Tourist Traffic Bill, 1970: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time". The purposes of the Bill are, first, to raise the statutory limit on the aggregate amount which may be paid to Bord Fáilte for the giving of grants for the development of holiday accommodation, secondly, to raise the statutory limit on the aggregate amount of loans which may be guaranteed for the development of tourist projects and to extend the time limit on the giving of such guarantees and, thirdly, to provide for the registration of approved holiday accommodation.

Grants for the development of holiday accommodation were first introduced in 1959 and provision was made in the Tourist Traffic Act, 1959, for the payment to Bord Fáilte of sums not exceeding an aggregate of £500,000 for the purpose. As the tourist industry developed and accommodation needs expanded this limit was successively raised to £1.5 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1963, to £3 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1966, and to £5.5 million by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1968. The total amount issued to Bord Fáilte for accommodation development grants up to 31st March, 1970, was £4,930,000, which leaves a balance of £570,000 before the statutory limit of £5.5 million is reached. The amount which the Government have agreed to provide in the present financial year is £1.5 million and amending legislation is therefore necessary to authorise payments in excess of £570,000 this year and to provide for payments in future years.

From the funds provided for the development of holiday accommodation, Bord Fáilte operate a scheme of grants with the approval of the Ministers for Transport and Power and Finance. The scheme provides for the payment of up to 35 per cent of the total construction cost of new hotels in the western counties and up to 25 per cent in other areas. Where the total construction grants do not apply grants up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of new hotel bedrooms are provided in the west and 40 per cent elsewhere. Grants up to 30 per cent are provided for dining areas, kitchens,et cetera, in hotels in the west and 20 per cent in other areas, subject to the exclusion of certain locations such as Dublin and Cork. Twenty per cent grants are provided throughout the State for hotel staff accommodation and for the provision of recreational facilities for hotel guests. Guesthouses in all areas are eligible for grants up to 20 per cent of the cost of new bedrooms subject to the condition that at least five guest bedrooms are available on completion of the project. Caravan and camping sites are eligible for grants up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of the site development and amenity works subject to a maximum grant of £20,000 in each case. There are grants also for the provision and improvement of youth hostels and for improvement works in colleges and similar institutions providing accommodation for visitors during vacation periods.

I would emphasise that the percentages which I have mentioned represent the maximum grants which Bord Fáilte are authorised to pay. Each development is, however, examined by Bord Fáilte on its merits and it is the responsibility of the board to determine the actual level of grant appropriate to each case having regard to various factors, including the location of the development, type of accommodation being provided, the cost of development, the price level, the market demand, the volume of existing accommodation in the area and other relevant tourism criteria. Thus the grants are operated on a flexible basis so as to provide maximum encouragement to projects which best meet tourism needs. Hotel and guesthouse owners and other promoters of accommodation have responded to the incentives provided and the £5 million expended by Bord Fáilte in grants since the schemes were introduced must be related to a total investment of £36 million in accommodation development. Thus the grant element in the total development programme has been 14 per cent. The number of bedrooms in hotels and guesthouses has increased from 17,800 in 1960 to 27,890 in the present year, an increase of more than 56 per cent. There has also of course been a significant improvement in the standard of accommodation.

Policy in relation to accommodation development is designed to achieve a flow of accommodation to match the growth in demand and the standards tourists seek. It is clear that this balance is difficult to achieve and grant schemes were introduced so that accommodation growth targets could be realised. The effectiveness of the incentives is assessed on a continuous basis and the schemes are revised in the light of experience. For a number of years, although grants had been provided, it had not been possible to secure adequate accommodation growth. So in April, 1967, the accommodation incentives were improved, but in deciding on the level of funds to be provided for this purpose the Government have to have regard to the overall demands on the Exchequer. The improved incentives coupled with an easing in the availability of credit for holiday accommodation development resulted in an atmosphere conducive to investment in the hotel industry. By late last year it became clear that the rate of growth in accommodation was beginning to outstrip targets and the level of funds which the Government could make available for this purpose. Bord Fáilte, accordingly, found it necessary to introduce a moratorium, the effect of which is that the board are not entering into any new grant commitments for the time being.

