Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
8. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation when the multi-annual tourism marketing fund promised in the national development plan will be in place; the amount to be allocated; the way in which the funds will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7026/00]
34. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if sufficient funding is available to all the agencies charged with the promotion of Ireland to international tourists in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7044/00]
The national development plan, published in November 1999, included a specific allocation of £150 million for a tourism marketing sub-programme over the period 2000 to 2006. The marketing sub-programme consists of two measures, a destination marketing measure and a niche marketing measure, to be funded from Ireland's first ever multi-annual tourism marketing fund. The main purpose of this fund is to finance the promotion and marketing internationally of Ireland as a tourism destination. Details of the activities envisaged are set out in paragraphs 6.97 – 6.100 of the national development plan.
The first annual allocation under the fund has been incorporated in my Department's year 2000 Estimates – a provision of £14.4 million under a new subhead B.11. When taken with the total estimated budget of £6.5 million for the overseas tourism marketing initiative in 2000 and Bord Fáilte's current grant-in aid allocation of £23.5 million, I am satisfied that sufficient funding is available for the promotion of Irish tourism internationally this year.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: We all agree that the peace process has contributed greatly to the increase in visitor numbers. The current state of the peace process should not be allowed to impede the momentum of successful cross-Border tourism co-operation. With that in mind the Irish Hotels Federation has called on the Minister and the Government to allocate £10 million now out  of the £20 million set aside for 2001 marketing to continue the OTMI. Does the Minister agree this is a reasonable request? As regards paragraph 6.100 is it proposed to make funding available to small operators to assist with IT marketing?
Dr. McDaid: It is unfortunate that the North-South institutions have come to an abrupt end. We were looking forward to working with them. There was a great deal of consensus on this area and we were looking forward to ironing out the difficulties that existed. The IHF pointed out that it was anxious we would go ahead with marketing. I assure the Deputy that Bord Fáilte is aware of that and we are putting plans in place. It is necessary for us to market for 2001 now. We must have a provision of at least that amount of money. This year we have £14.3 million and £14.4 million available to us. We will have up to £20 million available. I am fully aware of the Deputy's concerns and we will be acting on them.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Paragraph 6.100 refers to small operators, bed and breakfast accommodation providers and so on, who are of central importance to tourism. Will the Minister include some funding for small operators so that they can become IT literate and be involved in marketing through the internet?
Dr. McDaid: Such operators are a vital part of the industry. Last year for the first time I provided £300,000 for the marketing of the smaller sector and this year I provided £500,000 towards marketing bed and breakfast accommodation, farmhouse accommodation, and so on. I hope that will include marketing in the IT sector.
Mr. Perry: Is the Minister satisfied we are getting value for money from the fund? I am concerned that many millions can be lost. Unfortunately the real benefits are not evident on the ground. Will the Minister clarify brand Ireland as regards Northern Ireland and the cross-Border areas where Deputy Moynihan-Cronin has correctly stated the benefits cannot be seen? I am concerned about the allocation and purpose of the OTMI fund. We should have a breakdown of the expenditure and benchmark its effectiveness for future spending.
Dr. McDaid: They have dropped in certain sectors. I do not have a breakdown of each county  and region over the past ten years. I assure the Deputy that all regions and counties have benefited taking the revenue that has accrued from each county and region over the years.
Dr. McDaid: I accept there are certain sectors that have not benefited. People in those areas are making themselves heard but if the Deputy goes through it county by county he will find that all regions have benefited.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Will the Minister assure the House he will continue his contacts with his counterparts in Northern Ireland not only because of the tourism product but because of the peace process in general? It is very important that no opportunity is lost to continue with dialogue.
Mr. McDaid: I was looking forward to meeting my colleague, Sir Reg Empey. There is much co-operation between the industry North and South. Officials continue to work for the future reinstatement of the institutions. There has been excellent co-operation between officials.
Mr. Allen: We are all interested in developing the tourism industry. The latest preliminary figures show there will be a drop off in tourist visits from the UK and some of our main customers in Europe, Holland and Germany. Will the Minister bear in mind the comments of the new president of IHF recently, that Ireland may be losing out in the area of computer—
Mr. Allen: No, that is about the distribution of tourists. My question is about the use of computers and information technology. With all the millions of pounds that are available, what amount is available to hoteliers and other key players in the industry to get them in tune with the computer age and in line with what is required to market effectively? Will he take into account the statements made that there is a reticence on the part of the key participants to involve themselves in technology?
Dr. McDaid: It is a matter for the Government to advise the industry about technology. It knows that is the way of the future. The Taoiseach has consistently pointed to the era of e-commerce. A person could be in Atlanta or Cape Town and if Deputy Allen were in the bed and breakfast business one could see his sitting-room at the push of a button. People are being advised to become involved in e-commerce because if they do not, they will not be at the races. One can look at any home and garden on the Internet, see what they have to offer and with one call make a reservation.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Marketing is the biggest issue, and Deputy Allen and I want to know if there will be specific grant aid available for the product to ensure the best technology is available so our product can be marketed on the Internet. Has the Minister proposals to provide funding in this regard?
Dr. McDaid: No, we are not grant aiding people to set up their own Internet technology. I believe this is up to the individuals themselves and there must be individual responsibility. It is up to the Government to provide the information and education required, but I do not believe that throwing money at people and giving grant aid—
Mr. Perry: I am not talking about the website but about control. Heretofore the Department produced glossy brochures. However, we have gone beyond that period to a hi-tech era. Certain controls should be established for people promoting their products and premises.
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