Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
109. Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in view of the continuing decline in overseas visitors to Ireland according to the Central Statistics Office figures for the first nine months of the year, the efforts that are being made to halt the decline in tourist numbers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44229/10]
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport (Deputy Mary Hanafin): The most recent published figures from the CSO show a reduction of 15.7% in the number of overseas visitors to Ireland in the first three quarters of 2010 compared to the corresponding period of 2009. Figures for the third quarter of this year show that the fall-off is slowing down, at just over 8% compared to the corresponding period of 2009.
While any decrease is disappointing, the figures must be viewed in context. Tourism worldwide has been deeply affected by global economic difficulties and loss of consumer confidence. Furthermore, the exceptional weather conditions in the early part of the year and the closure of airports due to the volcanic ash cloud meant that it was inevitable that a falloff in the numbers travelling, particularly in Northwest Europe, would be experienced in the first half of 2010. At the same time it is important to recognise that over 4.6 million overseas visitors came to Ireland in the first nine months of the year with hugely positive benefits for the Irish economy. The Government recognises the opportunities to grow this figure further and ensure that tourism plays a key part in Ireland’s economic recovery. Based on my recent experience in supporting the international marketing effort, I know that the industry and the tourism agencies are fighting hard for every bit of available business for the remainder of this year and into 2011. Tourism Ireland is finalising its 2011 Business Plan at present and next week I will be launching their Marketing Plans for 2011. The main focus of the plans will be on those markets offering the best real prospects of growth in 2011 namely, Great Britain, the United States, Germany and France. The marketing campaigns will emphasise that there has never been a better time to holiday in Ireland in terms of the value that is available and the quality of the tourism product on offer.
On the Business Tourism front, the new Convention Centre Dublin will be highlighted and further enhance our capacity to attract international events. Other significant events next year such as the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle, the start of the Tall Ships Race Series in Waterford, Dublin Contemporary, Imagine Ireland, and the UEFA Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium will also provide significant opportunities to boost our international profile and the tourism agencies will be working to maximise the tourism benefits of these events.
In terms of the broader policy environment, the Report of the Tourism Renewal Group set out a clear plan for the survival, recovery and growth of Irish tourism. I established the new Tourism Renewal Implementation Group in July 2010 to oversee and further drive actions on measures, based on the wide-ranging Framework for Action, that support tourism in Ireland, increase competitiveness and ensure that the sector is ready for recovery and growth. Good progress has been made with regard to the survival actions recommended by the Renewal Group and the Implementation Group will continue to meet to pursue outstanding measures that can ensure that Irish tourism returns to growth next year and plays a major role in Ireland’s economic recovery.
111. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the extent to which she directly or agencies under her remit have taken initiatives to invigorate the tourism sector in each of the past three years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44431/10]
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport (Deputy Mary Hanafin): The overall tourism services budget of the Department was increased to over €153 million for 2010, representing an increase of 3% on 2009 expenditure outturn. The Tourism Marketing Fund in 2010 has a provision of €44.25 million. This is enabling the level and value of investment in overseas marketing of Ireland to be maintained in real terms in 2010 as recommended in the report of the Tourism Renewal Group. Better value for money in purchasing advertising space, currency advantages and once-off expenditure in 2009 relating to the redevelopment of Tourism Brand Ireland is ensuring that there is no adverse impact from the nominal reduction in the 2010 allocation.
Tourism Ireland is continuing its marketing activities in Great Britain, Mainland Europe and North America this Autumn highlighting ease of access, great fares and offers from the industry and showcasing the wonderful holiday experiences available here. In the US, a seat sale is under way in gateway cities promoting Autumn/Winter fares from as low as $199 each way. Meanwhile, in Europe, over 16 million potential visitors will see the ‘Ireland — More for Less’ promotion on the Ryanair website. Car touring campaigns with the ferry companies are also encouraging visitors to take their own cars to Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland has undertaken its biggest ever home holiday marketing programme in 2010 with a budget of €4 million, as a central plank in its strategy to increase the home market share of the overall Irish leisure break market. The home holiday marketing campaign is continuing with the Festive and New Year offering launched during November.
The allocation for capital investment in tourism product development has been very significantly increased. This investment will be focussed on a number of new iconic visitor attractions, completing the upgrading of some major tourism attractions, as well as improving infrastructure for recreational cycling, walking and water-based activities and heritage attractions.
In 2010, Fáilte Ireland is investing over €11 million in the form of direct supports and advice for tourism enterprises. Business supports are aimed at assisting key tourism businesses to increase their international customer base, better manage their cost base, improve overall performance and sustain employment levels.
The Government further demonstrated its commitment to tourism by its inclusion of tourism in a range of cross-cutting measures — including the Employment Subsidy Scheme, the Work Placement Programme, the Credit Review System and incentives for investment in energy-efficiency — all of which support sustainable tourism enterprises and employment. The industry will also benefit from the establishment of the Credit Review System for all SME sectors, including tourism.
