Dublin: Property prices went up 18 percent here over the last year and there is a palpable sense of a slow recovery cresting.
As the wettest winter in history turns to the glad tidings of spring, the Irish feel like economic survivors as well.
But the old and bad ways may be returning too. During the boom prices were out of control. I got an insight, admittedly an isolated one, that such gouging may not be a thing of the past.
I ate in a far-from-fancy restaurant near my hotel last night and had sticker price shock when the check came.
It was over $45 for a modest meal. I distinctly remember eating there much more cheaply a year or so ago. Several other visitors said they had noticed the same sudden uptick in eating out prices.
At my hotel a concierge told me restaurants were jammed again every Thursday and weekend night and prices were leaping. One hopes that Ireland will not slip back to its Tiger ways in terms of charging and prices.
One of the major features of that Celtic Tiger was a greedy hospitality class who eventually priced themselves out of the market. Sanity returned with the crash and a lot of unfortunate bankruptcies with good dinners available in the $25 dollar range, but those days may be over. That would be a shame. The Gathering last year created such a positive momentum that its impact has clearly lasted into this year.
All the hoteliers I spoke too say bookings are up, especially from North America and the future looks brighter than it has in some time. Aer Lingus has opened new routes to San Francisco and Toronto and the tourism folk are bullish on growth potential.
Still an underbelly exists. Many hotels are still in NAMA, the organization that handles bankrupt institutions and hardly a day goes by without a story about yet another former high-flying developer seeking personal bankruptcy protection, mostly in Britain, where the laws are less stringent.
But the Irish are a very resilient lot and with the worst of winter behind and a clear path towards St. Patrick’s Day it was great to hear the notes of optimism. The Irish are also emerging from their wettest winter ever and the spring days this week were all the more welcome as a result
But they must not get greedy this time around. Americans, especially, demand value for money and have lots of European choices if the Irish start acting up again.
It would be very short-sighted of them if they do so. The good news is that the long and lonely winter is coming to an end, the economy is on an uptick and few would begrudge the Irish the blaze of the sun so long absent.
The Celtic Phoenix someone called it, more like the Celtic Groundhog if they don’t get it right.