now unemployment is over 14%), staff could afford to pick and choose their jobs, pushing up prices, offering poor value, inflating business costs.
How things have changed. With the Tiger slain the economic crisis that nearly sank the country in 2008 and 2009 has seen earnings plummet, taxes spiral upwards while employment opportunities have disappeared. The result for the Tourist Sector of the Irish Economy has been predictable. Widescale closures of Hotels and Golf Courses throughout the country while the devastating reduction in the standard of living for employees has meant that jobs have become cherished, meaning better customer service and value.
A 2009 Bord Failte survey of visitors to Ireland revealed that as many as 41% of Tourists felt that holidaying in Ireland was too expensive. The most recent survey has seen this figure plummet to 17%.
So what is happening?
Well the first thing that can be said is that with the devastation in the Hotel sector those who remain standing are having to offer ever more enticing deals and room rates to their visitors. Where this has resulted in more people through the Hotel lobby the staff in the hotels are now required to offer better service, and cheaper too.
An increase in advertising by the Irish Tourist agencies with promotions such as ‘The Gathering’ have also helped to drive more visitors into Ireland, whose Dollars and Pounds are going further, a lot further than before. The Currency Exchange rate with the US Dollar has helped too. The Greenback has recovered from the 1.60 ceiling it nearly shattered last year to the 1.30 level it occupies today. It is clearly more affordable and a better overall experience to visit Ireland during its financial humbling.
Visitors from America seem to agree. The Bord Failte survey cited over 50% of visitors from the US as indicating that their visit ‘exceeded their expectations’.
Nothing like a bit of austerity to focus the minds of business owners and staff alike!