New Tourism Ireland Website Cost €3 Million

Tourism Ireland’s new website was designed by Hugo and Cata creative agency for a digital world.

At first glance it appears that the cat did most of the work, and a very well paid cat he is indeed, while Hugo did most of the talking.  But what a talker Hugo is,  persuading the Tourism Ireland management that a website should cost €2.5 million to design and build.

How appropriate for this pantomime.

Hugo and Cat

Let’s say the cat is on a hundred grand a year, which is good money by any standards in a time of austerity, especially when all you need to survive is the odd fish-bone.  This means that the moggy needed to spend 25 years working on the project, which, you’ll agree, uses up quite a few of his lives.

Two and a half million buckaroonies for a website isn’t chickenfeed. but hold on.  A man like Hugo would have no ordinary cat.  Any feline in his world would be the very cream of cat programmers, so let’s say he’s on a grand a day, because he’s worth it.   That means he spent 2,500 days developing this website.  Giving him weekends off to prowl the rooftops flashing the dosh at the lady cats — Loadsamoney!! — he still spent a full ten years on the job.  That must be a hell of a website, wouldn’t you think?

Well, yes, you would think so, but you’d be wrong.  This is the most confused, ill-functioning website you might ever have seen.  It starts nowhere and it goes nowhere.  It looks like somebody stole it and crashed it into a wall.   My dog has had better dinners.

If there’s a wrong way to do it, a right way to screw it up, nobody does it like us, and so, in their wisdom, the authorities awarded the contract to a London-based firm, rather than a local developer, even though their tender was not the lowest.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a firm simply because it’s based in London, but since there’s no shortage of developers in Ireland, it seems surprising that Tourism Ireland couldn’t find a single one that came within a whisker of Hugo and his feline friend.  Nobody was up to scratch.


Of course, the formidable managerial intellects at Tourism Ireland weren’t satisfied with spending the two and a half million on Hugo’s cat.  They also decided that they should buy the domain name from the Irish Times for half a million euros.

For some reason, they felt it was better to have an American domain representing Ireland than our own .ie extension.


I don’t know.  This doesn’t seem like a decision based on professional advice, but of course, as usual, I might be wrong.  I’d be very interested to hear what professional advice they had when they drew up the request for proposals.  Were any web professionals involved in preparing the tender documents?  What factors persuaded Tourism Ireland to award the contract to a company whose tender was not the lowest?  What personnel prepared the detailed specification ?  Did any external consultants assist in completion of the specification?  Did any external consultants assist in evaluation of the completed design to ensure compliance with the brief?  If so, who did these consultants work for?

So many questions.

One question has finally been answered, of course.

We now know that a cat can most certainly laugh.

laughing cat

39 thoughts on “New Tourism Ireland Website Cost €3 Million

  1. 2.5 million for a website, huh? And a half a million for the domain name? Words fail me. I did steal the background image though, makes a fine background on my desktop. Considering I run Linux Mint for an OS it’s somehow appropriate don’t you think? Except for the fact that this fine, functional, logical, user friendly, made in Ireland, operating system is free and I’m sure the background on that website is probably worth 125,000?

    Question: I can no longer subscribe to comments?

  2. I’ve had a look at Tourism Ireland’s website–includes the whole island–interesting….
    It’s a dog’s dinner. It’s like a school project. Then again, i wouldn’t expect anything else; and they forgot to mention the fucking rain.

  3. @Kirk. I’ve been using Linux Mint for years and it’s the best there is. Keep spreading the word.

    @bock. I just checked out the Tourism Ireland site and it is completely unusable. It breaks every convention in the book and it’s obvious that these guys ignore the most basic usability proinciples. In short it is a fucking mess. Hugo and Cat should spend a lot of time digesting the articles at before mugging the next muppet who gives them work. My cat could have built a better web site for a couple of slabs of Whiskas

    The site does not seem to work properly but then again I don’t know how it is supposed to work. Total piece of junk. People prefer simplicity and convention but the designers just want to show everyone how cool they are.

    I won’t be visiting the site again and I hope whoever commisioned it get lambasted in the media for such a waste of money

  4. Actually,

    I wonder do Tourism Ireland have to pay for ‘support’ of this site, cause thats usually an added cost.

