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Is Killarney dealing with “over tourism”?

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Now this column prides itself on being sometimes ahead of the curve, nationally. Not that we do pride very well. Mostly we try to avoid what until recently at least was the greatest of sins and most offensive types of behaviour, in Christian as well as pagan cultures.

Anyway, imagine my surprise, after going for a breath of French air, to find the very issues raised in this publication not only touched on, but the main spread in the oldest and national daily in France, Le Fiagaro, last weekend.

“La Saturation menace les sites touristiques francais,” Figaro thundered on the front page. And this was followed by three full inside pages of analysis on Saturdays when the paper is at a premium of €5.30 and is most regarded. The article pulled no punches.

While the world focus is on Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice, all of whom are taking measures to limit the number of visitors, tourist sites around the world are threatened. Already, popular French sites like Mont St Michel, villages that are marked as the prettiest in France and the Eiffel Tower itself are overwhelmed – it uses the word “hordes” of tourists.

The figures are stark. Today 95 per cent of tourists visit less than 5 per cent of the planet. Natural sites, historical sites and parks are declining as a result, and locals are getting angrier and angrier, Le Figaro has found.

The problems in the medieval walled city Carcassonne are immense and echo some of ours in Kerry.

Parking is a huge problem. So, too, toilets. Elsewhere towns and villages are taken over by just restaurants and bars and tourist shops and life is uncomfortable for locals and tourist alike. Carcassonne is spending €300,000 now on new public toilets and laying out a new car park outside the walls.

But the golden egg is being killed, the articles are warning. According to one craftsman in Carcassonne, he sells more in April when there are fewer tourists than in August when there are several times the numbers.

The figures Figaro presents are gob-smacking. In 1980, around the first time I visited France, the country got 30.1 million overseas visitors. Last year there were 87 million.

In Ireland our figures have increased by close to 3 million in ten years and we now get more than 9 million overseas tourists a year. But is there one extra car space at Torc? For that matter, are there three times the car spaces in Killarney? Are there more toilets in Inch?

Figaro has come up with a new term “surtourism” which I care to translate as “over tourism”, as in over-production in the farming sector. Figaro’s conclusion is governments are closing their eyes to the problems being posed. And in France, as in Ireland, the tourism strategy is to attract more and more overseas tourists and up the numbers.

Nobody is addressing the problems of saturation, it finds. And for the most part the problems are being ignored, and being shied away from by political leaders as well as industry leaders. We are to pretend the same sites that welcomed 500,000 can now cope with three times that number without blinking!

It also concludes, as argued in this column, that trying to spread the tourists to other sites (like the pound of butter) is not the solution because most tourists want to go to the well-known place. The challenge is limiting numbers, providing facilities and safeguarding the product.

Few serious newspapers are taking a serious look at the problem or looking properly at tourism, a major industry.

But, it seems, the Killarney Advertiser and the oldest newspaper in France have raised the thorny issue no one else wants to address. And it should be noted that while tourism is now Ireland’s major industry, it is so little seriously taken that a tourism ministry is a minor thing and no major newspaper or broadcaster has a tourism correspondent to monitor it. To paraphrase Leo, the gossip and whispers in the corridors of Leinster house has dozens of correspondents focussing on the rumour mill.

Now if only I could write better in French; Figaro and the Advertiser could have a twinning!

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The Irish investment market is pathetic

By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com    I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations. But over the last few weeks I […]

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By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com   

I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations.

But over the last few weeks I have been putting together several investment strategies for Irish-domiciled clients. It has been eye-opening, to say the least.

In short, most of the Irish market appears to be dominated by a handful of life insurance companies that offer ‘wrapped’ Multi Asset Funds. This means they offer a basket of stocks, bonds, property etc., all within one investment.

Irish Life’s MAPs 4 multi-asset fund states a standard annual management charge of 1.15%. A bit on the higher side for my liking, but this is still manageable.

But when you dig a little deeper, the KID documents (where all fees have to be fully disclosed as part of UCITS regulations) show the fee as 2.2%.

Double the quoted price

As an added bonus, they lock your money up for seven years, where an early encashment charge is waiting for those who wish to withdraw their money early. That’s right, they charge YOU for making your money inaccessible.

This lock-up period is a shrewd business tactic. An exit charge is an excellent way to ensure customers don’t leave when they realise how poor the performance is.

Too late, you’re trapped.

Performance

Fees become more digestible provided the performance is strong, but unfortunately, the misery continues.

The Irish Life MAPS 4 Portfolio has an annual return of 1.63% a year over the last five years. Granted, this was a challenging market climate to navigate, but falling below even the lowest expectations of inflation means that this fund has returned negative real returns after inflation over the last five years.

A similar 60/40 portfolio made up of passive index funds (S&P 500 and US T bonds) would have returned roughly 6.5% a year over the same period for a fee of roughly 0.1%.

We can go round and round in circles regarding the ‘risk adjusted’ approach and the added ‘diversification’ of the multi-asset fund versus the 60/40 portfolio I have shown. But the reality is much of this so-called diversification is over-engineering for an extra cost for many long term investors.

So, how can such pathetic offerings still exist in a system where low-cost operators such as De Giro are providing endless ETF options and commission-free trades that provide access to market returns at a fraction of the price?

Two reasons spring to mind

Firstly, the Irish retail investment scene is built on a financial broker commission system where unsuspecting customers are shoved into these products by ‘financial planners’ who receive kickbacks and commissions from these investment companies. You think you’re getting free investment advice; believe me, you’re not.

Second, the tax treatment of ETF structures is comical in Ireland, and US ETFs aren’t even an investment option. A 41% exit tax and an eight-year deemed disposal rule leaves investors stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Choose an overpriced, underperforming product that locks your money away for multiple years or choose the cheaper, better-performing product and suffer the tax consequences.

Bizarrely, investors are forced to make decisions based on preferential tax treatment rather than on the underlying investment’s merits.

I have gone into much more detail on the tax treatment and investment options in Ireland on my website. Just scan the QR code.

If you would like me to independently review your investment portfolio, just send me an email at mike@theislandinvestor.com.

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Rebel lights delight for Killarney star

By Con Dennehy The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball […]

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By Con Dennehy

The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball championships.

Attracting all the leading players in Ireland, it was Sarah Dineen, the Spa/Killarney player who shot out the Rebel lights in Conna with a phenomenal display of handball.

Competing in the highly competitive Ladies Challenger championship, the Killarney player, who took up the sport just 18 months ago, had the perfect start in the competition defeating the home town favourite Agnes Hurley from Conna on a 21-20 scoreline following an energy sapping and close encounter that hung in the balance to the final ace.

In her second game she took on the challenge of Nolwenn Even from St Brigids where her skill, superior fitness and movement on the court resulted in the 21-12 victory and a place in the prestigious final.

“The final was always going to be a difficult game not least playing local girl Kate O’Riordan from Conna. I concentrated on my serve and kill shots which ensured we shared the aces early in the game. It was a difficult game with the home supporters out in force to cheer on their local hero. However, I played well and secured a 21-11 victory. This was the second time this title came to Spa Killarney following the 2022 win by Aoife Walsh in Northern Ireland,” said Sarah, who is currently chairperson of the Killarney Camogie Club.

A native of Westmeath, Sarah (46) runs a jewellery business in Killarney and lives in Rathmore. No stranger to competitive sport she played camogie for Westmeath and Leinster and also won an Intermediate championship Gaelic football medal in Westmeath.

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