I want to assure Deputy Jones at the outset that the Bill before the House is not in any way an attempt to evade responsibility for coming before the Dáil each year and having the policy and purpose of Bord Fáilte debated in this House. Up to now the practice has been to devote a sum of not more than £500,000 per annum to Bord Fáilte for their ordinary promotional and other activities. The figure of £500,000 was set in the 1955 Act. Having regard to the change in money values since then it is not unreasonable for Bord Fáilte now to ask the Dáil to vote them an annual sum greater than £500,000. While £500,000, having regard to the return on that outlay, may not appear to be a very large sum we have to appreciate that there must be a limit on the amount of promotional moneys we can make available for tourist purposes.
This Bill has three main purposes. The first is to make available to Bord Fáilte over the next seven years a sum not exceeding £5,000,000 which will mean roughly about £700,000 per annum. The second is to increase from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 the amount which Bord Fáilte may guarantee for loans for hotel and tourist resort development. The third is to remove the limit of £75,000 yearly which represents the sum that Bord Fáilte were permitted to pay by way of interest on loans for hotel improvement and building purposes. Bord Fáilte will have to account to the House in the ordinary way during the course of the Estimates presented under the aegis of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It has been represented by Bord Fáilte that the next few years will be important in tourist promotion and, if they are given more money now, they may be able to increase the value to our economy of expenditure for tourist purposes.
Deputy Cosgrave asked whether we are getting a sufficient return for the moneys we are expending. He compared the increase in tourist income in the different countries in Europe as published by O.E.E.C. recently. These figures showed that the rate of expansion for Ireland was very low—12 per cent. in a period of three years from 1955 to 1958, compared with 25 per cent. in Britain and 64 per cent. in West Germany. He pointed out that Switzerland was only 5 per cent. The Swiss tourist industry is very highly developed. Up to some years ago it was the main income for the country. The Swiss used that income to build up their manufacturing industries and these industries have now far out-stripped tourism as a means of national income. We must not forget that these countries have attractions over and above those we can offer. They are situated on the European mainland and travel is naturally easier overland than it is oversea. They have certain climatic advantages. I should like to point out that our climate is not as bad as some would have us believe. People who come here take us to task for complaining so much about our weather; they say that our climate is not half as bad as we represent it to be. The figure of 12 per cent. expansion as representing the increase in tourist income in a three year period is perhaps low. The purpose of this Bill is to try to increase that rate of income.
If there was any thought permeating the course of the debate it was that we should concentrate more on the ordinary British tourist than on the more exotic type of tourist from other parts of the world. Most of the Deputies who spoke seem to have ignored the fact that that was one of the main points of my introductory speech. I am not claiming any credit for that because Bord Fáilte have long realised the value to this country of the British middle-class tourist and they have made special efforts to attract that type of tourist. They have established offices in different parts of Britain mainly for that purpose.
As I have said, there are some 300,000 British tourists coming here every year. Of the 30,000,000 or so people who leave their homes in Britain to go on holidays, not necessarily abroad of course, it is not unreasonable to hope to attract another 1 per cent. and make the number of these tourists 600,000 as against 300,000. In order to do that, as many Deputies pointed out, we would require to have the type of accommodation that suits them best.
As far as Bord Fáilte are concerned there is no question of concentrating on luxury type accommodation. The grants that are available are standard bedroom grants and reconstruction grants. Over and above that there are loans which are guaranteed by Bord Fáilte and loans which are available from other sources in respect of both of which Bord Fáilte are prepared for a period of five years to pay the interest. Therefore, there is no distinction in the facilities afforded by Bord Fáilte for the financing of hotel construction and improvement schemes as between the ordinary and the luxury type accommodation.
I agree with the many Deputies who made the point that the keystone of our tourist traffic is the ordinary family type hotel. As long as we can have enough of these situated in sufficiently diversified locations throughout the country then our tourist industry is bound to succeed. Some Deputies while, in general, congratulating Bord Fáilte on their performance, criticised different aspects of their administration. That is inevitable in the case of any State board. There must be some defects in their administration as seen by different people. Deputy Kyne, for example, instanced the case of a man who had procured financial assistance from Bord Fáilte for a particular job and who then embarked upon a more extended operation in his hotel for which he failed to get a grant. Deputy Kyne suggested therefore that Bord Fáilte had a rule that as long as the due returns for financial assistance on one operation were outstanding, assistance might not be given for a second operation. That is completely wrong. As long as Bord Fáilte are satisfied that the economics of any scheme are sound they are prepared to assist any undertaking. For my own part, both as Deputy and as Minister, I have had my knocks, too, from Bord Fáilte. I have made representations to them in both capacities on behalf of different people and from my own observations I can only conclude they examine all cases objectively. They try to assess the merits of each scheme put before them and decide on the basis of their assessment what financial assistance they can give.
The same remarks apply to grants for tourist resort development. Under the principal Act a sum of £1,000,000 is being devoted to major resort development. By the decision of this House it was left to Bord Fáilte to decide what areas would qualify under the Act for development. Deputy Desmond in the course of his remarks said the resort in which he was most interested, Crosshaven, County Cork, was one that ought to qualify for some assistance under that Act. If I were given a free hand in the administration of that £1,000,000, Crosshaven would be very high on my list of priorities because I have a certain attachment to it. I know it perhaps better than any other holiday resort in the country. I have certain nostalgic affiliations with it and perhaps it was just as well that Bord Fáilte and not the Minister was given the power to decide to which resorts the major resort development grants were to be given. I can only conclude that Bord Fáilte in their wisdom and having regard to their special knowledge of the situation make up their minds what areas and what schemes submitted to them are best entitled to assistance.
There were many points made during the course of the debate to which it would be difficult for me and to which perhaps I would not be expected to reply. However, I would say the main attraction for tourists to this country is its unspoiled nature. Deputy Sherwin suggested we should try to develop a "golden mile," such as they have in Blackpool, in places like Portmarnock. For my part, as long as I am Minister for Industry and Commerc I hope we never see that type of development. I hate the hurdy-gurdy type of amenities.