Since the introduction of financial assistance for accommodation development in 1959, income from tourism and travel has risen from £39 million to almost £98 million. Apart from its important role in the balance of payments, tourism has proved to be an effective stimulus to the economy through the additional spending power it injects, through the enlarged market it provides for Irish foods and other goods and through the employment it generates. Tourism has been particularly valuable as a means of improving the economy of western areas where prospects of industrial development are limited. I am confident that tourism will continue as a strong force for economic development.

The growth of tourism over the past decade could not have been achieved without a considerable expansion of the volume of accommodation and the improvement of standards. For various reasons, including high construction costs and the problem of seasonality, investment in hotels and other forms of holiday accommodation, particularly outside the main urban areas, is not as attractive commercially as other types of investment and financial incentives have been necessary to ensure that the expansion of tourism is not retarded by a shortage of the right kinds of accommodation.

Financial assistance will continue to be necessary to ensure that accommodation expansion keeps pace with the needs of tourism and particularly to encourage development in the less populated areas now being reached by the growing volume of motoring visitors. Deputies will recall that in December last the House voted an additional £500,000 by way of supplementary estimate to enable Bord Fáilte to meet grant commitments that had matured more quickly than expected.

This brought last year's provision for accommodation grants to a record £1.5 million and this year I am providing a further £1.5 million. To provide the necessary statutory authority for this year's payments and to provide for the continuation of the grant schemes I propose that the present limit of £5.5 million on accommodation grants be replaced by a new limit of £11 million. The provision in the Bill is of an enabling nature and the amounts to be provided for accommodation development in each year will fall to be debated and voted by the Dáil in the normal way under the Vote for my Department.

The financing of tourist development projects usually includes an element of borrowing. The State does not provide any direct loan facilities but, to assist developers in raising loans, Ministerial guarantees can be given in respect of repayment and interest on loans raised from banks, insurance companies or other lending institutions to finance the cost of holiday accommodation or other amenities or services for tourists. The Tourist Traffic Act, 1952, provided that the aggregate amount of loans which might be guaranteed in respect of such borrowings was £3 million. The Tourist Traffic Act, 1961, raised the limit to £5 million. Guarantees have been given to date in respect of some 70 loans accounting for an aggregate of approximately £2.6 million and approval in principle has been given for guarantees of further loans which will bring the aggregate above the £5 million level. Amending legislation is therefore necessary to increase the limit.

Section 21 of the 1952 Act provided for the giving of guarantees during a period of five years, i.e., up to 1957. This limit has been successively extended—by five years at a time—by the Tourist Traffic Acts of 1957, 1961 and 1966 and the present limit will expire in 1972.

The guaranteed loan scheme has proved to be a valuable instrument for promoters of tourist development projects and it is considered essential to retain it. I am accordingly proposing that the limit of £5 million imposed in the Tourist Traffic Act, 1961, be raised to £8 million and that the time limit imposed by the Tourist Traffic Act, 1966, be extended by five years to 1977.

The third element in the Bill arises from the development of a new type of holiday accommodation, that is, the holiday cottage, of which the Shannon Free Airport Development Company have been the pioneers. This company in association with local interests in the Shannon region have promoted a rent-a-cottage scheme under which 12 cottages were provided at Ballyvaughan, County Clare, last year and a further eight will be available at Corofin this year. Cottages are also being provided at other locations in the region. In 1969, there was a heavy demand for the cottages and bookings for 1970 show that there is a strong demand for this type of accommodation.

