Irish – a tourism differentiator for Ireland?

Irish – a tourism differentiator for Ireland?

This week I spent a short time in one of Ireland’s Gaeltachts, a region where Irish is still the daily language of the population.  It’s always a treat to spend time there as it gives me a chance to practice my Irish and also drink in that very beautiful access and turn of phrase that one hears in the Gaeltacht.  I always  get a real sense of being somewhere different.

It got me thinking again about the role that Irish could in Ireland’s overall tourism proposition.  Visitors travel for difference and language is one of the most tangible differences of coming to a new country.  Here we have this beautiful ancient language which has survived for centuries and even millennia and yet we generally choose not to share it with visitors.

I thought of three main benefits that visitors would get from coming into more direct contact with Irish whilst here.  All benefits are emotional and, as we know, when you stir the emotions, you create memories. 

-         Connection:

o   Connects the visitor directly with our ancient history and heritage through the spoken word.

-         Understanding:

o   It tells visitors that this is a different place.  This isn’t England with a funny accent.  It opens a window into our colonial past and our complex social evolution. 

-         Accomplishment:

o   Visitors who manage to learn a few essential phrases and actually use them gain very positive feelings of accomplishment.  It gives them the feel-good factor.

Our neighbours in Wales are emphasising the value of Welsh for tourism with supports in place to help hospitality providers let their visitors in to the language e.g. Welsh name plates for rooms, provide bilingual names for toilets, restaurant, garden; have a bilingual website; introduce bilingual menus; support staff who want to learn the language.

So here’s a challenge for you this week.  Whatever your accomplishment in Irish in school and even if you never learned Irish in school, try to use the following 5 phrases and see what reaction you get from colleagues and visitors:

Dia Dhuit – Hello

Conas ata tú? – How are you

Go raibh maith agat -Thank you

Fáilte romhat – you’re welcome

Slán – Goodbye

I’d love to hear how you get on.  Please post your comments.