Trish Morrissey: Great time to look for silver lining in this ash cloud
THE summer of 2010 looks like being a summer of discontent -- travelwise, that is -- with experts predicting we could be in for months of disruption -- thanks to the volcano which caused dense levels of ash cloud to encroach on Irish airspace again this week, resulting in Irish airspace being closed for another two days.
Many tourism experts now believe that, for aviation and tourism, this is 9/11 and the foot and mouth problems rolled into one. One thing is sure -- if you're planning a holiday for the summer, uncertainty is the one thing you don't want.
Apart from the financial implications, such uncertainty causes stress and worry for travellers and havoc for those planning a family holiday.
Just try explaining to a four and six-year-old that you're not going to Disney, for that holiday of a lifetime, after all -- because the Eyjafjallajokull has erupted and planes can't fly! Or imagine being stuck in an airport abroad with them for two days, trying to get home. Rather you than me.
We may not be able to rely on flights out of Ireland for holidays this summer, but, looking on the bright side, this gives us a unique opportunity to open our eyes to the wonderful island we live on and explore all of the fabulous holiday potential it holds, whatever your interests.
For those who holiday in Ireland regularly, its business as usual -- but for hundreds of thousands of others, staying at home for the "summer holidays" is an alien concept, and means seeing Ireland again through a tourist's eyes.
The most recent Failte Ireland visitor satisfaction survey confirms that overseas visitors come here, clearly not for the weather, but for the friendliness of the people and the scenery. Why don't we just enjoy these ourselves?
Most people cite two main concerns about holidaying in Ireland -- the weather and the cost. The reality is that, on both fronts, there never has been a better time for the Irish to become tourists in their own land.
And, while we can't do anything about the weather, the long-range weather forecast is for the warmest and driest summer for many years. We'll believe it when we see it, I hear you cry.
In terms of cost, there's better value to be had in accommodation and restaurants across Ireland than ever before: self- catering prices have not increased since 2005 and hotels have never offered better deals.
And, not only will those staying at home discover (or re-discover) Ireland's beauty, they will also be helping keep jobs in the tourism industry and the in country, spending their hard-earned cash in the local shops and on local tourist attractions.
The biggest gripe of all is usually the price of eating out and food -- however, I think over the last year or so, all around the county, there is real value for money to be had, not just gimmicks.
On a recent visit to Kerry, I ate in a one-star Michelin restaurant in Killarney, where the menu was €38 for 3 courses! While in Dingle I had the best oysters and seafood risotto I have ever tasted -- for €25!
I honestly have never tasted anything so good in Spain or Italy. And, the price of a pint outside the Pale is cheaper too; in Killorglin a pint of Guinness was €3.85, compared to €5.50 in Dublin City.
So, if you want to plan your holiday with any certainty this year -- have a look at staying at home and enjoying Ireland. But, get your skates on -- because the deals are there now and if that sun does shine, there is no place like this on earth, and there won't be a bed to be had in July and August, just like the good old days!