  5. I imagine there’s some sort of support contract but I have no information on that. It would be interesting to know the precise sequence and timing of events. Were Tourism Ireland required to meet deadlines in developing the project? At what point did they sign off on it? Who was involved in that process? What testing did they carry out?

    And of course, what on earth were they thinking when they approved this nonsense?

  6. I, like many, am outraged at the amount spent. And brilliant blog post I have to say.

    I have tweeted to my techie friends and NOT ONE has any idea what cost 2.5 million for that site. The outside value is 35k.

    I will be on Highland Radio tomorrow (after 10am) about this outrageous sum & would love if you all who agree would listen in to and maybe even email your opinions to tonight or first thing tomorrow (Tuesday, 29th Jan).

    And for the owner of this blog, perhaps you would ring them (or email) (074-9125000) prior to 10am to get involved.

  7. There’s a very good reason why your techie friends can’t explain the price of this website, and that reason is very simple. The price is ridiculous. It’s absurd.

    Well done to Hugo and his cat for getting away with this joke, but no marks at all to Tourism Ireland for being such idiots.

  8. That annoying sticky note that pops when the page eventually loads, directs you to three other sites, one of which is itself!!!!! I reckon they were so overjoyed with the amount they scammed out of the tourist board, they went on a cruise and asked the babysitter to build the website while they were away. It hasn’t been tested on multiple browsers either. The fact that they got paid for not doing their job is just as infuriating.

  9. @Catherine I have tweeted to my techie friends and NOT ONE has any idea what cost 2.5 million for that site. The outside value is 35k.

    Your techie friends must not know much about web technology – the proper infrastructure needed to run a website on a large scale would cost many times that 35k figure alone, never mind the actual website development.

  10. The site maintenance and development are two separate issues. We have no figures for the running costs at the moment, but maybe you’d explain about the proper infrastructure needed to run that website.

  11. So, James Dunne, are you telling us that this badly designed, laborious and utterly nonsensical website has it’s very own infrastructure? Listen,. you may like talking out your arse but don’t expect us to have to listen to it. Why would Bord Failte need to host their own site? Why would they need to buy servers and webspace when they could just get it hosted. In fact, they could have done the whole thing on wordpress and saved themselves a fortune or, at the very least, hire someone competent who wouldn’t have charged them anywhere near that or 35K.

  12. Ok, James Dunne, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to call this a but further with you. You allude to the fact that you’re an expert on web development and design, which I sincerely doubt and you have defended the exorbitant fee paid for the website. Here’s my fairly expert take on the website.
    Point I. It loads slowly and doesn’t give immediate access. Once you type in the address, you also need to click on a link to get to the homepage. That’s just annoying and could’ve been done with floating script that only required to be closed if it was intrusive. With the amount of wasted space on this site, you could locate it in several different places without it getting in the way.
    Point II: €2. 5 million and I found two of the background images on a google image search!!!! I’m sure I could find the rest too, if I put any kind of time into it. They do credit the photographer but I can reuse these images for any other website. They haven’t even been watermarked, which is piss easy.
    Point III: Has any thought whatsoever gone into the navigation of this site? Any decent website designer will ensure that the user doesn’t have to resort to using the back button in the browser. The homepage should be accessible from everywhere. I found myself using the back buttons a lot and any designer worth his salt would ensure that use of browser directional buttons is unnecessary.
    In short, this is an abysmally bad website. I could understand the 35k pricetag, or even a bit more, if they had taken the trouble to travel around Ireland and get decent graphical content but they haven’t done that. You probably won’t come back on here and refute any of this but, should you deign to peruse this post again, it might just serve you to respond to these points.

  13. @JamesDunnel: the proper infrastructure needed to run a website on a large scale would cost many times that 35k figure alone, never mind the actual website development.

    That’s just not true and you know it! Managed hosting is not that expensive. Designing a website like that just does not cost 3.5 M, 2M o even 1M. I recently finished a project to integrate 32 SAP databases across 2 continents that took us 3 years and to do and it didn’t cost 3.5 M. You know that the real reason this “cost” 3.5M is because the budget was available, and it was hoovered up by the design agency, in much the same way as a gas will expand to fill available space.

