Reliance on dead writers in Irish tourism brand ‘outdated’

Writers’ centre director says tourist industry should look beyond Joyce, Beckett and Yeats

‘Dublin room rates are highly competitive compared to other European city destinations,’ the Irish Hotels Federation said. Photograph: Alan Betson

‘Dublin room rates are highly competitive compared to other European city destinations,’ the Irish Hotels Federation said. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Ireland needs to update its global literary and artistic image, by celebrating and supporting talented contemporary writers, director of the Irish Writers’ Centre Valerie Bistany has said.

She said the country’s most lauded writers were Joyce, Beckett, Yeats and Heaney who undoubtedly created literary tourism and Bloomsday yesterday showed there was a “clear value in celebrating our finest deceased writers and poets”.

But more could be done to promote living writers in getting their voices heard, she said and urged Tourism Ireland, which promotes Ireland overseas to “unambiguously drive initiatives that feature our writers and artists at the helm of their new tourism strategies”.

Ms Bistany agreed with criticisms by international tourism expert Professor Michael Hall who questioned Ireland’s reputation for creativity and highlighted dependence on advertising at Dublin airport on James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

“Where is the contemporary stuff?” he asked, stressing that it was a really critical issue for Ireland if it wanted to be portrayed as innovative and cutting edge.

Ms Bistany agreed “there needs to be a real will to move away from easy literary marketing options to create a new narrative which celebrates and supports the talents of our contemporary writers, while also providing tourists with a great literary experience”.

Ireland was renowned for writers like Joyce and Beckett but “does that mean that somebody has to wait until they’re dead before being acknowledged?” she asked.

She said “we’re not on the ball” when it came to updating Ireland’s global artistic and literary image. There had been numerous Irish booker prize winners and Irish literary talent “is on the crest of a wave internationally”.

Value for money

UK-born Prof Hall, a professor of marketing at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, described Dublin as a “rip off” for visitors and said he would never recommend it for a short city break.

Tourism and hotel organisations have however defended Dublin’s reputation even though the Department of Tourism failed to respond to a request for comment.

Fáilte Ireland’s director of communications Alex Connolly said he respected Professor Michael Hall’s right to his opinion “but it is just that, an opinion and a highly subjective one”.

Mr Connolly said visitor numbers to Ireland were growing year on year and were expected this year to top 2016’s record of close to nine million.

He pointed out that every year the agency talks to more than 1,000 people as part of its annual survey and “nine out of 10 have a good holiday”.

He acknowledged that Dublin was a “pinch point” for accommodation where supply and demand was an issue. But he said that 5,000 new hotel rooms would come on stream shortly over the next few years and believed that Dublin was still “quite good” in terms of value for money.

Professor Hall said he was horrified when two months ago he went to book a hotel in Dublin for this weekend and found one night was €400 when two nights in Helsinki, Finland with the same unnamed hotel chain was cheaper.

The Irish Hotels Federation insisted “Dublin room rates are highly competitive compared to other European city destinations” and that it was the final 10 per cent of rooms available that “would experience any noticeable price increases”.

The federation “recommends that people book early to get the best value room rates and that they shop around and do not rely on just one source when comparing accommodation prices. It is also advisable for people to check hotels’ own websites, where prices are often better and promotional rates may be available.”