Local tourism trade is still a work in progress

Hugh Hickey believes Ireland is "too expensive" when it comes to attracting tourists. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Longford’s tourism trade is a topic that readily provokes public debate.

Longford’s tourism trade is a topic that readily provokes public debate.

One of the region’s most significant money spinning industries, it’s a practice which relies heavily on investment and sound economic performance.

Only last month, latest CSO figures hinted at a major turnaround and perhaps the country’s most productive year since the recession began.

On the back of that healthy prophecy, the Leader decided to put those forecasts to the test by paying a visit to the idyllic waterways of Clondra Harbour this week.

It was a move which threw up as many questions as it did answers.

“It’s much quieter,” said a startled looking Hugh Hickey as we collared him while tending to his boat along the shore.

“There’s lots of reasons. The weather has nothing to do with it. If you ask any of the Germans, French or Swiss, they never come here for the weather. It’s money and the price of things here. You can ask around, but I can guarantee every single one of them will say this country is too expensive. They can eat out for half the price at home.”

A matter of yards down the river, Andrew and Cecily Mellon could be seen readying themselves for the off as the storm clouds gathered overhead.

“This year we haven’t been using the canal too much,” said Andrew. “Last year we were on it a good bit and next year we are planning to go up to Dublin and down to the Grand Canal.”

Their companion, Harry Hall said despite the re-opening of the Royal Canal four years ago, several issues still remain.

“I think it is quieter than it has been. It (canal) opened in 2011 with a real flurry and the boats flooded in but the winter of 2011/12 really hit the boat owners in this country and an awful lot of damage was done.

“The only foreign tourists on the canal are the local boats and they go past Kenagh and up to Ballymahon and back. The biggest problem with the canal is the access for small boats as there is no slipways.”

Getting over that hurdle you feel, may be easier said than done.