What do I think of The Gathering 2013? I think it is a fantastic idea.
Sorry Gabriel Byrne, I know, living as you do in New York, you don’t agree with me and you think we are shaking people down for money. But for me, living here in a small town in the west of Ireland where income and jobs are scarce, I for one won’t say no to seeing a few extra tourists around.The Gathering is a government backed initiative, intended to boost Ireland’s income from Tourism. “In 2013 Ireland will open it’s arms to friends and family all over the world, inviting them back to locally organised events in villages, towns and cities. Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish heritage. The Gathering provides the perfect excuse to reach out to those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants and invite them home.”
And do you know what? If one or two of those tourists happen to be long-lost relatives of mine from an ancestor who emigrated 100 years ago, then all the better because I would love to know that family history. Or if they are school friends of mine who had to emigrate with me from our even smaller town in the 1980s, then they are very welcome and I look forward to catching up and having a laugh. If they happen to be my brother who emigrated to Dubai a few years ago and has done far better for himself over there than he ever would have here, then I say fantastic to that!
There are thousands of events being organised all over the country to attract visitors from Ireland and abroad. Those tourists will spend some of their hard-earned money here for sure and that is part of the plan. But they bring much more than that to our country. Tourists bring life, vibrancy, and optimism to a town, especially to small towns. Knowing that visitors are coming can spur a town on to get the place cleaned up, tidied and looking it’s best. Events that are organised for visitors also cheer up the locals who get to partake too. And if us locals get to re-connect with distant family and friends then all the better for everyone involved.
I love to see tourists wandering through town. It means our local airport and accommodation providers have customers. Our shops and restaurants will hopefully benefit too. And sometimes I even see familiar things through different eyes when I see them through the eyes of a tourist (like Magnumlady’s visit here recently – loved her photos and barely recognised the town!). I smile and nod acknowledgement to the tourists I pass in town. Well I can’t have them going home saying the Irish redhead walked past with her head in the air, can I?
So well done to all of you involved in Gathering events. You’ve got up off your behinds and done something to improve your town or village. If we all do our bit we can improve the tourism industry here and that will have far-reaching effects for our economy, our outlook and our wellbeing.
And Gabriel, if you want to see what a Gathering event can do for small town Ireland, just give me a call. You can sleep on the sofa and I’ll chauffeur you around for a few days. It might just open your eyes to life here as well as life in New York.