Varadkar tells tourist industry to sharpen up
Customer service a 'long way behind the US'
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday launched a broadside on the tourism industry -- claiming it wasn't up to scratch.
Mr Varadkar was critical of the standard of customer service in Ireland's restaurants, bars and shops -- and suggested there was still a rip-off mentality here compared to places such as the United States.
"I would like to see an improvement in customer service. Irish people are very friendly, very inquisitive, but I think our customer service isn't great," Mr Varadkar said.
"In Ireland, you're often asked when you go into a shop, bar or restaurant if you are okay . . . as if I wouldn't be okay.
"You're not asked would you like any help or would you like to order something. A lot of that is pretty bad."
Mr Varadkar contrasted the standard of customer service here with the US. "When I go to the United States, I am impressed with a lot of simple things. You get free refills in coffee and free refills in Diet Coke and yet in Ireland, you get ripped off if you want a little bit more than this coffee."
Mr Varadkar was speaking at a tourism conference in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, where he confirmed for the first time that plans for major projects, like Metro North and Dart underground, will be shelved.
Ahead of the publication this week of the Government's infrastructure spending plan, Mr Varadkar ruled out any new significant road and rail projects for the next five years.
The minister's comments come after the Government announced capital spending cuts worth €1.4bn over the next three years.
The Government is still weighing up plans for:
•Metro North from the Dublin city centre to the north county;
•DART Underground from Heuston station to Pearse Street station in Dublin;
•Luas link-up of the two Luas lines in Dublin city centre;
•DART Airport linking the DART line to the airport.
Mr Varadkar said: "The concentration is going to be on maintaining assets as they are now. I know that will come as a disappointment to people in the regions who maybe were expecting better road access. That is now unlikely to occur."
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said last week that €750m of the €1.4bn of planned capital spending will be cut next year, with another €550m coming in 2013 and €100m in 2014.
Mr Varadkar also said he wanted to split the three state-owned airports, Dublin, Shannon and Cork.
"My ambition is to have the airports separated, competing with each other to bring more passengers into the country," he said.
He also ruled out government intervention to address the over-supply of hotel rooms. "I don't think it is the role of Government to decide which hotels should remain open and which ones should be closed down. The best thing we can do is to try to fill the rooms with tourists and Irish people."