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Fáilte Ireland – But Where Is Fáilte Éireann?

News that in Doire (Derry) the Irish language culture centre, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, has won a prestigious award for promoting tourism in the region. As the Derry Journal reports:

‘The state of the art Irish language centre, which opened in 2009, was singled out for enhancing the visitor experience and integrating with other tourism products. The judges were particularly impressed with An Chultúrlann’s efforts at complimenting the tourism offer in the city and improving the image of the city as a whole.’

The article points out that:

‘the Irish language was becoming a key tourism driver: “The Irish language and culture is something that makes our region unique and that is what tourists are looking for when they plan a visit. Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin has developed a tourist package “Fáilte Dhoire” which is aimed at these type of cultural tourists to the city.

Through this package we have been able to tie all the elements of Irish culture that we offer into a single product for visitors to the city and work with other tourist providers to diffuse interest in the excellent tourist product available throughout the city. Our goal is to provide the ‘wow factor’ for visitors so that they leave excited, engaged and hungry for more information.’

Indeed. Tourists coming to Ireland want to experience something different from what they left behind at home (as I pointed out before). If you are an English-speaking tourist from England, Wales, Scotland, the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand you don’t want to visit a country where the people pretty much speak the same language as you do and with pretty much the same culture too.

You want different. So what does Fáilte Ireland offer these people? More of the same!

And what if you come from a non-English speaking country (like 94.5% of the planet!)? Do you really want to visit a pale imitation of Britain or the United States? If you want Cool Britannia or Americana then you can easily visit the real thing. They come to Ireland to experience something different from that.

Language tourism, Irish language tourism, is the great unrealised ‘wow factor’ of Irish tourism. By emphasising what we are (not what we are sort of like) we have the potential to open up and explore new and unexpected areas of tourist growth and development – while simultaneously contributing to the growth of our own native language and culture.

We want repeat visitors, the regular tourists that are the bedrock of any self-sustaining tourism industry, not the occasional fly-by-night, here-today-gone-tomorrow never-to-be-seen-again visitors of yesteryear. We want tourists who come to Ireland and then come back again – many times over. It is only by offering something unique that we will win the hearts and minds of these people and lure tourists here from the sunnier, technicolour delights of the Mediterranean, or Caribbean or beyond. Let us be honest. We don’t do glorious sunshine (really) or 24-hour bars and clubs. We’re not some North Atlantic Ibiza (thank God) or off-shore Los Vegas (yet).

We do a unique culture, ancient history, unspoiled nature and all the elusive stuff that tourists can’t quite get elsewhere (call it craic if you wish, old done-to-death cliché that it is). We appeal to the late teens and early twenties, and then jump to the middle aged. We appeal to the tens of millions of people around the globe of Irish descent. They want to visit something different, something not quite like anywhere else in the world, an Ireland of the myth as much as the reality. They want Irish and Gaelic and Celtic. All the things some here disdain but which make us unique, make us stand out from the crowd.

That is what Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin serves up, a cultural experience that tourists coming to Ireland clearly want, and expect. If we want to promote ourselves as the place to visit, and more than that, to experience, then let’s have a little less Ireland and a little more Éire.

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