  14. James — You’re losing credibility here. The people who know about these things don’t believe you, and neither do I.

    Could you please come back and defend your position?

  15. Just checked it out. It’s a complete disaster. I can’t navigate it at all.

    Somehow I stumbled upon restaurants in Limerick.
    They have Luigi Malones listed. That place is closed ages.


    “What factors persuaded Tourism Ireland to award the contract to a company whose tender was not the lowest?”
    Would it be the cronyism factor?

    This is daylight robbery.

  16. In fairness to them, at least they gave employment to whatever 12-year-old wrote the descriptions of the premises. There seems to be a number of notable exceptions from the list and I’m wondering if premises are expected to pay for inclusion in this rubbish website.

    Out of curiosity, I decided to compare its ranking on with this humble little blog which costs about two euros a week to run.

    Globally, BTR is ranked 291,727, which isn’t all that bad when you count the number of websites in the world. By comparison, Tourism Ireland ranks 113,040, much of which is probably residual from the period when the Irish Times kept the site alive.

    So there you have it. For an expenditure of 3 million euros, you can do slightly better than a small obscure blog run by volunteers with no budget.

    But you still get no link to the home page.

  17. So they’re including restaurants/pubs that are closed down a few years and not listing some notable others?

    This is all a bit of a shambles.

  18. Average Load Time for
    Slow (1.976 Seconds), 65% of sites are faster.

    Some other advice for the 3-million-euro men, from For all that money, you’d expect at the very least that they’d cover the bases and check the spelling.

    TOTAL_OBJECTS – Warning! The total number of objects on this page is 24 which by their number will dominate web page delay. Consider reducing this to a more reasonable number. Above 20 objects per page the overhead from dealing with the actual objects (description time and wait time) accounts for more than 80% of whole page latency. See Figure II-3: Relative distribution of latency components showing that object overhead dominates web page latency in Website Optimization Secrets for more details on how object overhead dominates web page latency. Combine, refine, and optimize your external objects. Replace graphic rollovers with CSS rollovers to speed display and minimize HTTP requests. Consider using CSS sprites to help consolidate decorative images. Using CSS techniques such as colored backgrounds, borders, or spacing instead of graphic techniques can reduce HTTP requests. Replace graphic text headers with CSS text headers to further reduce HTTP requests. Finally, consider optimizing parallel downloads by using different hostnames or a CDN to reduce object overhead.

    TOTAL_IMAGES – Caution. You have a moderate amount of images on this page (14 ). Consider using fewer images on the site or try reusing the same image in multiple pages to take advantage of caching. Using CSS techniques such as colored backgrounds, borders, or spacing instead of graphic techniques can help reduce HTTP requests.

    TOTAL_SIZE – Warning! The total size of this page is 748731 bytes, which will load in 154.02 seconds on a 56Kbps modem. Consider reducing total page size to less than 100K to achieve sub 20 second response times on 56K connections. Pages over 100K exceed most attention thresholds at 56Kbps, even with feedback. Consider optimizing your site with Website Optimization Secrets, Speed Up Your Site or contacting us about our optimization services.

    TOTAL_SCRIPT – Warning! The total number of external script files on this page is 7 , consider reducing this to a more reasonable number. Combine, refactor, and minify to optimize your JavaScript files. Ideally you should have one (or even embed scripts for high-traffic pages) on your pages. Consider suturing JavaScript files together at the server to minimize HTTP requests. Placing external JavaScript files at the bottom of your BODY, and CSS files in the HEAD enables progressive display in XHTML web pages.

    IMAGES_SIZE – Warning! The total size of your images is 636993 bytes, which is over 100K. Consider switch graphic formats to achive smaller file sizes (from JPEG to PNG for example). Finally, substitute CSS techniques for graphics techniques to create colored borders, backgrounds, and spacing.

    SCRIPT_SIZE – Warning! The total size of external your scripts is 94713 bytes, which is over 20K. Consider optimizing your JavaScript for size, combining them, and using HTTP compression where appropriate for any scripts placed in the HEAD of your documents. You can substitute CSS menus for JavaScript-based menus to minimize or even eliminate the use of JavaScript.

