Wednesday, 8 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
64. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the actions he proposes to take on foot of the report of the tourism policy review group; his views on the need identified in the report for the tourism industry to offer more value for money and address the issue of the lack of competitiveness in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22455/03]
Mr. O'Donoghue: I am pleased to inform the House that on Tuesday, 30 September 2003 last, the chairman of the tourism policy review group, John Travers, presented me with the group's final report entitled New Horizons for Irish Tourism: An Agenda for Action. I can confirm that copies have been lodged with the Oireachtas Library for the information of Members.
The report is the most important and authoritative document on tourism policy and performance in over a decade. It includes an overview of tourism worldwide, an assessment of the economic contribution of the tourism sector to the Irish economy, an analysis of recent tourism performance, a detailed assessment of tourism in Ireland today and an outline of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. More importantly, however, it presents a challenging but achievable vision for the development of Irish tourism over the next ten years though a set of high level macro goals backed up by 70 action-focused recommendations.
I am determined that the excellent work of the review group will be capitalised upon and that the momentum generated by the focus on the tourism industry will gather force. The review group has put the emphasis on an agenda for action, highlighting 70 individual concrete proposals, which will be the cornerstone for the development of the tourism sector over the next decade. Its recommendations are directed not only to my Department, the tourism State agencies and other Departments but, perhaps more importantly, to representatives of the tourism industry and individual tourism enterprises.
Not surprisingly, one of the key messages in the report is the need for the industry to restore competitiveness and ensure a high level of quality in the Irish tourism experience if it is to maximise the opportunities for future growth. There is no easy or single solution. The competitiveness of Irish tourism is influenced by a huge range of factors and experiences for customers, from initial inquiries about visiting Ireland right through to travelling here, where they go when they get here, where they stay, who they meet, what they do, what they see and their perceptions about price and quality.
Having identified competitiveness and value for money as one of the key strategic drivers of success for Irish tourism, the review group listed ten integrated actions aimed at the industry, Government and State agencies, to translate the strategy into action. These require a holistic approach to addressing the issue and focus, in particular, on responsibility, anti-inflation actions, benchmarking competition, capability within the industry and upgrading standards as a competitive response.
To ensure that the implementation of the action plan is given the priority recommended by the review group, I will establish shortly a high-level implementation group to drive forward and monitor the plan.
I welcome the significant contribution to the development of tourism policy represented by the report of the review group and I will take action to forward the policy approach embodied in this report not only within my Department and the State agencies under my remit, but also with industry representative bodies and, where appropriate, my ministerial colleagues.
Mr. Wall: I thank the Minister for forwarding the report to me, which I received on the morning it was released. The high cost of insurance is one of the main problems facing the tourism industry and has been identified as such by people working in the sector. What contact has the Minister had with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, about this matter?
As regards the report of the review group, will the new high level implementation group the Minister is putting in place be in charge of its own action plan to create the necessary initiatives? It is stated that there was to be a rolling action plan over the first two years of the ten-year programme. Will the new group which he is going to initiate have control of that particular section of the report? The other item of major significance which has been highlighted in the media is renegotiation of the US-Ireland air agreement. Has the Minister spoken to the Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, on that aspect as well?
Mr. O'Donoghue: Insurance has been discussed at Government on several occasions and it is a matter the Government is extremely concerned about. That is why the Government set up the personal injuries assessment board on an interim basis. It will initially deal with claims in respect of employers' liability and later on will take over the role of assessment as regards personal injuries as well. In addition, the Government is anxious to introduce a greater degree of competition into the insurance industry in Ireland. It is fair that a combination of measures, taken on foot of the MIAB report, and the report of Ms Dorothea Dowling, will help to bring insurance costs down. I am aware of the pressure that high insurance premia cause within the tourism industry.
The implementation group will be charged with overseeing the implementation of some 70 plus recommendations included in the report. It will have the opportunity to report on progress every six months. Every year there will be a forum where there will be discussion on progress in relation to the implementation of the group's recommendations and whether methodologies should be changed in achieving the report's objectives. The report recommends that the bilateral US-Europe agreement be renegotiated and in this context the Transport Ministers of the European Union have mandated the Commission to enter into negotiations with the American Government. In the interim, the recommendation in the report is that Ireland unilaterally discussed the bilateral agreement with the United States of America. The Minister of Transport, Deputy Brennan, has made it clear that—
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