'Our tourism secret is that we smile so much,' reveals Gay Byrne
BROADCASTER Gay Byrne says people in most other countries are "grumpy" to tourists and Ireland wins as a tourist destination because we are a nation of smilers.
"Our secret is that we smile," said Byrne, who was in the north-west to launch a new Donegal tourism brochure at Glenveagh Castle.
"What people don't realise is that very often we Irish don't smile at each other but we are very good at smiling at strangers.
"Other nationalities tend not to smile as much or at all. They're grumpy in their service. They don't do it very well unless they are well paid to do it.
"But the ability we have in Ireland is not necessarily to smile at each other.
"Just the little welcomes we have 'How are you doing?', 'Is there anything we can do to help you?', 'Are you having a good time?'. That's what people appreciate when they come to Ireland.
"You realise that everybody who comes here is your advertising agent because they are going back to everyone to tell them what they have found.
"If they found a welcome and smiling and hospitality then that's it. Smile - the welcome counts for everything," he said.
Byrne also revealed how he refused to buy a house in Donegal five times before "finally giving in".
The couple have had a holiday home near Dungloe in the west of the county.
"A friend was left a house in the area and Kathleen and I began going to Donegal to stay with them for a week every year," said Gaybo.
"There was a local estate agent and every year for five years he would come to us and tell us about this cottage just further up the lane and how it still hadn't been sold.
"We had returned from Manchester and London and I kept saying I needed a house in Donegal like a hole in the head.
"But eventually we relented and we bought it and it was the best decision we ever made.
"We love our home in Donegal; all the children and grandchildren love it too and we've never regretted a day since."
Donegal County Council Chief Executive and Chairman of Donegal Tourism Seamus Neely said Gaybo had become one of the county's greatest ambassadors.
He said 20,000 new brochures for the county had been published and distributed worldwide via Tourism Ireland.