‘Old bars, black beer, trad music, green spaces . . . feel the peace’ – the Chinese view of Ireland
Fan Yibo, China’s number one travel blogger, visited Ireland in the summer and this garnered huge interest in Ireland. Photograph: Éamon Ward Photography
The prospect of visiting “Fei Cui Dao”, or “Emerald Island”, is becoming ever more attractive to Chinese tourists, who are lured by the remoteness and natural beauty. For someone living in a city of 20 million people like Shanghai or Beijing, the simple fact that there are not very many people living in Ireland is a powerful lure.
Ireland’s profile is not particularly high in China, and many visitors are put off by the fact that they can’t visit mainland Europe as well on their visa when they come to Ireland because we are a non-Schengen country.
However, a couple of things have helped boost the country. An ad on the back of the head-rest in taxis was a big hit, while odd things like Bailey’s-flavoured chicken at KFC also scored high on the public recognition. And of course Riverdance is widely known.
Bai Jiang is in charge of outbound tourists in the European department of China Travel Service in Beijing.
“From our travel agency, every year about 200 or 300 travellers go there. The visa waiver system was extended last year for people going to Ireland via the UK, and that has seen more Chinese people go visiting there,” he said.
“It is getting more popular compared with before. Most people think it is a great place. We mainly focus on Dublin and visit tourist spots like Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Phoenix Park,” he added.
The country’s number one travel blogger, Fan Yibo, visited Ireland during the summer and this garnered huge interest in Ireland.
One visitor, a 28-year-old man who gave his surname as Zhang and who works at a food company in Beijing, said his first impression was that people were very friendly.
“What appealed to me most was the natural scenery. No matter whether it’s where you work or where you live, it gives people a feeling of peace,” he said.
“It is definitely worth visiting, I tell my friends. Especially when there are festivals on, when the music is good, the alcohol is good and the atmosphere is good.”
He admits that most Chinese people are unfamiliar with Ireland, but the growing number of students visiting the country helps.
“Overall, I think most people who know Ireland have a good impression,” Mr Zhang added. “I tell people to go to Ireland if they are visiting Europe, go to the old bars to taste the black beer, listen to traditional music, walk in the green and feel the peace.”