Pól Ó Conghaile: Will Dublin become incredible or irrelevant in 2016?
Dublin can become incredible or irrelevant in 2016, our Travel Editor writes. And we're all invested in the outcome.
This year is a make or break one for Dublin.
2016 could see the city harness Ireland's recovery and the 1916 centenary to become one of Europe's truly great tourism destinations.
Or it could stand still, hike prices, and slip slowly into irrelevance.
Strengths? Ireland attracted a record 8.6 million visitors last year, and Dublin was crucial to that. Its airport is booming, with a second runway on the cards. Lonely Planet listed it among the Top 10 cities to visit in 2016.
Dublin's aura is unique; the diaspora-themed attraction, EPIC Ireland, will open soon - and its festivals rock. But it's not all good news.
Fáilte Ireland sees a shortage of 5,000 hotel rooms.
Similar-sized cities like Prague, Copenhagen and Valencia have more world-class attractions. Luas and street works are disruptive, public transport is confusing, and O'Connell Street is a disappointing main boulevard.
The experience of a tourist standing in Trinity College, and one fumbling with a map on Gardiner Street, are very different. And that's not even starting on the weather.
To its credit, Fáilte Ireland has recognised the threats of a tiring brand. It has warned against price gouging, given the city a new tag ('A breath of fresh air') and pledged €13 million towards its promotion and development this year.
But the battle is uphill. "Dublin is simply not distinguishing itself against the competition as a city to visit," says Euromonitor, the market intelligence firm.
Dublin does not have a divine right to visitors. If Rip-off Ireland returns, or the dollar and sterling exchange rates flip, it becomes an expensive choice.
2016 could be an incredible year, but it won't happen by itself.
Dublin may be facing a shortage of hotel rooms, but it's good to see the stalwarts getting more creative with their packages.
The five-star Westin (thewestindublin.com), for example, has introduced a 'glamping' package to complement its children's Book Butler service - which sees books from Eason's delivered to the room.
The 'Family Glamping in the City' offering provides young VIPs with their own tent, air-bed and torch... all of which they can take home on check-out.
It costs a €60 supplement on deluxe room rates, which start from around €260.
Looking to save money on a city break?
Several Irish hostels were named in the HOSCARs (the annual customer ratings awards from Hostelworld.com), including Galway City Hostel & Bar as No. 1 in Ireland.
In Dublin, Isaacs (isaacs.ie; beds from €10pp midweek) was voted Best Hostel, while Generator Dublin (generator.com; from €8.50pp in winter or midweek) was nominated for Best Extra Large Hostel Worldwide.
Check 'em out - you might be surprised at the comforts on offer.
NB: All prices subject to availability.