The Irish Tourist Board is working furiously to clear up misconceptions surrounding the foot-and-mouth crisis among potential tourists, engaging in an “assurance campaign” to convince the U.S. that Ireland is just as safe and attractive a destination as ever.
Jim McGuigan, executive vice president of the Irish Tourist Board in New York, explains that many Americans are confusing this epidemic, which only afflicts cloven-hoofed animals, with mad-cow disease, which humans can catch from eating tainted beef. Rumors that attractions in Ireland are being closed due to fear of the epidemic spreading has also deterred some tourists.
Orla Carey, Irish Tourist Board spokeswoman, in speculating on the impact the epidemic has had on Americans pointed out, “You have two things – one, they think, `If I go I’ll catch this,’ and two, `If I go there’s not going to be anything for me to do.’ Neither one of them are true. They can’t catch it and nobody is going to Ireland and not having enough to do.”
So far there has been only one confirmed case of foot-and-mouth in Ireland and more than ninety percent of the attractions are open for business.
The Sunday Business Post reported that the foot-and-mouth crisis could cost Ireland £500 million in lost revenue and 20,000 jobs in tourism, and Irish Tourism Minister Jim McDaid admitted that the industry was facing a major crisis. According to figures published by the Tourist Board, Americans make up 42% of bed nights in Irish hotels and spend close to 48% more than other tourists in Ireland. ♦