Further specific measures that are helping tourism include the changes in alcohol excise duties and VAT and the free rail travel initiative aimed at senior citizens visiting Ireland from abroad. The reduction in alcohol excise duties will result in lower hospitality costs to our visitors.
Of course, while I know that our businesses and tourism agencies are responding positively to current challenges, it is just as important that the strategic framework for tourism development responds to the changing environment. In this regard, the wide-ranging set of measures recommended in the Tourism Renewal Group’s Framework for Action now forms the strategic basis on which Government is responding to the current difficulties. Tourism remains a key element of the Government’s wider strategy for economic renewal.
112. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she intends to take any particular initiatives to promote or develop any particular aspects of the tourism sectors with particular reference to emphasis on economic recovery. [44432/10]
113. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if it is her policy to expand or develop any particular aspect of tourism in the next four years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44433/10]
114. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her role in respect of tourism in the context of economic recovery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44434/10]
Tourism is a key driver of social and economic development at both national and regional levels in Ireland. Through the strength of our tourism brand and the quality of the tourist experience, tourism also plays a central role in creating a positive image of Ireland. Part of my role, as Minister with responsibility for tourism, is to ensure that the important contribution of the tourism industry is widely recognised and that the tourism agenda is accommodated in all relevant policies and programmes. This is being put into practice by my Department and the tourism agencies through engagement with the relevant Departments and agencies. The Report of the Tourism Renewal Group, published in October 2009, endorses this view and clearly sets out tourism’s contribution to Ireland’s economic, social and cultural development. The wide-ranging set of measures recommended in the Group’s Framework for Action now forms the strategic basis on which Government is responding to the current difficulties and tourism is a key element of the Government’s wider strategy for economic renewal as set out in the policy document Building Ireland’s Smart Economy: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal .
Building on the recommendations of the Renewal Group, and in line with the Government’s overall framework for economic renewal, Budget 2010 recognised the tourism sector as a critical, labour-intensive sector and provided for a 3% increase to over €153 million in the overall tourism services budget. This included maintaining the real level of investment in overseas marketing, as well as a significantly increased capital allocation for tourism product. The tourism sector was included in a range of beneficial cross-cutting measures to support enterprises and jobs, including the Employment Subsidy Scheme, the Work Placement Programme and the Credit Review System.
Building Ireland’s Smart Economy included a commitment to develop an action plan to drive export-led growth over the coming years. Accordingly, the Government’s new Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy , was drawn up by the representatives from the key Departments and agencies, including my Department, Tourism Ireland and Culture Ireland. Its tourism-related elements draw on the robust analysis already carried out by the Tourism Renewal Group in its Report and Framework for Action.
This Strategy, which was launched on 28 September last, contains targets for job creation, exports, tourist numbers and inward investment projects by 2015 and details on how the Government and its agencies will achieve these priorities and targets. As regards tourism specifically, it sets a target of increasing visitor numbers to 8 million by 2015 and provides for 15,000 new jobs to be generated directly in the tourism sector by this growth in numbers. Drawing on the recommendations of the Tourism Renewal Group, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy reiterates the scope to develop both the leisure and business tourism sectors and highlights certain areas where Ireland may have a particular competitive advantage — namelyFood Tourism/Gastronomy; Eco-tourism; Film and TV production, Cruise Tourism; Irish Diaspora; Music, Literature and the Arts; and Niche Tourism.In terms of achieving the tourism-related targets, the Strategy recognises that in the short to medium term, Ireland’s best prospects are in the United States, Great Britain and the major European markets and these priorities will be reflected in Tourism Ireland’s overseas marketing plan for 2011, which I will be launching next week.
On the domestic front, Fáilte Ireland will continue its significant investment in tourism product and services and will also continue to support local festivals and events. These, together with Fáilte’s highly successful “holiday at home” marketing campaign, are playing a key role in boosting tourist revenues around the country as well as boosting employment. Fáilte Ireland also continues to work closely with businesses all over Ireland to increase their customer base, better manage costs, improve overall performance and sustain employment.
Overall, I believe that Government is pursuing the right policies and programmes to support the continued development of tourism, working with the industry and the tourism agencies in order to position the sector for recovery and growth as part of the Government’s wider strategy for economic renewal. This work is being greatly assisted by the two tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as by the Tourism Renewal Implementation Group, which will continue to oversee and drive further action on measures to support the competitiveness and sustainability of tourism in Ireland.
115. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport if she intends to maintain or extend the level of support for the sporting and cultural sectors over the next four years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44435/10]
119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport her proposals to develop and or expand the sectors under her aegis on an annual basis over the next five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44439/10]
The financing of the tourism, culture and sport sectors will be in accordance with the provisions of the four-year economic plan. In that context, I remain fully committed to assisting these sectors as much as possible over the coming years. Moreover, I will remain in ongoing contact and consultation with the key stakeholders so that my Department’s policy and other responses to the needs of these sectors remain current, proportionate, targeted and effective.
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