Felicity Long
Felicity Long

The economic boom in Ireland of the 1990s was one of the most dramatic in Europe during the decade, fueling an exciting growth in tourism infrastructure on an island that only a few decades before had been mired in deep recession.

The growth was so rapid and so robust that it became known as the Celtic Tiger, and for the many Americans who have genetic ties to the Emerald Isle, the newfound prosperity was especially gratifying. After all, Ireland had been poor before, particularly during the Great Hunger in the mid-19th century and more recently in the 1980s.

Sadly, the boom seems to have gone bust with a rapidity that, while not quite as extreme as in Iceland, has nonetheless been breathtaking.

Unfortunately, the reversal has affected tourism, with an islandwide drop of 3% in 2008. The drop was even more dramatic in the southern part of the island, below Dublin and Galway.

In light of that discouraging news, Tourism Ireland has come out swinging with a new "Go Where Ireland Takes You" TV campaign as well as print and online promotions and trade events.

Last week’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was broadcast from Dublin on NBC’s "Today" show to an estimated 8 million television viewers and many more online.

In addition to promoting inbound travel, the tourism board hopes its new efforts will "position Ireland for the economic upturn, which we all hope is around the corner," said Joe Byrne, executive vice president, Tourism Ireland North America.

With the energized campaign and Aer Lingus offering New York-to-Dublin one-way fares that start at $199, we agree. In fact, we’ll go one step further and predict that the Celtic Tiger isn’t dead, it’s only sleeping.

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