We live in a climate where we all now must learn to create more jobs from less available work and that is why my recent brief encounter with overpaid, protected semi-state company employees and politicians, leaves me foaming at the mouth. Read on Tipperary and weep.
As one member of a newly formed tourism group, Hidden Tipperary, (None of the members of which, I should point out, stand to benefit one red cent from Tourism. ) I decided to run a “Bargain Weekend Away History Break” in Thurles.
Thanks to the management of the Anner Hotel, St.Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles Library and the Thurles GAA Museum, a bargain package was put together to compliment our National Heritage Week. Our package was priced at a give away €60 inclusive, encompassing two nights B&B plus one evening meal, one free Cabaret, with free admission to all museums and four free history lectures from, dare I claim, the best in the business. Unlike recent promoted events in Thurles, our aim was to keep spending revenues within the town, so our product, in every respect, was fully home grown.
Advertising the event first began on the Internet, targeting Irish lovers of history. I then turned to Tourism Ireland’s UK office of Fáilte Ireland where details of our proposed events were sent, with the hope that the British people would be informed that a cheap weekend away was available in Thurles, which after all it is the ancestral home of the British Royal family, something which Shannon Tourism and Fáilte Ireland continue to not recognise and refuse to market. My next target was Fáilte (Failter) Ireland here at home, and finally Active Retirement Groups. Very quickly I learned that Tipperary is not the focus of Irish tourism sales. Please read on.
A request to Tourism Ireland’s UK office for marketing assistance received what appeared to be an automated email reply which read as follows:-
Dear Sir Willoughby,
Thank you for contacting Tourism Ireland. Regarding your question about promoting your Event. Can you please get in touch with our office in Dublin. firstname.lastname@example.org . (Note spelling of Email address.)
If you have any further queries then please do not hesitate to contact us by visiting our website www.discoverireland.com and simply clicking the Contact Us button. Thank you for your enquiry.
No I wasn’t Knighted during the Queen’s recent visit, but readers will note the Email address spelling in the automated mail received “FAILTER IRELAND.” Now as you read on perhaps you will find this spelling is very appropriate.
My reply was sent back within minutes and read as follows:-
Please note for your information – the link sent with this mail is not correct – email@example.com
Possibly should read firstname.lastname@example.org
A reply came back by return as follows:-
Hello, Thanks for getting in touch with us. We have received your message, and a Tourism Ireland team member will respond to your enquiry within 1 working day. Your message has been allocated tracking number 23794.
Other ways of getting in touch: Website: www.discoverireland.com is packed full of information to help you plan your trip. Phone Line: Call 0800 039 7000 for free, friendly advice. We’re open from 08.00 – 23.00 from Monday to Friday, and 10.00 – 20.00 on Saturday, closed Sunday.
Visit us: London – Nations House, 103 Wigmore St, London W1U 1QS. Opening hours : 09.15 – 17.00, Mon – Fri.
Glasgow – 7th Floor, James Millar House, 98 West George St, Glasgow G2 1PJ. Opening hours : 09.15 – 17.00, Mon – Fri.
Thanks again for your enquiry.
To date, 33 days later I still wait, in quiet anticipation, to receive this promised one day working response.
At this stage you must all be smiling. Smile not my friends, remember that former tourism minister, Thurles born Mary Hanifin spent €2 million of the national tourism budget last year, advertising Dublin City. This was an attempt to attract English Tourists to our Capital, which according to IBAL, is now the dirtiest City in Ireland. I prophesise that soon Dublin will is about to get a face lift, courtesy of national taxpayers. Remember also that Dublin’s economy already benefits hugely from Tipperary, through heritage attractions e.g. the Book of Dimma, Faddan More Psalter, The Derrynaflan Hoard and a more recent find, Ireland’s best kept secret, the Two Mile Borris Viking Hoard, which included, 57 silver Viking coins, and other objects, found close to where our Casino and All Weather Racetrack, is destined to materialise in the coming years.
Realising that no assistance was likely to be forthcoming, I contacted the Irish office, emailing email@example.com as advised in the reply to my original advertising request. I emailed them and waited six days for a reply.
