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Irish folk friendliest on planet, says guide

Country tops poll while tourism boom continues

By Victoria O'Hara

Irish people have been named the friendliest in the world, according to a leading travel guide.

After topping the poll, Lonely Planet said visitors to the Emerald Isle, north and south, are "in for a treat" as the Irish have "a welcoming attitude towards strangers".

The guide's Bluelist 2008 said that with the end of The Troubles' "a cautious optimism reigns supreme, infecting the land once again with the sense that anything's possible."

The Irish people are also described in the list as after "centuries of turmoil, conquest and famine - and subsequent immigration" having " a deliciously dark sense of humour".

Lonely Planet said the Irish were also able to find 'craic' in boom or bust eras.

Tourism in the north has been booming since the first IRA ceasefire in 1994.

Tourism records are being broken in Northern Ireland every year with ever increasing numbers visiting, not just from other parts of the UK, but from right across the world.

And the inclusion of the province in the Lonely Planet Guide and its description of Belfast as a "must see" destination is thought to have had a lot to do with its increased popularity - together with an ever growing list of European routes set up by the budget airlines.

In August, Northern Ireland ranked 19th in the top 50 UK holiday destinations - ahead of such well-known destinations as Devon and Cornwall according to a study by data experts search engine

Top class hotels and restaurants are shooting up across the city.

Last year Easyjet said the city has a particularly large number of visitors from the north of England and Scotland.

And recent figures released by the Belfast Visitor Convention Bureau have revealed that the number of tourists visiting Belfast has increased five-fold since 1994.

The figures showed that in 2006, Belfast played host to 6.8 million visitors.

In the same year, 66% of visitors to Northern Ireland as a whole were from Britain.

Also in the top 10 of friendly countries was Scotland.

The guide said that the Scots' "fighting spirit against insurmountable odds has left them with an extrovert, buoyant demeanour and a blackly humorous nationalism".

The second most-friendly country was reckoned to be the USA, with Malawi third.

Other nations in the top 10 included Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey and Samoa.

Lonely Travel Bluelist 2008 is published by Lonely Planet

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