British Queen, Obama put Irish tourism back on map

Sun May 29, 2011 1:12am EDT
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By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - After Barack Obama put it on the map by downing a gulp of Guinness, residents of the U.S. president's tiny ancestral home of Moneygall have spent the past week greeting busloads of tourists.

"It's still all happening. We're still buzzing," said Moneygall resident Marian Healy, whose son Henry welcomed his distant cousin Barack to the sleepy village during the president's day trip to Ireland last week.

"There was a busload of Japanese tourists this morning and there were Americans here earlier too, looking for Henry to have his photograph taken with them."

Restaurateurs, hoteliers and tour operators countrywide are now hoping for a "Moneygall effect" of their own.

Obama's morale-boosting stop-off, together with Queen Elizabeth's historic state visit just days earlier, have given Irish tourism a boost it desperately needed after three years of recession saw revenues and visitors drop by about a third.

After a record 1,200 foreign journalists arrived for the first visit of a British monarch since independence from London in 1921, global headlines took a rare positive turn -- a break from the relentless run of bad economic news that culminated in Ireland's IMF/EU bailout late last year.


The renewed interest in a country famed for its beautiful coastlines and rich literary history seems to be working.   Continued...

<p>U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an Irish celebration at College Green in Dublin May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing</p>