Tourists get the warmest welcome beyond the Pale
OUR ancient castles and rolling green hills have won the hearts of tourists who say the beautiful Irish landscape is the country's main attraction.
Visitors reckon that the 'land of a thousand welcomes' lives up to its name, with the vast majority of tourists questioned for a new Failte Ireland study saying our friendliness is one of our best attributes.
According to the results of the 2013 "holidaymaker" study, the 'Dublin's Doorstep' area was found to be the friendliest in Ireland, with an impressive rating of 4.93 out of five.
The region includes the counties surrounding the capital, such as Louth, Meath, Wicklow and Kildare.
However, the South-East was rated the lowest for friendliness with an overall average of just 4.65 out of five.
The study is based on the opinion of 10,000 domestic and international tourists who holidayed in Ireland between May and October last year.
Data was analysed from the 11 regions, which were categorised into Dublin city, the South-East, Galway and Mayo, the Shannon corridor, the Dingle Peninsula, Clare, Dublin's Doorstep, West Cork, Cork City and Harbour, Donegal and Sligo, and the Ring of Kerry.
The sunny South-East failed to capture the imagination of tourists, as just 48pc of visitors there said they would highly recommend the region.
Transport services within the area were also rated among the worst by tourists, and the food industry failed to impress, with just 44pc rating the service as very good - the lowest in the country.
Galway and Mayo, which feature prominently in the recently launched 'Wild Atlantic Way' along the west coast, impressed as visitors gave it a rating of 4.90 out of five for the natural environment.
Of the tourists who took in some of the popular attractions, which included Connemara, Clifden, Athenry and Kylemore Abbey, more than six out of 10 said they would highly recommend the area to others.
Eight out of 10 visitors said they would recommend Galway and Mayo for the beautiful scenery and countryside, while just under one-quarter said they would recommend it for value for money.
The Rebel County proved popular, as seven out of 10 said they would recommend a visit to Cork city and harbour, while almost three-quarters promised to recommend West Cork.
Of the visitors to West Cork, nine out of 10 said they would recommend the area for the scenery.
Just under 0.5pc said they would "definitely not return" on holiday to the area.
The tourism industry, which employs almost 200,000 people, generates €5.7bn in revenue annually.
A spokesperson from Failte Ireland said that research like this was invaluable to the industry, as we needed to think about what our visitors wanted, particularly to help boost the international market.
However, the spokesperson warned that we "can't become complacent", despite the recent impressive growth rate.
"If we are to ensure that the current growth rates are sustainable, we need to ensure we are providing the right type of holiday experiences- particularly for our overseas markets," she said."