  19. I wasn’t suggesting that this utterly terrible website had it’s own infrastructure, Bock. I was merely suggesting that James Dunne seemed to be alluding to the fact that they had. could actually be held up as an example of how NOT to design a website. The big background images are a bad idea for a start. I will say right now that, given the information and graphics required, I could design a site that was 100 times better than this and it would be finished by Monday at the very latest, and I’m taking into account my normal Friday piss-up, therefore meaning that most of the work would be done with a hangover.

  20. I didn’t think you were suggesting that. The comment is in reply to James’s remarks about infrastructure.

    Anyway, his comment was a red herring, since the point at issue is the cost of the website and the poor standard of its design.

  21. Those involved work within a bubble.
    It’s a common methodology used successfully by top civil servants for years.
    Tourism Ireland link to eleven web sites. There are others they don’t link to.
    The new direction brought about by the Good Friday Agreement whereby north and South civil servants are forced to combine their efforts in getting things to work just may have been the location of the root that has presented as “”.
    A little peevishness in the civil service was bound to crop up.
    Dick-swinging happens even there.
    Not unlike the carry on displayed in Maggie Thatcher’s favourite sit-com “Yes Minister”.
    Today, displays a black space.

  22. Funny enough the €600 costs wouldn’t be far off the mark.
    Free google images
    c.€350 for a copy of Dreamweaver
    €100/annum hosting on Godaddy with sufficient BW
    €100 for five years domain registration (.com)
    Pro-bono development with doughnuts and coffee supplied.


  23. Have come out with any official comment regarding this pathetic excuse of a website? They are surely aware by now the ridiculous overspend (as I choke thinking of the figure) on this site and also the pretty unanimous feedback stating how poor this site really is?

  24. BTW, I contacted Tourism Ireland to tell them their site was crap and just a tad over priced and that there is plenty of decent design agencies in Ireland and here is the official reply;

    – – – – – –
    Many thanks for taking the time to write to us about the development of

    Just so you know, Tourism Ireland’s web development services were the subject of an EU-wide tender process, through the Official Journal for the European Union, which provides equal opportunity for firms throughout the European Union. We are legally obliged to advertise all national level and European Union (EU) level tender opportunities via the public procurement portal run by the Department of Finance ( and to award contracts in line with public procurement legislation. Any Irish company with the requisite skills is eligible to apply for any tender opportunity advertised.

    The successful company on this occasion, Hugo & Cat, was adjudged to provide the best combination of capability and value for money. An advertised contract must be awarded to the highest-scoring tender, based on evaluation of all the qualifying tenders received, against the stated award criteria. To award contracts on the basis of either nationality or location would be biased, unfair and illegal. It is worth remembering that many Irish companies also benefit greatly from being awarded contracts advertised in other countries within the EU.

    Hope this background about the decision is useful to you, Mr O’Connor. Many thanks for your interest in the work of Tourism Ireland to promote the island of Ireland overseas.
    – – – – – –

    HaHa, some joke.

  25. Noel: The mind boggles here, I would love to have seen the other bids and proposals, it would make for some reading in to the state of the Irish education system if this was the best in both value and skills they could get.

  26. Re: the boilerplate tendering bumph.

    “…contract must be awarded to the highest-scoring tender, based on evaluation … against the stated award criteria.”

    So, given it is public monies involved and in the interest of transparancy and openess:
    What were the key award criteria and weightings of same?
    Was a written submission required on each of the tenderers to provide these criteria?
    Or was this award criteria information collated by the Purchasing Dept.?
    What did the winner score on each and can we see the others (even with redacted names would be useful)?
    Were peer approved and qualified subject matter experts involved in judging the criteria?
    If not, what personnel were involved and have they had previous experience on digital domain tendering?

    Curiouser and curiouser….

  27. You would think after all this time they might have done some sort of audit on their website, especially after defending it so much when the criticism kicked off.. I ran an on-site seo report on the site.. here is some of the results.

    107 Broken links, 8 timeout errors, 14 pages with too many links, 10 meta descriptions empty, 37 meta descriptions too short, 12 duplicate meta tags, 104 image problems,

    Altogether, there are 576 issues showing on the report, not looking too good for the money that was spent on the site.

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