An international tourism expert has said he would never recommend Dublin to anyone for a short break as the city is a “rip-off”.
Professor Michael Hall from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand also claimed that Ireland's image was being affected in some quarters by international media coverage of issues such as the recent investigation into British actor Stephen Fry for alleged blasphemy.
The professor of marketing said while Ireland had a longstanding tourism brand as a “clean and pleasant land”, its image was also affected by for example reports of historical abuse by religious orders and state institutions. And while the Garda Síochána had halted the investigation into alleged blasphemy by Fry “because they could not find enough people to be outraged over his anti-God remarks on Irish television”, the case was nevertheless widely reported internationally, he noted.
Prof Hall, who was born in the UK but carries an Australian passport, was speaking in IT Sligo on Thursday we here he was keynote speaker at the 13th annual Tourism Hospitality Research in Ireland conference.
He said he was horrified when two months ago he went to book a hotel room for this Saturday night in Dublin and found that one night would cost him €400, a cost which was greater than two nights in Helsinki with the same hotel chain.
“I would never, ever recommend anyone to come to Dublin for a short break because I think it is an absolute rip off,” he said.
“I had already booked my flights so I was stuck,” he said. “It is not a supremely flash room. There were rooms which were even more expensive on booking.com.”
Pressed on why he would not recommend Dublin he said he had visited a before “and quite frankly having a weekend shared with stag nights is not my idea of a good time”.
Prof Hall said he could not imagine wanting to come to Ireland if it was not for a conference or business.
“Why would I come round the other side of the world to Ireland?’’ he asked. “There are lots of (other) beautiful countries. It is not particularly cheap.”
He also questioned Ireland’s reputation for creativity.
"At the airport, what am I met with? James Joyce and Beckett , in terms of advertising. Come on. Where is the contemporary stuff? You also have the Irish jig playing in the background for the promo."
He said such brand clues were always there in the background and were hard for many countries to break away from but this was a really critical issue for Ireland if it wanted to be portrayed as innovative and cutting edge. “No, sorry Ireland is not”.
Prof Hall was also critical of the delays at passport control in Dublin airport where he said he was held up for 40 minutes on arrival last Monday.
“It is ridiculous. Put more staff on. The staff are lovely; the system is shite. You have not enough people there. It is the first encounter someone has with your country and you are stuck in a queue for 40 minutes.”
He said in comparison it had taken about three minutes to clear the security clearance in Helsinki.
Of his trip to Ireland, he added, “I don’t feel I am getting value for money so far”. But he said Ireland would always get tourist because it had “the luxury” of a diaspora who would always want to return.
Prof Hall also told the conference that the growing popularity of Airbnb would have massive implications for housing in Ireland and other countries.
He said the housing crisis was an issue for the tourism sector because if local people could not get decent accommodation they would resent tourism, citing increased hostility recently in Barcelona towards foreign visitors.