Ireland’s friendliest city?

2011-03-16T11:02:40+00:00 March 16th, 2011|Categories: Opinion|Tags: , , , , , |
Cork City Hall is illuminated at night, reflec...

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I’ve always considered Cork to be Ireland’s friendliest city, and given the week that’s in it, it’s good to be mindful of the impression we give to visitors.

Initiatives like the Lonely Planet iPhone app, the postering campaign, and twinning with various cities around the world are all well and good, but if you’re missing the fundamental friendliness that, for most international tourists, defines a visit to Ireland, you’re losing.

There are plenty of countries to rival Ireland in terms of attractions, with better weather, but our people remain our best asset.

I spent a few days in West Cork last week, staying at the West Cork Hotel. I’d have expected to find no difference in the reception there than anywhere else in the country, but I must say that in the hotel, as well as in restaurants and pubs we visited, people were incredibly friendly, helpful and chatty. That’s something you cannot pay for.

Ireland consistently does well in international polls on friendliness and the welcome given to visitors.

A drop in those polls over the Celtic Tiger years seems to have been rectified since it ended – funny that we should be more cheerful given our economic situation, but perhaps we’ve all realised what side our bread is buttered on.

For my own part, I always make a point of asking tourists who appear lost if I can help them – I have the sense of direction of a block of wood, but it’s the thought that counts! The only country I’ve ever had the reverse experience in was Hungary, and it left me with a very positive impression of the people of Budapest.

A new initiative in Dublin aims to formalise this innate friendliness slightly, by creating a register of voluntary ‘ambassadors’ to welcome a tourist to the city by meeting them for a cup of tea or a pint. Participating venues give a voucher to the ambassador to purchase the drink.

I have never heard of a scheme that makes so much sense, and requires so little effort. A quick straw poll of my colleagues in the newsrtoom here, reveals that we’d all do it – and not just for the free pint!

How hard is it to share a drink with someone new – many of us do this every day at work or in our personal lives – and have a chat with them about what to do and where to go in the locality? It means tourists would also get to see sights locals love too, many of which may not have the spend to appear in brochures or tourist guides.

While Dublin may have stolen the march on us here, surely we can do something similar in Cork?

There are plenty of organisations with the minimal funding and know-how required to make this happen.

Cork City Council, Cork Marketing Partnership, Cork Business Association and Cork Chamber would all have an interest in this project. Let’s see if it can be done.

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