While we have had many bad years lately, the lift experienced by the Tall Ships should hopefully carry us forward for the coming months. Spirits in what has been a depressed city due to joblessness have risen. As one hotelier put it, the opportunities created must not be allowed to drift. We have now seen how Waterford can compete on a tourism front with other major locations like Kerry and Galway.
RTE did a fantastic job raising the profile of Waterford during the festival and really brought the numbers down to the city. One trader told us that there were people coming from the border counties to see the ships as they were so impressed with what they heard from the national broadcaster. Well done to Des Whelan, Chariman of the Festival, City Manager, Michael Walsh, their committees, volunteers and staff. A spark may have been lit under the city, it is now up to us to build on it.
The Waterford weather was fantastic. We joked with the RTE weather man that we had a micro climate down here that beats national forecasts and the prophecy proved correct. The fine weather brought down huge numbers for Friday and Saturday, where estimates were put at 150,000.
Many remarked on the tremendous atmosphere created by the festival. Walking around on Saturday afternoon, you could sense the good feeling in the air despite the large crowds. We were talking to other organisers of special events and they were extremely impressed with the organisation from the parking to the policing.
The only worry was the late night bus after the fireworks but people managed to get around this problem as the Gardai were more relaxed at the cordon as young people had to be collected. Taxis also helped out. The hospitality industry did a roaring trade and given the tough year to date, they certainly needed it. Retailers may moan the lack of customer at other parts of the city but with the extra spending power left in Waterford, they might get a lift in the coming weeks as people who had to work extra might have more to spend.
Can the positive spirit be retained? An ESRI economist said this week that if the Government told the people how much property and water tax they might have to pay in next three years it would be better. We would know where we stand and can plan accordingly. Fear and uncertainty need to be removed. Can we bring festival positivity into the real world afterwards? That is a challenge.