LIKE many, I was quite impressed by President Obama’s cúpla focal included in his College Green oration. However, I hope that the primary beneficiaries of the event were listening closely.
Obama’s appearance in Dublin was, after all, an advertisement for Failte Ireland. The president, also, is likely to benefit from some footage as well. This is perfectly legitimate, as increased tourism in Ireland and barring the GOP from the White House are worthy objectives.
While Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny also indulged in a bit of Gaeilge, I was somewhat repulsed his playing the “Irish” American card, patronizing “40-million” Americans.
It also likely lacked the desired effect, as much of that demographic are “informed” by Fox News, which reportedly rendered scant coverage to the event in comparison to other networks.
Perhaps, however, Kenny isn’t to be faulted for following the script. So too, it is somewhat understandable that Failte Ireland would resort to appealing merely to “Irish” Americans rather than thinking Americans.
Indeed, such rank tribalism worked well as cost-effective fundraising scheme for Sinn Fein. This approach, however, is getting tired.
Obama’s use of the national tongue should remind the Irish tourist industry to consider cultural tourism as a viable marketing objective. Indeed, language is the soul of any culture.
While on the onset 40 million is an attractive number, few of these will ever hold a passport. Among those who do, many will make one and only journey “home” on the back of a CIE bus and will content themselves with annual reminisces every 17th of March.
Cultural tourists, on the other hand, are more likely to provide “repeat business” to the tourist industry as well as to others, such as publishing and recording.
This latter group tends to be more appreciative and low maintenance, rendering less wear and tear on facilities and nerves. More so, they’ve more disposable income and are likely to form lasting friendships and acquaintances overseas.
With a bit of imagination, Failte Ireland would find ways to reach this market. We do certainly exist and offer a considerable potential, regardless of our complexions, where we worship or how we spell our names.
Fáinne ort, a Uachtaráin!
Daithí Mac Lochlainn
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