Texas Backpackers Head for Irish Stardom

(CBS)
Three Texan backpackers who were refused entry into Ireland last week are set to make their triumphant return to the country — as instant celebrities.

The young men, dubbed the "Plano 3" by local media in Ireland, have received requests for multiple interviews and have even inspired an ad campaign with their story, which was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

A local hotel group has offered the travelers an all-expenses-paid trip in hopes of correcting the "misunderstanding."

"Tourism is and always has been a major part of our economy, and Ireland has always been one of the premier destinations in the world for American tourists," Anthony Kelly of D4 Hotels told the newspaper. "We need them to continue to come to Ireland and we enjoy it when they come here."

Colin Zwirko, 21, Gavin Sides, 19, and Ben Whitehurst, 21, arrived in Dublin on July 3, planning to start a backpacking trip across Western Europe, but airport officials sent them home when they were unable to provide an address where they planned to stay in Dublin or bank statements to prove they could afford the trip.

"We learned it the hard way. We recognize now that we were less prepared than we should have been," Zwirko told an Irish radio show. He added that he was "blown away" by Kelly's offer, which includes airfare, a week-long hotel stay, food, and sightseeing.