ENJOYING the craic at the local may be top of the wish list of overseas visitors to Ireland.
But if current trends continue, foreigners may have a better chance of finding a decent Irish pub in their own country.
Demand for Irish-style boozers abroad is so high that, on average, one new Irish theme pub is opening up every three days.
The upward trend is in marked contrast to here, where more than 1,500 pubs have closed in the past five years.
But leading specialists who build and design Irish pubs abroad said business is still as brisk as it was in the boom years.
Mel McNally, who runs the long-established Irish Pub Company — an outfit that manufactures, designs and even ships over entire boozers around the world — said South America represents the next big growth market.
He said: “The market for Irish pubs abroad is still very active. I would say that at least 100 new Irish pubs a year are still being established outside Ireland, while we’d expect to set up 10 more ourselves over the next 12 months.
“Part of the reason for this is that a lot of countries abroad haven’t suffered the recession that Ireland has. But the Irish pub is such an established brand that it works well in any country. We recently set up a pub in Bucharest in Hungary and people there refer to pubs generally as ‘Irish pubs’. That tells its own story.”
McNally has designed and built hundreds of Irish-themed pubs in established markets such as Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, as well as more unlikely destinations such as India, the Middle East and even remote former Soviet states Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
But he thinks there are many untapped nations — particularly in South America — where the Irish pub phenomenon is on the verge of exploding. “Brazil could be a huge growth market, particularly as they are hosting the next World Cup,” he said.
Two days ago the Lonely Planet Ireland guidebook rated going to a pub as the best experience a tourist can have while in Ireland.
However, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said “crippling regulation” had decimated the industry.
Chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “More than 1,500 pubs have closed in the past five years and more pub closures and job losses are inevitable unless the Government acts to support this industry.”
Source: Nick Bramhill, irishexaminer.com