Thursday, 12 April 2012
The Irish Do It Much Better
In the past week or two few could fail to hear or read that it's 100 years since the Titanic met its tragic fate.
Whether you find the MS Balmoral's re-enactment of the Titanic's tragic maiden voyage goulish or the adventure of a lifetime is a personal matter, but there's no doubt the centenary of one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters has captured the imagination of many willing to spend thousands of pounds for a piece of history.
The Irish have promoted the occasion perfectly, just as they promote their country - both north and south of the border. Who would have thought that 50 years ago expensive world tours, more often than not, would have included a visit to Belfast or Dublin as a highlight of the trip?
London is another 'essential' destination and Edinburgh features reasonably frequently.
But how does Ireland achieve such exceptional visitor numbers in comparison to Scotland? The Ring of Kerry is certainly quite breathtaking and the Atlantic coastline atmospheric, but the roads are shocking and each wee town seems to contain more souvenir shops than butchers, bakers and grocers combined.
It's all down to marketing as we discussed in the previous post. The Irish know how to market their product and have gained a world-wide audience. Tourists arriving in Belfast or Dublin are shown the whole country and not just the cities.
Scotland has been poorly served by its official tourist organisation VisitScotland, even though millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been ploughed into it annually. Many tours visiting Scotland only include Edinburgh, (with a day visit to St Andrews for those interested in golf) and a day trip to Loch Ness and/or Skye - all places which receive far more investment than other parts of the country. One of the most spectacular castles I've ever visited is seldom mentioned in official literature, although I'm sure if it was in Ireland it would feature repeatedly.
The difference between Irish and Scottish marketing is obvious. Ireland sells its people as well as its scenery, culture and history. Scotland relies upon its superb scenery and has, in recent years, tried to dismiss its culture of tartan and ceilidhs, in an attempt to appeal to international visitors. However, that has backfired as studies in the US prove that many Americans still regard Scotland as part of England or - even worse - haven't heard of it.
Is it time Scotland took a leaf out of Ireland's shamrock and developed historic events? An example is our excellent re-enactment societies, some which encourage public participation (after a little training). War is never glorious, but like the Titanic story, it intrigues. If a part could be found for me at Prestonpans in September, I'd be happy to attend; not only to experience history, but to see first hand just how futile and destructive battle can be.