It’s never nice to find out that people are talking about you behind your back, except of course when what they are saying is music to your ears or could prove useful in bringing more business your way.
The problem when it comes to the tourism industry is that it is notoriously difficult to gauge sentiment, as tourists come from all over the world, use a multiple of different operators and are unlikely to want to use their valuable vacation time to take part in niggly surveys.
But, finding out what tourists value is incredibly important and it was therefore eye-opening to read survey findings about tourists’ views on Ireland this week, particularly what they thought about Galway.
Galway eateries will have food for thought in the fact that, while 64 per cent were very happy with the quality of the service and 62 per cent were very impressed with the quality and freshness of their fare, just 44 per cent were impressed with their value for money.
Tour providers will also be mulling over the fact that historic houses or castles were the favoured attractions, followed by gardens on 35 per cent, interpretive centres on 24 per cent, and the fact that museums (14%) and traditional music on 12 per cent did not appear to attract visitors’ interest.
Conversely, 88 per cent of holidaymakers said they were interested in experiencing traditional Irish music and dance, while 18 per cent took part in hiking or hill walking.
The good news for Galway is that 66 per cent said they would recommend Galway, with 71 per cent basing that recommendation on the beautiful scenery and 55 per cent rating the friendly people.
Tourism figures are finally beginning to pick up again, according to the Central Statistics office, which this week revealed that there had been an 8.1 per cent increase in overseas visitors to Ireland in the last quarter compared to the same period last year.
However, if we are to build on this trend, we must compete with our near neighbours and we must compete well. The comprehensive Fáilte Ireland survey then should prove a useful roadmap for where we go from here.