Thursday, 30 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
34. Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he envisages a role for the new Tourism Regional Development Boards in the revival of the bed and breakfast sector in view of the decline in the number of operators in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40901/06]
As I have advised the House on a number of occasions this year, most recently on 26th October, individual actions and measures relating to tourism promotion or development at regional level are day-to-day functions of the State Tourism Agencies.
CSO statistics for overseas tourism for 2005 are very positive with almost 7 million visitors, and overseas revenue earnings, excluding carrier receipts, up by almost 8% to €3.5 billion. These results represent a very robust performance by the sector in an increasingly competitive industry internationally. Performance to date in 2006, too, is very encouraging with CSO figures for the first nine months of the year showing over 6 million visits to Ireland — an increase of 11% over the same period in 2005, well ahead of Tourism Ireland’s target of 4.9% for the year. According to the latest CSO data, there was an increase of 7% in total foreign exchange earnings from tourism for the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year.
The home holiday market is an increasingly important component of the tourism business in Ireland, particularly in terms of seasonal and regional spread. In 2005, 86% of holiday trips and 89% of holiday nights by domestic tourists were spent outside the Dublin area. This offsets, to some extent, the relative strength of Dublin in the overseas visitors market. In 2005, expenditure on domestic tourism was up across all regions — albeit at different rates. CSO figures for the first six months of this year show overall expenditure on domestic trips is up over 9% compared to the same period in 2005.
I believe that the new regional tourism structures will help to optimise the benefits of tourism and help to secure a wider spread of business which, of course, is my policy objective. As Deputies will be aware, on 29 August last I announced the appointment of the Chairs of the five new Regional Tourism Development Boards. I understand from Fáilte Ireland that all the Boards are now in place, and that four Boards have held their inaugural meeting with the fifth due to be held shortly.
The key priority for the new Boards is to ensure a greater focus on the individual needs of each region at a national level and direct involvement for the regions in the development of national policy and tourism strategy. In this regard I expect that each Board will take into account the needs of all sub-sectors of the Tourism industry, including those of the bed and breakfast providers.
While the new regional tourism arrangements provide the potential for enhanced tourism performance in the regions, various region specific initiatives introduced this year by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland Ltd will further help to address this situation.
In 2006, Fáilte Ireland is investing in excess of €60m on developing regional tourism, from supporting local festivals to building capability and strengthening the tourism product itself. Of this amount Fáilte Ireland is channelling €10m directly to the regions to strengthen and enhance their operational and marketing capabilities this year. This investment is designed to ensure both a high quality visitor servicing experience at key tourist information offices and also a strong overseas promotional effort.
The “Super-Regions” initiative launched by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland earlier this year is based on new strategic marketing alliances between adjoining Tourism Regions, positioning them to more fully exploit international market opportunities. The initiative, which presents a better, more tangible concept of Ireland’s regions to potential consumers abroad, has been well received by the industry.
Activities and attractions — things to do and see — are central to increasing visitor spend and it is especially important for rural areas to configure their accommodation and activity offering to appeal to Irish and overseas tourists. I welcome, in particular, recent initiatives taken by the bed and breakfast sector in this area. Over the past three years, Fáilte Ireland, under its ERDF co-funded Tourism Product Development Scheme, has allocated over €45m to support 70 capital projects across the country. It will continue to assist in product development including, for example, looped walks, angling, festivals, cycling routes, equestrian, golfing and water based activities, and to support, through its €1m innovation fund, industry groups seeking to develop and market new tourism initiatives.
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