Provision was made in section 64 (2) of the Finance Act, 1969, to enable the initial and annual tax allowances applicable to capital expenditure on hotels and holiday camps to be claimed in respect of holiday cottages. It is a condition of this provision that the cottages must be registered with Bord Fáilte and it is therefore necessary to authorise the board to set up a register of approved holiday cottages similar to the existing registers of hotels, guesthouses,et cetera. To secure registration, accommodation must comply with standards which will be prescribed by Bord Fáilte in regulations made with my consent, and proprietors must file with the board a statement of maximum prices. The regulations will require a minimum of ten separate units for letting to tourists to qualify for registration; thus a person with one or two houses for holiday letting will not be required to meet the registration standards and the letting of individual seaside houses or lodges, which is such an important feature of many resorts, will not be affected by the present Bill. However, the use of the titles “approved holiday cottages,”“approved holiday house,” and similar descriptions, will be confined to registered premises. This is in line with the present registration schemes for hotels, guesthouses, caravan parks, et cetera.

The rent-a-cottage scheme promoted in the Shannon region is designed to bring visitors to villages and rural areas which have so far been unable to share fully in the benefits of tourism because of the lack of suitable tourist accommodation. It is an imaginative scheme which has proved very popular with visitors and I hope that it will be followed by projects on similar lines in other parts of the country. The development of this type of accommodation is in line with my concern that tourism should be used as an instrument of economic and social development in rural areas, particularly in the western counties. The setting up of a register and the publication of registration standards at this juncture will guide promoters or local groups who wish to embark on development of lettable accommodation of this kind and should ensure that development takes place on the right lines.

There has been a good deal of comment and speculation for some time about the prospects for tourism in 1970. I have already covered this subject fairly extensively in replies to recent questions but, in view of the importance of the matter, I feel I should return to the subject on this occasion. As relevant statistics and returns become available, Bord Fáilte make assessments in relation to the season. These assessments or estimates are revised as more up-to-date information becomes available. The most recent figures showed June as a disappointing month with declines in all our main markets. Despite the drop in June, however, the overall situation for the first six months showed an increase of 4.8 per cent in tourist numbers for all markets except Northern Ireland, for which it is not possible to make an estimate at this stage. Traffic from Northern Ireland is, however, likely to be down on last year for obvious reasons, and Bord Fáilte have increased their promotional activities in that area in an effort to alleviate the trend. It is impossible at this stage to be more specific about likely tourism returns for 1970.

Over the years the Government have provided funds for the development of tourism on an ever-increasing scale. In 1960, £500,000 was provided for Bord Fáilte, whereas in the current year the board will receive more than ten times that amount, that is £5.55 million, an increase of £300,000 over last year. In recent months a number of people, including some Deputies, advocated that special additional funds for marketing be made available to deal with the unusual situation which had developed. Deputies, however, no doubt also recognise the need for realistic marketing and that any substantial diversion of funds to counteract short-term adverse factors at the expense of long-term plans for the permanent building of our tourism industry might not represent the best use of tourism funds or be in the best interests of tourism.

I met the Board of Bord Fáilte on 8th July last, and asked them to carry out a full appraisal of their activities in the light of the problems facing the industry with a view to making any changes which appear necessary to ensure the continued expansion of our tourist income. On 10th July, I met a deputation from the Irish Hotels Federation to discuss the planning and proper organisation of tourist development for the coming years. At both meetings, we had a constructive exchange of views, as a result of which the board and the federation undertook to submit to me, as soon as possible, reports in relation to the development of tourism, not only for next year but for the next five years. I shall be reviewing the outlook for tourism in the coming years in the light of these reports.

In the course of my discussions, both organisations were agreed that it would be unrealistic, at this period of the year, to embark on a special marketing campaign for the 1970 season. Bord Fáilte, however, are now making a special effort to encourage Irish people to holiday in their own country this year.

The expansion of the Irish tourist industry has gradually become more difficult as our tourist interests have to compete for business on an international basis, and the competition has become much keener. In an exceptional year, such as the present one, with an unprecedented combination of adverse factors, the industry is working under exceptionally difficult conditions. It is, accordingly, essential that tourist interests gear themselves not only to recover any ground that may be lost, but to secure an increase in tourism income in the years ahead.