Not being a person known to shrink away, when confronted by complete and total incompetence, I picked up the telephone. Well actually I picked up the phone six times, before I could get minor satisfaction. First two calls to first number dialed, informed me that no one was available to answer my queries. Next two calls to a second number, got a receptionist, who passed me on to some office, which also informed me that no one was available to answer. Fifth call to a third number informed me to leave a message. This message was answered some hours later, but I was not at home. On my return however I rang them back, and was informed that I was being transferred to the office which earlier was unattended. I raised my voice and was then transferred to a real non mechanical living human.
Following a 35 minute conversation, I received a verbal but somewhat doubting apology. However, in my conversation I promised to forward copies of original previous email communications, sent by me, and received the following reply on the 17 August 2011 15:46 which reads as follows:-
Subject RE: Event promotion (KMM86289I19660L0KM):-
I am getting your emails (copies promised) and I am going to ensure I send them to the right people to address the issues, I understand you require a response as soon as possible and I will follow this up.
I can see from the email track that your email went to Tourism Ireland’s UK office and the respondent advised you to send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org I see they spelt that wrong and that is regrettable.
I am going to investigate where the email was received as that is a valid address you sent it to and why you have to date had no response and will let you know the outcome. Regards etc.
That was 32 days ago, the right people have to date, not yet replied or offered any explanation for their complete incompetence. I took the decision to cancel the weekend event and notified the hotel to cancel our booking for 100 bedrooms plus ballroom.
When reading this, keep in mind that Irish tourism experienced its toughest season in over a decade in 2010 with overseas visitor numbers falling back to 1998 levels. This stark fact was underlined in the key message, at Fáilte Ireland’s End of Season Review and Outlook for 2011, that while tourism should recover somewhat in 2011, the performance of our biggest overseas market, namely Britain, would be central to the timing and scale of any recovery, yet Fáilte Ireland’s British office does not answer it’s Emails.
Total overseas visitor numbers fell by 15% in 2010 to 5.6m and foreign exchange earnings declined by 14% to €3.3bn. Domestic tourism trips declined by 4% (to 8m) in the same period and domestic revenue fell by 10% (to almost €1.3bn).
Are we now to rely on Fáilte Ireland to take Tipperary out of the “Doldrums.”? Are we to continue to depend on loss making Leader funded Halloween festivals and Arts Week festivals, which funnel revenue out of the county, to be our only source of development? Look at the funding doled out politically to the gateways to Ireland:- Waterford Tall Ships get €1.5 million, Dublin gets €2 million for British Tourism advertising, Killarney gets €7,000 for Killarney House Restoration, etc, etc, etc, County Tipperary gets €0, as is usual, except for paltry sums for booklets and the odd brochure. With the World Wide Web, the days of communicating using tourism booklets and brochures are long dead.
Speaking recently to several coach tour operators, I am informed that Bord Failte has not the slightest interest in promoting Tipperary, except for the Rock of Cashel.
Meanwhile, two communications sent by me to Leo Varadkar’s office,dated 12 May 2011 and 21st August 2011, resp.remain unacknowledged. My communications, it would appear, went to spam.
Meanwhile, on September 13th I communicated with email@example.com and yes an automated message was returned.
Thanks for getting in touch with us. We have received your message, and a Tourism Ireland team member will respond to your enquiry within 1 working day. Your message has been allocated tracking number 27066, etc. Thanks again for your enquiry.
I am still waiting for the one day promised reply.
Still one ray of hope now exists, emanating like a beacon from North Tipperary Co. Council office. The new tipperary.com website, the worlds most marketable host name, formally hijacked for one year by a Chinese Porn trading company, is to be unveiled to the world, in front of a few selected dignitaries, possibly at 5.00pm on Monday next, (If my “mole” in the camp is correct ).
Mayor Michéal Lowry has posted out the invites to this little Soiree, the tawny brown Vinho do Porto wine from the Douro Valley has been decanted, the Liebfraumilch (Latter literally translated “Virgin Mary’s milk.) is on ice, the Oak Smoked Boyne salmon has been thinly sliced and a non consulted Tipperary unwashed await the white smoke, with heads bowed facing north, their caps in hand.