Ireland’s ‘unfriendly welcome’ to tourists

Ireland remains out of touch with other European states when it comes to providing parking or other facilities for an increasing number of campervans or motorhomes.

Tourists travelling throughout the continent find an abundance of overnight parking areas with facilities, known in France as ‘aire de stationnement’ and referred to in English as ‘aires’.

Such tourists, it was claimed, are made very welcome in many European countries but not in Ireland.

In some areas they encounter strong opposition and are confronted with steel barriers and ‘temporary dwellings prohibited’ notices.

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Corkman Colin McCarthy, secretary of the Phoenix Motorhome Club said such behaviour leads to the loss of a potentially lucrative tourist market as there are more than one million motorhome-owners in Europe.

In the UK alone, there are 200,000 with a further 13,000 in Ireland.

“Many of these people are retired and have money to spend in pubs, shops and restaurants. They have to eat, drink and buy fuel and can spend up to a month touring in an area,” Mr McCarthy said.

“I can see the Wild Atlantic Way being a huge draw for them but the facilities are not here to cater for them. We’re way behind.”

Mr McCarthy said he recently spent three weeks in France, stopping overnight at a large number of towns and villages in Brittainy all which had dedicated parking for eight to 10 nightly.

He said traditional Irish caravan and camping parks which could charge €30 to €40 for an overnight stop, and which were geared for stops over a number of nights, were not what motorhome owners required.

“We generally like to stop in a place for one night and then move on,” he said.

He complimented the foresight of the now-abolished Cobh Town Council in Co Cork for providing “one of the best examples” of motorhome facilities in Ireland.

Ten parking bays were initially provided in an existing car park at The Five Foot Way and the county council is now in the process of adding a further 10. It is also hoped to provide fresh water and waste water facilities.

Various ranges of services are also offered to motorhomes in Midleton and Bandon in Co Cork; Sneem in Co Kerry and Ardmore, Co Waterford. Across Europe, local authorities have anti-camping bylaws while at the same time providing parking for motorhomes.

It is the effective use of this type of bylaw which ensures ‘aires’ remain simple parking areas and enables local law enforcement to ensure they do not degenerate into unofficial encampments with undesirable consequences for the local environment, said Mr McCarthy.

The organisation Motorcaravanning Ireland claimed councils have a lack of understanding about vehicle camping.

“In Europe, they have known for quite a while that camping can be defined and, if environmentally or socially inappropriate in an area, can be controlled through bylaws. The effect of this blunderbuss approach is that Ireland is perceived as being unfriendly to motorhome tourists,” said Motorcaravanning Ireland.

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