Dublin can attract more tourists, says Varadkar
Tourism seminar told Dún Laoghaire area should be marketed as ‘Irish riviera’
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar and Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD with dancers Shauna McCarthy (left) and Lori Hall at the opening of the Tourism 2020 conference in Killiney, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke
There is no reason why Dublin cannot attract as many international visitors annually as Barcelona, according to Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar.
Speaking at a seminar in Killiney yesterday, Mr Varadkar said the number of visitors to Dublin had fallen considerably from the peak of 4.5 million in 2007, but growth last year in the North American, German and Australian markets was heartening.
He said the British market appeared to be stabilising after a drop in recent years .
“It is my view that Dublin and the Dublin region can do better still. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t have as many international visitors coming to Dublin as Barcelona does every year.”
Barcelona attracts about seven million visitors annually. Mr Varadkar said the Government hoped to grow visitor numbers to the State by 4 per cent to 7.3 million this year.
The seminar, organised by Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor, examined how Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown could improve its tourism offering as a standalone destination and as part of wider Dublin.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor said Dún Laoghaire had received some negative publicity in the press, but it was a beautiful area nestled between the city centre, sea and mountains.
Eoghan Corry, a travel writer and researcher, said Dún Laoghaire should try to position itself as the riviera of Dublin.
He said the maritime tourism offering was not being exploited as well as it could be and Dún Laoghaire could bolster Dublin’s tourism offering in a similar way to what Santa Monica does for Los Angeles.
Mr Varadkar said it cost a lot to market a destination to become well known internationally. In the case of Santa Monica, tourism there was aided by a promotional tax which added about $30 to the cost of a visit.
Kevin Moriarty of Fáilte Ireland said that people overseas had quite a traditional perception of Dublin – focused on attractions such as the Book of Kells, Temple Bar pubs and Molly Malone – which perhaps made some believe there was not a lot to do on a visit to the city.
He said the city should be pitched as a place where “city living thrives side by side with the outdoors” as few competitors had these qualities in such close proximity.
Mr Varadkar said governments in the past had spent a lot of money buying in events that might be televised in the hope of delivering bodies to Ireland but there was little evidence of it working. The same could be said for visits such as those of US president Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth.
Events such as college football games were important, as people travelled in droves to attend, and it was hoped an international ironman triathlon event could come to Ireland, with the swimming leg perhaps taking place in Dún Laoghaire.