Whilst the rest of Ireland has had to get to grips with the reality of the global recession it seems that those active in the “tourist” industry in Bundoran thought they were oblivious to any perceived threat and that tourist loyalty would prevail. Major fail!
As someone who can remember the thronged streets, pubs, cafes and amusement arcades of yesteryear it comes, sadly, as no surprise that the Bundoran bubble has finally burst. Singularly memorable as a town which overcharges for everything it is surely in its dying throes. The town is currently bereft of visitors anywhere near the numbers of previous years. The pubs are largely empty and the number of vacant, derelict and abandoned business premises throughout the entire town is testament to their inability to adapt or incentivize to attract new visitors or retain return visitors.
Someone, somewhere, should surely have realized years ago that holidaying in the Algarve or the South of France (indeed anywhere in the Euro zone) was a more attractive prospect to holidaymakers from the North or South of Ireland than a windswept town on the Atlantic coast which charges you to park in its main street, its side streets, shopping centre car parks, cinema carparks, beach view carparks, swimming centre carparks and, I shit you not, the church car park (see above). It’s a fucking wonder that the petrol stations & drive through at the KFC haven’t introduced a parking fee!
The feel good holiday factor of Bundoran bit the dust at roughly the same time that its O’Gorman Arms Hotel did. For those not familiar with the O’Gorman Arms it was a hotel on the then edge of Bundoran which was family friendly and had proper “family entertainment” available most nights during the holiday season. It catered, in every sense of the word, for holiday makers and their families. Its demise came about at roughly the same time that the greed factor started creeping in.
Caravan park owners (already charging exorbitant ground rent rates by comparison to any other sites on the entire island) hit on the idea of forcing their static caravan / mobile home clients to upgrade their caravans / mobile homes to whatever they deemed necessary to stay on their particular site. Bizarrely the site owners always seemed to have a ready supply of the exact specification caravans / mobile homes available for their clients to buy. It was particularly galling that they would invoke some required change almost yearly resulting in the owners having to buy the new specification caravan / mobile home with the site owner offering them some sort of “cash” trade off against their “old” caravan / mobile home. This practice went on for several years until people realised that they were having the piss taken out of them and they started abandoning the caravan parks in droves (with no refund of their pre-paid annual ground rent).
The chickens have truly come home to roost. A cursory look at one caravan site at “the top of the town” on Sunday evening showed just four caravans occupied on an August bank holiday weekend.
The amusements, for years the bulwark of Bundorans’ attraction for families, are a sad reflection of their former selves. Dishevelled, lack lustre, grotty on the inside and overpriced they have become a haven for the pyjama wearing gambling single parent mothers of West Belfast who deign to toss their children the odd Euro to play what have to be the most obviously “rigged” crane games in Europe – if not the entire western civilization – whilst their errant partners prop up the bars blowing the rest of their DLA or “dole bonus”. Gone are the days when gleeful children could spend several hours beguiled in the amusements for little more than the cost of a single pint. A single pint which, incidentally, nowadays will leave you with precious little change from £5.00 in any Bundoran pub.
The “funfair” – next to the now derelict Astoria Ball room – is a joke. It is neither “fun” nor “fair”. The rides are grotty, overpriced, decidedly “third rate” and the whole experience has a feel of dangerous amateurism about it akin to someone having hired a cheap bouncy castle and trying to charge the neighbours a fortune to use it.
The one constant, from an occupancy perspective, are the surfers. They still come – as long as the Atlantic throws up waves they will come. They are not here because of Bundoran or any interest in or alliegance to Bundoran per se but rather as a direct result of natures quirk of having bestowed upon the surrounding shores some of the best surfing waves in the world.
Doubtless there is someone, somewhere, pondering how to charge people just to look at Bundorans’ one asset – the beauty of its natural settings. I anticipate in years to come that visitors / through traffic will be stopped some three miles outside of Bundoran and forced to buy genuine “Bundoran spectacularama 3D glasses™” in order that they might appreciate the spectacular beauty of its surrounds.
Might I suggest that the glasses be fitted with an 80’s retro button where people at least view, if not experience, Bundoran as it was in its heyday – before the profiteers and greed beyond all comprehension set about destroying what once was a holiday haven for families both young and old alike?
I doubt that any one of the several “comedy hypnotists” currently appearing in Bundoran at piss poorly, if at all, attended shows could convince me of the merits of coming back again.
Lesson: Adapt or die.