Thursday, 19 June 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Meaney: Under the Tourist Traffic Acts, Bord Fáilte have statutory responsibility to encourage and promote the development of tourist traffic in and to the State. In the 1980 budget Bord Fáilte were allocated £13,656 million for general administration and marketing and this compares with the sum of £12,465 million allocated in the 1979 budget, £11.0 million in 1978 and £9.337 million in 1977. In addition to this the national air and sea carriers also spend substantial amounts promoting Ireland.
Bord Fáilte launched a massive marketing campaign for 1980 in the main overseas markets and they have recently followed this up with a range of new initiatives in conjunction with the carriers and the many sectors within the industry. I am confident that this approach to the present difficult marketing situation will inspire the tourist industry as a whole to work with dedication and conviction to ensure that 1980 will be a satisfactory tourist year.
Mr. Meaney: I have already done that as far as possible seeing that the person who was asking the question did not know what he was asking about and could not define what it was. I am sick and tried of hearing people crying “wolf” and decrying the work of Bord Fáilte. They are doing the main promotion work to sell tourism for Ireland abroad.  They are doing a very good job. It is time we got rid of all this pessimistic outlook and ceased trying to undo all the good work being done by Bord Fáilte.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I did not call Deputy Kelly. Three Deputies rose in their places. They should wait until the Chair calls one or other of them. I shall call Deputy Kelly now if he has a supplementary question to ask.
Mr. Kelly: Would the Minister not agree that in view of the burden on the tourist industry represented by the factors for which the Government he works for are responsible, to speak as he has done now of encouraging the tourist industry to work with dedication is insulting to the people who themselves know best how to work but who are crippled by a series of Governmental bungles which last year resulted in unparalleled queues before petrol stations which certainly did not exist elsewhere?
Mr. Kelly: Would the Minister tell us who is crying “wolf”? Who has said a word against Bord Fáilte? They are the people who are working with dedication and the hotel people are working with dedication but they are carrying burdens on their backs imposed by the Government.
Mr. O'Keeffe: The Minister does not appear to know the facts of life. Does he not accept that an exceptional effort is  required now on the part of the Government to salvage the present tourist season? Have the Government any plans to make such an effort?
Mr. Meaney: The Government have plans made well in advance to have a good tourist season. The Deputy talks about the facts of life. I would remind the Deputy that he is politically wet behind the ears.
Mr. Harte: I have no intention of leaving the House. I am reminding a Minister of the Government that he has thrown an insulting remark across the floor of the House and I am not prepared to listen to that.
Mr. O'Keeffe: As somebody from a tourist area, I have a genuine interest in this problem—I shall treat the Minister's remarks with the contempt they deserve and let it go at that. I am genuinely anxious to know if the Government are prepared at this stage to start any initiative which will help the tourist trade in this tourist season which is now shaping so badly. I am genuinely asking the Minister if he has any word of hope for hoteliers and other people involved in the tourist trade?
Mr. Meaney: I have. For the first time last year, and the trend is showing up again this year, many people who come to our shores as tourists do not book their holidays now until very late in the season. Bord Fáilte have geared their promotion to cater for that situation. One particular market last year improved very much even in the months of September and October.
Mr. Meaney: I am not interrupting. We can talk in a manly fashion here without being personal. The point is that Bord Fáilte were geared for this. They were aware of it early in the year and they are carrying out their promotion on those lines. There is nothing new in what is being said here today.
Mr. Meaney: I did not say it was being left as it is or that we must hope for  the best. I can state that much more money is being spent than was ever spent before on promotion. The Deputies can go back a few years and that is what they will find.
Mr. O'Toole: At the risk of being accused of crying “wolf”, may I ask the Minister if, in the light of present difficulties experienced by the tourist industry he would give some consideration at least to a subsidy on fuel for tourists because 20p per gallon was added by the Government in the past couple of months? Would he not seek to resolve the Aer Lingus dispute as quickly as possible so as to help the tourist trade and would he outline for us the relief he proposes to alleviate the burdens now placed on the tourist trade by the Fianna Fáil Government in the case of fuel and in the case of the 20 per cent inflation rate? What proposals has the Minister to alleviate that burden on the tourist industry?
Mr. Meaney: I shall explain it once again. There was never more money spent on promotion as I have quietly and clearly already said. We had a Government before the present Government which imposed a higher increase per gallon than any other Government ever imposed. Petrol is dear. We also have to bear in mind that fewer American tourists are coming to Europe now than there are Europeans going to America. That is the situation that must be faced when you go to sell abroad. When the financial situation in countries abroad is not good, when they are at war or there are rumours of war, they are in a state of unrest——
Mr. Meaney: We look forward to increased numbers of tourists from Germany and other continental countries. We hope to hold our position about static. There is a big drop in the volume of tourists from America coming to Europe in general.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If Deputies on both sides of the House would allow the Chair to run the House we would have less of this. All we are doing now is having hassle across the House. I have already said that the Chair will not stand for personal abuse from either side of the House. The Minister should withdraw anything he has said if he has said it. I did not hear it.
Mr. Harte: If the Minister's explanation relating to American tourists not coming to Europe and Ireland is valid, how does he explain Northern Ireland tourists not coming to the Republic? What is the validity of that? They no longer buy their petrol here.
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