Having considered the matter, I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to increase the membership of the Board of Bord Fáilte in order to enrich the expertise and experience available at board level. The existing board has done a magnificent job, but I am convinced that it would benefit from an expanded membership in preparation for the challenges of the future. I, accordingly, propose to increase the maximum membership of the board from seven to nine. I will introduce an amendment at the Committee Stage of the Bill to give effect to this proposal.

I would emphasise that our policy on tourism has been to encourage the development of the facilities and services at home and to prepare marketing strategies abroad which will secure a continuing and increasing tourist traffic to Ireland. Tourism is sensitive to many events over which neither the Government nor the industry can exercise very much control. Each year brings its own crop of problems and I believe that the continued pursuit of steady development represents the best use of our resources and is in the best long-term interests of tourism.

This Bill is designed to provide for the continuation of some of the schemes and programmes which have helped to bring the tourist industry to the important position it now occupies in our economy, and I, therefore, confidently recommend the Bill to the House.

During recent weeks at Question Time the Minister indicated that he was about to introduce a new Tourist Traffic Bill. He also indicated that the introduction of this Bill would provide an opportunity for the House to deal in a comprehensive and extensive way with the various aspects of the tourist industry. My reaction to this Bill is, to put it simply, that I am astonished. It is a ridiculous Bill. It is ridiculous in the light of the problems which confront the tourist industry, problems which were obvious to anyone who was in any way associated with the tourist industry. We have been aware of these problems for several months past. They are problems which have existed, but which have been denied by Bord Fáilte, and by the Minister in this House. There are problems which the Minister recently admitted existed, problems which have been highlighted in the news media and particularly on the feature in the "7 Days" television programme the other night.

We are now in the middle of the tourist season. Week after week and day after day, we have been reading reports of the serious difficulties in which the tourist industry finds itself. The Minister, who is the Minister responsible for the tourist industry, comes into this House now, coming towards the end of the session, and introduces a Tourist Traffic Bill sandwiched in amongst a number of other measures. This is purely an enabling Bill. The only thing new and revolutionary in it is that the Minister has decided to increase the membership of Bord Fáilte from seven to nine. I intend to comment at length on this suggestion later.

The Bill has three main purposes. First of all, it gives Bord Fáilte additional funds for the provision of holiday accommodation. Secondly, it adds a new category of registered holiday accommodation to be known as holiday cottages. Thirdly, the Minister proposes to bring in a special amendment on Committee Stage to increase the membership of Bord Fáilte. When one looks at this Bill against the background of the difficulties in the tourist industry this year, one cannot but be astonished that the Minister responsible for what is, in fact, one of our most important national industries comes in here and, despite continuous probing at Question Time recently, still fails to face up to the situation which everyone knows exists and which everyone knows is serious. Only the Minister and the Government can give a lead in finding a solution to these problems.

In regard to the money provided for the provision of additional holiday accommodation, it seems rather ludicrous that this measure should be introduced now when hotels are not filled. When our existing accommodation capacity is greatly under-utilised, it seems rather ludicrous to seek additional money to enable Bord Fáilte to provide additional accommodation. Surely the main emphasis now should be on devising ways and means of ensuring that all our holiday accommodation is utilised to its maximum capacity? This should be the major objective of Government policy on the tourist industry. It should be the major objective of Bord Fáilte, our national tourist board, to find a way of filling the hotel bedrooms and the guesthouses and the various forms of supplementary accommodation.

Of course, the real purpose of this Bill, so far as it applies to holiday accommodation, is to take Bord Fáilte out of the impossible and most embarrassing situation in which they found themselves by reason of the fact that people were given the go ahead to undertake various projects for holiday accommodation, hotels and so forth, on the understanding that grants would be paid. When they had gone to the trouble of finishing their projects they found, when they looked for the grant, that there was no money in the kitty.

In so far as this Bill will enable Bord Fáilte to pay the money they owe to the people who undertook the various projects, I support the Bill.

