Until today, I had not seen an inch of the Irish countryside even from the road. My first reaction was actually fairly underwhelming: this is just Tennessee with fewer mountains and a coastline. In fairness, I did still think that Ireland was beautiful, it was just beautiful in a way that was very familiar to me. There were large swaths of farms on hills, greenery in every direction, winding roads that had clearly been around far before the concept of automobiles, and the area had a certain blue collar charm about it.
Luckily, as we got further away from Dublin, things began to appear distinctively Irish. There were cobblestone walls, which I have seldom seen in the states, a ton of sheep, as opposed to the Tennessean cow and horse farms, though both those animals could be seen as well. Finally, upon arriving at the Cliffs of Moher, we were greeted with an absolutely gorgeous view, as well as a chilly, salted air blowing in from the Atlantic coast. What caught me off guard, however, was the sheer number of tourists at the cliffs. I have never really done tourism myself, so perhaps this was a typical amount of visitors; regardless, I was shocked as someone with no frame of reference. So, as I walked about the cliffs, observing the massive natural wonder before me, I pondered how such a relatively remote place could attract so many tourists, which is what led me to my next surprise of the day: the vast majority of the people I heard speak were Irish. Based on the sheer number of tourists, and given the relatively small size of Ireland, I assumed that the majority of them would be foreigners; again, I was wrong.
What did I learn from all of this? Well, to be frank, I am not sure; there are a lot of potential consequences and causes, positive and negative, related to monetizing a public attraction when one considers the makeup of that crowd’s population. For instance, I could argue that making money from such a tourist attraction would be extremely difficult if the majority of the crowd every day is Irish, as they would probably be far less likely to purchase overpriced knick-knacks from the visitor center. On the other hand, perhaps making a profit is less important to the Irish government than providing a cultural experience to the general populous, which as a whole, can create economic benefits for the government of Ireland long-term. There are several other hypotheticals I could run through, but I suppose my one summarized takeaway is this: tourism is extremely difficult to monetize, and moreover, may not be best used as a vehicle for profit maximization. Instead, tourism may have many different goals, each hard to achieve and each hard to predict success in.