Craic and pint of plain still your only man for visitors
THE chat, the craic and the porter black remain Ireland's best lures to draw tourists to our shores and not our new-fangled chai lattes, spas and Pilates classes, the new edition of 'Lonely Planet Ireland' claims.
The country needs to draw more on the appeal of a fast-disappearing traditional Ireland because the contemporary version is not that different from any other European destination, the ninth edition of the bestselling guidebook declares.
According to the book, which is in shops from today, "you have to travel further to the margins of the country -- the islands and the isolated rural communities -- to find an older version of society".
'Lonely Planet' travel editor Tom Hall said the guide identified "the warmth of the Irish people and their welcome as being a real asset and an important drawcard to tourists".
"In an increasingly samey world, Ireland's got some precious, unique traits worth preserving. This is what keeps visitors coming back."
Ironically, for a country associated with 40 shades of one colour, we are not as 'green' as we should be, mostly because "it's hard to tell a nation that got wealthy a wet week ago after pissing potless for centuries that they shouldn't buy an SUV or go on four holidays a year".
One silver lining in the recession cloud that has settled over the country is that as industries collapse, so too do our excessive carbon emissions. But we will still struggle to meet our Kyoto obligations.
The book urges those in search of the true Ireland to head for "quieter idylls" such as the lakes of Roscommon or the villages of Waterford or Westmeath rather than the "scenic superstars" such as Connemara and Kerry.
And the North is heaped with praise, where visitors will find better value for money as the rip-off Republic tag is not so much of an issue. And Belfast is a must-see.
A Failte Ireland spokesman said the guide was right to draw attention to the traditional as most visitors cited our unique friendliness and the unspoilt scenery as the country's main assets.
"You can't bottle that, but economically they are extremely important," he said. He added that Failte Ireland had been proactive in developing cultural tourism through festivals and in many other ways.