This grant situation is much more serious than I personally realised. I quote from the most recent issue of theIrish Hotelier and Caterer, the July issue, page 13. Under the heading: “Grant Situation is Grave” it says:

Bord Fáilte stopped making new commitments on grants for hotel development some time ago but the money currently available is nowhere near the level required to meet existing commitments. A Bord Fáilte spokesman declined to say how many cases are at the grant stage at the present time but the Bord Fáilte spokesman told theIrish Hotelier and Caterer that there is a shortage of money.

An impossible situation has arisen. Hoteliers have undertaken to build hotels and motels and other types of tourism projects and approval has been given by Bord Fáilte and those who undertook the project were told they would get grants when the projects were completed. The result is that you have Bord Fáilte owing these people money and these people owing money to the builders who constructed the different buildings. In this Bill the Minister is raising the statutory limit on the aggregate amount which may be paid to Bord Fáilte for the giving of grants for the development of holiday accommodation.

I want to say this and I would say the same thing regardless of the purpose for which the Minister sought extra money for the tourist industry here: I am not proposing at this stage to make a comprehensive statement on behalf of my Party on the tourist industry because I believe the industry must be examined thoroughly and we have undertaken a study of the industry which we propose to continue over the next couple of months. I must say at this stage, however, that I am not satisfied with Bord Fáilte or with the manner in which the Minister for Transport and Power, who is responsible for the tourist industry, is approaching his responsibility in this matter. We have had an extraordinary situation this year where the Minister responsible for the tourist industry has come here and attempted to paint a picture of something which did not exist. We had the director general of Bord Fáilte making one statement today and contradicting it the next day. We have had a most appalling breakdown in communication between the people engaged in the industry, hoteliers, car hire operators and so on, right up through the regional organisations to Bord Fáilte and to the Minister with the result that there has been a continuous flow of confusing and contradictory reports about the state of the industry. This began last April. I raised it for the first time on 19th May and subsequently week after week.

I have the greatest sympathy for unfortunate hoteliers and others who built hotels or provided other amenities and to whom grants are due and because the Bill will enable Bord Fáilte to meet their obligations to these people I am supporting it. But I am not satisfied with Bord Fáilte and I believe the people are completely dissatisfied with the manner in which Bord Fáilte have handled the industry, particularly in the past four or five months. I repeat what I said in previous debates on the tourist industry: I believe Bord Fáilte must be made publicly accountable and that the concept of public accountability which has been advocated in regard to other State companies must be applied to Bord Fáilte.

It is a ridiculous situation that Deputies are unable to get relatively straightforward, simple information regarding the expenditure of taxpayers' money by Bord Fáilte. I can see no reason why the House should not be furnished with an annual report similar to the report provided by An Foras Tionscal regarding grants for industry. Many of these are small grants, particularly in the small industries section. Bord Fáilte must be made accountable to the people. If there had been more accountability Deputies would be able to get the information they seek. Not merely is it impossible to get information as regards the hoteliers to whom grants were paid but I, and some of my colleagues, in recent weeks tabled questions seeking simple statistical information regarding tourist traffic in certain regions and these questions were disallowed on the ground that the Minister had no responsibility. One question asked for the number of tourists in the months of May and June this year and for the corresponding months last year in the Minister's own region, the lakeland area, but the Minister could not give any information to the Dáil.

I am anxious to co-operate with the Minister in any possible way— and I said this before on the Estimate debate—in ensuring that this most important national industry is developed to its maximum potential but how can I, or any of my colleagues or my party, attempt to assess the potential of the industry if we cannot get relatively simple information? I have never indulged in mud-slinging here in my nine years as a Member but I would be failing in my duty if I did not state publicly a number of factors that have been brought to my notice in recent weeks since I undertook, on behalf of my party, to examine the tourist industry.

