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.


Woodsy42 said...

Dare I say it but the Irish, political troubles notwithstanding, have built a reputation for being friendly, welcoming and fun company - you might not want them next door living in a caravan but for a holiday different rules apply.
Scots have a reputation for being dour, taciturn and hating the English. The English go for the scenery not the people or music/night life.
Present company, and especially fun loving blonde bloggers, are excepted from my gross and unfair generalisations of course!

subrosa said...

Pleased to hear I'm exempt Woodsy or I'd hit you with my Dulux loaded paintbrush. (A shower would get it all off as it's waterbased)!

You're right though. The Irish people are always at the front of their marketing campaigns.

pa_broon74 said...

With respect, I think thats rubbish. To say that Scots are a dour bunch because they hate the English is not correct, on that specific point, if we are dour its because Westminster & England by extension has benefited from the systematic asset stripping of Scotland for centuries. As a Scotsman I would never generalise the English people in such an off-hand manner.

Your view is just out of date, Scottish people don't hate the English, they don't like the British Establishment; they are not the same thing.

The reason Scotland doesn't do as well is because our national (if I can deploy that oft derided idea) is diluted by that of 'Britain'. The same thing happens to England although I think there is more conflation between things that are English (the country side, traditional music etc) and things that are British (the monarchy, Pomp & circumstance etc.) Look at the current 'stay in Britain for your holidays' ad campaign, Scotland is hardly represented at all.

I think many of the English people who retire to Scotland, not just for a holiday mind, would also disagree about the Scots being unfriendly and dour.

As an example, we could for example look to football and its fanbase.

(I'm ignoring our current tennis ace, he is a bit dour.)

In terms of selling the country on its people, I think that's a tough one these days given the majority of the people working in our tourist industry are Polish. Not sure how that would work out. Although I should say, I don't actually mind.

JRB said...

All things ‘Titanic’ are rapidly rivalling the ‘Olympics’ in mind numbing sensory overload.

What befell the Titanic and those on board was a tragedy. So let us pause and with some humility remember that event for what it was.

But the on-going ‘media fest’ borders on the nauseating.
I for one have had ‘enough’ - and it certainly does not encourage me to visit Belfast.

RMcGeddon said...

There's been a Scottish tourism advert on telly for the past month or so which must have cost a lot. It had great scenery and locations but was a bit vague and the location names were too small to read so some potential tourists probably didn't know what country was being advertised.
I thought the roads in Ireland were ok. I travelled from Belfast , south to Dublin, across to Galway then back across following the border to Belfast. It was mostly modern 3 lane roads which were built with EU funding.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Scotland's small hotels and B&Bs are no better nor worse than their contemporaries in Ireland.

The generality of the worst are those where their paying guest are regarded as guilty until such time as they leave and are proved innocent.

Woodsy42 said...

I had hoped that by admitting to "my gross and unfair generalisations" you might realise that I was being tongue in cheek! I don't subscribe to that view, having met both wonderful and objectional people in most places I have visited - people are just people everywhere - and you find all sorts.
However, there was a real point to my comments as I actually do think there remains a very real general public perception of such national stereotypes.
Whether it's down to the mood of the publicity, historical fiction personalisations, TV depictions, the more austere Highland countryside or what I simply don't pretend to know, but many sources play to just such a stereotypical characterisation.
Just pointing it out as something to consider.

Woodsy42 said...

"they don't like the British Establishment"
Nor do I pa_broon74, If I had your chance at independence from it I would grab it with both hands. Remember that in the past the English elite treated the English peasantry no better than they treated yours.
I hope you realise from my previous reply that I am not supporting the stereotypes I mentioned, nor justifying them. Simply reporting my suspicions that they exist in people's minds and influence tourism.

pa_broon74 said...

Apologies. It seems in a fit of irony I was being a dour Scotsman.

I'm never bothered by the way Scot's are portrayed on TV etc, I think it happens to all the component countries of UK at some point.

Sometimes we're a wee bit over sensitive to it too (as evidenced by my virtual jumping to conclusions.)

subrosa said...

Pa_broon, I was on your side until you mentioned our tennis ace. Poor man, he gets pilloried every time.

I remember some years ago having to contact VisitScotland and I mentioned to someone how surprised I was to hear a pleasant woman with a strong Australian accent answering. Of course to some that wasn't PC, but truth be told, what other country has a foreigner answer their public information line?

subrosa said...

Maybe it doesn't encourage you to take to the seas JRB, but at least you know of the event. Here in Scotland so much goes on and it's seldom publicised, yet each of us pays for the marketing.

subrosa said...

The roads in the south are a bit risky RM, although I'm told the main road to Dublin is now completed (courtesy of EU cash as you say).

Like everything VisitScotland does the latest video is average and yes, I suspect it cost a lot. Their marketing projects always do.

subrosa said...

That's very true Crinkly and prices are on a par too. I trust you're referring to this business of paying upon arrival instead of departure. I find that slightly insulting.

subrosa said...

Woodsy and Pa_broon, I can remember, many years ago now, explaining to a German friend what the word dour meant.

He said "no wonder your people are dour. They run around in the cold in just a short-sleeved top and a kilt'.

His image of a Scotsman came from the front of a Scots Porage Oats packet.

pa_broon74 said...

Hold on though, are you saying a kilt and white t-shirt is no longer a la mode in the world of fashion?

It explains the funny looks.

On Andy Murray, I have a friend who has developed a proper dislike for him and I'm always defending him, you have to admit though, you could place an after-match interview next to the entry for 'dour' in the dictionary and it would explain the word quite well.

And thats using an interview where he won.

subrosa said...

That's right pa_broon. VisitScotland want rid of the tartan and shortbread image and want us to look 'international'. Then we can think we're in Barcelona or Athens.

subrosa said...

Auch pa_broon, Andy's not dour. He's just not comfortable in front of the media but he's getting better.

He's not a celeb but a tennis player. :)

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