Tuesday, 22 February 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Kavanagh: asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he will reduce air, boat and car ferry fares drastically to encourage the return to Ireland for the holiday season of tourists and Irish people working abroad, particularly in Britain.
Mr. O'Donnell: asked the Minister for Transport and Power whether he has taken or proposes to take any steps to ensure that the transport sectors, public and private, reduce their fares and co-ordinate their services  so as to make the best possible contribution to the tourist industry this year.
I explained, in reply to questions by Deputy O'Donnell on 8th February, some of the considerations that arise in regard to the settlement of fares by sea and air to Ireland. The transport sector of the tourist industry is very conscious of the need to keep fares as low as possible so as to attract additional business for their own services and additional tourist traffic for the country. In all cases the economics of operation must be taken into account and the fare structures must be related to the companies' costs and commitments. In addition, there are international obligations which cannot be ignored. I am continuing to examine the problems involved bearing in mind the constraints I have mentioned and the need for the most vigorous action to attract additional traffic in the coming season.
In the meantime, I should point out that there is an extensive range of excursion fares, special interest rates, group rates and other forms of incentive fares which effectively reduce travel costs for many visitors. In addition, the transport companies, in cooperation with Bord Fáilte, are combining with coach companies, car-hire firms and hotels, guesthouses and farmhouses to offer a series of very competitive package holidays. These are based on very substantial concessions on published travel and accommodation rates and I am confident that they will prove highly attractive, particularly in the Irish ethnic market.
Mr. O'Donnell: Could the Minister say whether there is any possibility of his implementing the suggestion I put to him a couple of weeks ago to link up the present low rail fare structure in CIE with Aer Lingus, the B & I and cross-Channel to have a kind of through fare? The Minister undertook to investigate that possibility and is it, or is it not, possible?
Mr. B. Lenihan: At 4.30 p.m. I am meeting the chairman and the chief executives of all the carrier and tourist State-sponsored organisations, the B & I, CIE, Bord Fáilte, to discuss this and other related matters in an effort to improve the situation.
Mr. B. Lenihan: Aer Lingus are in the particular situation in which they have the IATA constraints by reason of their international obligations to that organisation. These do not apply to either the B & I or CIE and it is in this area I see the greatest scope for improvement in the fare structure. We will be discussing it this afternoon.
Mr. B. Lenihan: This is another matter that will be under discussion this afternoon. I am concerned with this area because it is by offering attractive packages that we can help, packages in which the transfer fare aspect is the big consideration.
I am informed by the board that the “Discover Ireland” campaign has so far drawn a significant number of inquiries to the regional tourism offices for information on Irish holiday programmes. The indications are that greater numbers of Irish people are likely to take their main holidays in Ireland this year.
In the case of the promotion of ethnic traffic from Britain, the board have indicated that this campaign is now properly underway and will run for a period of at least four months. It is at present too soon to make any assessment of the outcome.
Staff from some of the regional tourism organisations have been involved in Britain in special promotional work in relation to angling since 1st January last. Staff from nearly all regions went to Britain yesterday to take part in the ethnic promotional campaign.
Mr. O'Donnell: In relation to the ethnic campaign in Britain, could the Minister say if the campaign has now reached the stage at which it is possible for any Irish group in any part of Britain to get immediate information and advice? I have had a number of inquiries from Irish groups in Britain in the last week seeking certain information and what advice does one give to Irish groups in Britain at this stage?
Mr. L'Estrange: Surely the Minister is well aware that the intimidation taking place in this country at the present time will not help this campaign and surely he will agree that, instead of the Government playing on the emotions of the people, they should cut out their antics and send back our Ambassador and that would do more to encourage goodwill——
Mr. O'Donnell: This is a vitally important matter and could the Minister say is there any possibility of the television advertisements being improved because the reaction to them has not been good? The advertisements are not up to the mark.
Mr. Donegan: asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he has any plans for the rescue of hotel companies and hotel proprietors in financial difficulties as a result of the current political situation in this island.
Mr. B. Lenihan: The situation in Northern Ireland has had a damaging effect on tourism prospects for the coming season and many sectors of the tourist industry, including hotel interests, are naturally concerned about the effects of a fall in tourist traffic on their financial position. I have already given the Dáil, in reply to other recent questions, details of the measures being taken to counteract the problems involved. An intensified campaign is being operated in those markets likely to prove most responsive at the present time, particularly the European market and the ethnic markets in Britain and North America. Deputies will be aware that a co-ordinated home holidays campaign is now in progress. I expect that these campaigns will result in a significant number of additional bookings to compensate for those lost in the traditional markets in Britain and Northern Ireland.
These matters are receiving my constant attention and I am in very close touch with all interests involved. I know that Bord Fáilte are in consultation with the Irish Hotels Federation about the position and I expect to meet representatives of the federation shortly to have a general review of the situation and to consider what further  measures can be taken to deal with the problems of the coming tourist season.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): As a further incentive towards encouraging people to come here on holiday would the Minister do something to ensure that hotel charges would be realistic, in particular, those hotels under his jurisdiction? I understand that CIE hotels have issued brochures recently which show charges of more than £50 per person per week, exclusive of lunch. Would the Minister not agree that such a charge is absurd and is calculated to chase people out of the country and to prevent others from coming here?
Dr. FitzGerald: While recognising the steps being taken to try to retrieve the position and to encourage people to take holidays here, the Minister will, I am sure, agree that these efforts will  not prove successful for every hotel. Would the Minister agree that there may be a need at the end of the season to consider special measures for the purpose of ensuring that some hotels do not go out of business by reason of circumstances outside their control?
Mr. B. Lenihan: SFADCo, in collaboration with Bord Fáilte, are at present engaged in tourism promotion work in Britain, where a full time sales officer is stationed. The company's main effort in Britain in 1972 is in promotion of special holiday services into Shannon with emphasis particularly on farm house holidays and the Rent-an-Irish Cottage Scheme. For ethnic promotion purposes, the company have prepared a special brochure entitled “Shannon Gateway”, the main feature of which is information on transfer services from Shannon to all points in the west and south west.
Mr. B. Lenihan: The level of activity undertaken by CIE in promoting their tourism business in Britain is a matter for the board. I am, however, informed by the board that they undertook their customary annual heavy investment in advertising immediately after Christmas when people in Britain tend to make their holiday plans. The marketing operation included the circulation of 250,000  brochures to British travel agents. Because of the poor response to their marketing and advertising activities, the board decided to close their Manchester and Glasgow offices at the end of January when the bulk of their promotional effort had already been made and in order to cut their losses so far as 1972 was concerned. The board's London operation is continuing.
CIE will continue to give a service to travel agents in Britain throughout the year and they have appointed a number of important agents as general wholesalers in key market areas. The board are in a position to undertake additional types of promotion this year should there be economic justification for them.
Mr. O'Donnell: Surely the Minister will agree that the recent announcement to the effect that CIE are discontinuing their promotional work in Britain was a disastrous decision? If a State company are not prepared to remain on the field, how can we expect private tour operators in Britain to continue selling Irish holidays? Is the Minister aware that this announcement has resulted in untold damage and that whatever hope we had of getting a small trickle of British tourists to come here, there is now no such hope and that at least four major British tour operators have decided to cancel their campaigns?
Mr. B. Lenihan: The Deputy can be assured that Bord Fáilte are continuing and intensifying their promotional efforts on the British market but redirecting them to ethnic markets. The CIE decision was a business decision and was reached on the basis of response.
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