‘Sure you’d be in Spain for less’
Holidaying in Ireland will never be the same experience as going abroad – why else would we go? But in 2020 Ireland is what we have, so we need to pick out the good bits, writes Amii McKeever

The word “staycation” is used to the vexation of many, as it is Americas who “vacation”. We go on “holidays” so Irish people actually “holistay” (apparently). And if you want to be very pedantic, although many consider a staycation/holistay to be when you holiday in your own country, it is really when you stay in your own house and day trip to the local attractions.

“I come to Ireland on holiday for the beautiful weather,” said no visitor to Ireland ever. And you can hardly blame them when we, the Irish, leave en masse each and every summer to try capture some much-needed vitamin D. Or at least we did in the summer’s pre-COVID-19.

And as sure as you will hear a complaint about the weather, a “holiday at home” conversation will also include the line “holidaying in Ireland is not cheap”. Just this weekend, a sun-worshipping relative told me that they weren’t going anywhere; “couldn’t justify spending that kind of money in Ireland”.

When Fáilte Ireland launched their food and drink strategy to 2023, the body acknowledged that we are not yet considered a food destination either. Our good food offered more of a pleasant surprise as opposed to a reason to come here in the first place.

They come for the friendly Irish people, the beautiful scenery, the fact that it is safe and secure and to explore

So if they don’t come for the food and they don’t come for our “beautiful weather”, and “Sure you’d be in Spain for less”, why do they come? In May 2019 I wrote about holidaying at home. The piece was about how agriculture – specifically the suckler cow – contributed to the maintenance of the Irish landscape as well as the preservation of the social and cultural fabric of rural communities. And according to Fáilte Ireland, it is for these exact reasons that international tourists travel here. They come for the friendly Irish people, the beautiful scenery, the fact that it is safe and secure and to explore the history and culture which we have in abundance.

Food has become a focal point of a trip, whether you are staying in your own house and exploring locally or staying in a hotel a little further away

But if you are a sun worshipper who is not into adventure sports and is instantly bored by history, a holiday in Ireland may not float your boat. That said everyone has to eat. With the lack of social outlets, and confined to our homes, we were all thrilled to get that first meal out when restrictions eased a little. Food has become a focal point of a trip, whether you are staying in your own house and exploring locally or staying in a hotel a little further away.

When restrictions were eased the first meal I had out was so disappointing I could have cried

But for people to enjoy their holistay they need to be able to access good food in a safe friendly environment within a budget suitable for their family. This is an opportunity for hotels and restaurants as this could be what the trip is benchmarked against, unless the sun starts splitting the stones. When restrictions were eased the first meal I had out was so disappointing I could have cried, but I didn’t have to wash up so it was a case of “grin and bear”. My daughter asked the other day to go back to the same place for her birthday. I was reluctant but it was her day so I agreed. And it was great. I have put the original trip down to teething problems on reopening and I am glad we gave it a second chance.

We cannot compare an Irish holiday with a package trip to Spain or Portugal. The offering is completely different. We can try to appreciate the good bits, the food being one. And the sun worshipper will have to seek out some tapas.

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