President Obama and the Queen

President Obama and Queen Elizabeth have departed Irish shores, but their impact will continue to be felt for a very long time for different reasons.

Obama made a direct appeal to millions of Irish Americans, reminding them of his own small Irish roots heritage, the shamrock sprig in his melting pot as one writer put it.
It surely played powerfully across the land and will have done him no harm at all as a re-election tool.

The Queen was burying the hatchet after 800 years or so of hostilities and that again sends a powerful message to two sets of island people that the way forward is definitively cooperation and not conflict.
Already Irish tourism authorities are showing a sharp spike in vacation inquiries, especially from the

U.S. where figures are trending back to their high of about 1 million visitors a year.
On the domestic front, the shot in the arm for the Irish people long weighed down with bad news and disastrous financials could not have come at a better time.

But one swallow does not a summer make, and there is much to be done in Ireland to continue the upward movement.

The role of the diaspora has never been more central, a point made by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny in his remarks when introducing President Obama.  Kenny issued an all points bulletin to the 40 million Irish in America inviting them back home.

The call was an emotional one, but there clearly needs to be far more thought put into the entire diaspora process and how to properly capitalize on it.

On a purely functional level, there are not enough entry points to Ireland from the U.S.   Flights from Atlanta, California and the Washington, D.C. area and Florida have all been cut back, with only one new route via Charlotte added.

The cost of flying to Ireland, especially in peak season, is also a major issue.  Irish American philanthropist Chuck Feeney offered to underwrite fares to Ireland last year if the government matched his funding, but that was never done.

Feeney realized that Ireland itself is a magnificent brand and one that sells itself once people visit it. The close links between the diaspora and the Irish need to be nurtured in innovative ways.

The power of the Internet is also waiting to be harnessed. The diaspora and the internet are made for each other, as people across the world now have access to unparalleled information about their roots, heritage and travel destinations.

The boost that President Obama and Queen Elizabeth gave will be a fleeting one if such issues are not addressed.

On the plus side of the ledger, prices have begun to drop and Ireland is now among the cheapest hotel destinations in Europe.

The former White House chief of staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel once remarked that a crisis was a terrible thing to waste.

There is no question that Ireland is indeed in a deep crisis, but there is clearly opportunity too. The lift given by President Obama was psychological, but also showcased a different kind of Ireland to Americans than the one we have been witnessing over the past few years.

That can only be good and positive for all concerned.