Sunday, 20th May 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

"So, why the long face?"

I haven’t morphed into Billy Connolly, Ronnie Corbett or Kevin Bridges. I’ve no intention of trying to make a living telling jokes. Unfortunately, I can’t ever remember the punchlines, of the many great ones I have been told, over the past countless years. If I had that capacity of retention, this would give me some semblance of a chance, to actually be allowed to play the "Joker" at parties, every now and again.

I do manage to learn, by rote, the odd one or two. Alas, if you are in my company, you may very well have heard my two favourites, a dozen or so times over. A wee man goes into a baker’s shop, on Sauchiehall Street (Glasgow). He asks the baker, "How much is yon cake?" "£1" is the reply. The man asks, "Whit aboot that cake?" "£1" is the reply. "An’ that wan?" pointing to a cream bun. "£1" is the reply. "An’ this wan ower therr?" "£2" is the reply. "Hey therr Jimmy, why the price difference?" asks the wee man. To which the baker replies "That’s ma’ Madeira cake," boom, boom!

"Why the long face?" refers of course to the punchline of a pub themed joke. Two horses go into a bar.....you’ll remember the rest yourself. It would probably be relevant to many of our present tourism providers, when we look at Waterford’s and the South East’s statistical share of inbound tourists. Like many one-time demographics, which though hidden in "Dusty" corners of that hyper-space behemoth, the internet, I and others manage to find. Which we can regularly quote as to just why we don’t fare as well, as other towns, cities and regions.

Last week, the Meitheal 2018 was taking place in "Ireland’s Biggest Hotel", City West. This hotel, just off the N7, is set in circa 240 acres. It has a convention centre that can accommodate over 4,000 delegates and an 18-hole golf course. What seems like "Millions" of car parking spaces and boasts over 760 bedrooms. Some of which are so far away from the hotel Reception, you quite literally need to hail a taxi cab, just to reach your leaba! Luckily for us, representing Waterford Camino, we were staying elsewhere, miles away from the madding crowds.

The convention centre was packed to the rafters. All manner of hotels, attractions and service providers in attendance. Neatly placed into sectors of this vast, imposing arena. Obviously, Waterford Camino were in situ, in "Ireland’s Ancient East" section, along with some of Waterford’s very best. We were surrounded by a much bigger army, whose allegiance was to "The Wild Atlantic Way". A tourism phenomenon, that has pulled, pushed and cajoled, millions of visitors to Ireland to "Go West!", as the Pet Shop Boys would have said.

"Ireland’s Ancient East", protagonists, were putting their best feet forward, against some extraordinarily tough opposition. We were middleweights, battling against seasoned heavyweights. Some would quite rightly argue, that a far larger proportion of Waterford’s providers should have been present. This was after all a chance to shine a light on, let’s face it, the "Quietist", least discovered County in Ireland. The buyers were lined up in their hundreds, from every conceivable corner of the globe. There in City West’s convention centre, to hear about and sample, the very best of what every unexplored corner, of this wee green isle, had to offer their paying customers. It was a chance to differentiate ourselves from the same old, same old.

The tourism story we can now tell, should reinforce our position, us as the most sought after, brightest jewel in our national tourism crown. Yet we see many a long face, when it comes to supporting and promoting the very essence that makes us unique. When seeing the sights are concerned, Waterford really does have it all. As we, The Waterford Camino Team waxed lyrically, during our brief 10-minute "Meet-the-buyer-slots", it was like speed dating. With added pressure, as the "Countdown" clock ticked away in the background. The shortest amount of time in the world, when you have to make a sales pitch, impress and agree follow-up timelines. Pressure cooker stuff indeed!

Our tourism future is bright. As a point of difference, we’re unique!

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