First, there is total dissatisfaction at all levels of the industry regarding the services provided by Bord Fáilte. Secondly, there are numerous complaints about lack of communication between those engaged in the industry and Bord Fáilte. I have 15 or 16 statements from people who have even written letters to Bord Fáilte and got no reply. For example, in theIrish Press of yesterday there is a letter under the heading “Discouraging the Tourist” from a Mr. Murphy of the Falls Hotel at Ennistymon. I shall not quote at length but I should like to quote the relevant paragraph because it will save me from having to quote from 15 or 16 other examples that I have from other parts of the country. The letter says:

"Perhaps you may find the following facts relevant to the present crisis in our tourist industry and the body (Bord Fáilte) that we are relying on to rescue us from it. As you are probably aware, Bord Fáilte bring out a monthly bulletin calledContact in which they advise one as to how he might promote his hotel or other tourist ventures.

These people were invited to contact the sales department of Bord Fáilte. This unfortunate man who owns a hotel said he did contact Bord Fáilte at the beginning of this month and followed it up with a reminder. He says, "I am still waiting for a reply." Then he says:

On the advice of their Dublin office, I wrote to the area managers in London, Manchester and Birmingham to get on the spot advice.

—as to how he might go about getting tourists in his area—

I received help from Manchester. The poor fellow in London got so upset that he referred my correspondence back to Dublin, and despite three letters I am still waiting for the chap in Birmingham to reply.

It is an absolutely outrageous situation, that a national tourist board set up by this House and to whom a subvention of £5.5 million was made in the current year will not even reply to correspondence. I have had complaints from persons engaged in the travel trade, car hire operators and travel agents who have gone abroad exploring markets in North America and Great Britain and who have received no assistance of any practical value at all from the board's offices in various areas.

Since last April, despite the fact that I have asked numerous questions I have been very careful not to exaggerate the situation. I certainly would not make any categorical statements until I had fully investigated the facts. I have not yet fully investigated the whole matter because we shall not get the full picture of the current season until October. However, from discussions I have had already I have been appalled at the fact that Bord Fáilte would appear now to be an aloof organisation. Apparently the Minister does not know what is going on there. The people engaged in the industry do not seem to know what is going on. It was described to me by one of my colleagues the other day as a bureaucratic organisation. All I know is that hoteliers, car hire operators and all the other people engaged in the industry are not getting from this national organisation the service they should be getting.

Then there is the situation of the eight regional tourism organisations. From the day the Minister's predecessor announced in this House that he was regionalising tourism development and promotion, I welcomed it, thinking that regionalisation was something which could very effectively be applied to the tourist industry. What is the situation now? The people engaged in the tourist industry in the various regions are not satisfied with Bord Fáilte. There appears to be a considerable amount of overlapping of functions between the regional tourism organisations and Bord Fáilte at the top. Rivalry, petty jealousy and many other animosities have developed. The regional tourism organisations as such and Bord Fáilte are not co-operating to the extent which the people who are engaged in this industry and who are depending on it for their livelihood expect from a national organisation like the tourist board.

The Minister is proposing by means of an amendment on the Committee Stage to increase the membership of the board of Bord Fáilte from seven to nine. I cannot see that the two additional members will make much difference. I am aware that very strong representations have been made to the Minister by the Irish Hotels Federation and other tourist organisations about the composition of the board, about the lack of practical experience of the tourist industry on the part of members of the board. It has been put to the Minister that he should ensure that Bord Fáilte would have on this board persons who have practical experience and the technical know-how in the various aspects of the tourist industry, persons who have gone out themselves and brought in tourists to fill their hotels without any assistance from the board—and there are many of these people throughout the country.

I would deplore vindictiveness or talk about people who are not here to defend themselves. Nevertheless, I must face the facts of the situation. I said I was not satisfied with Bord Fáilte. I challenge the Minister and the Government to circularise on a nationwide basis hoteliers, guesthouse owners, travel agents, car hire operators and the various other people engaged in the industry and ask them a simple question: "Are you satisfied with the services being provided by Bord Fáilte?" I guarantee that 90 per cent will reply that no, they are not satisfied.

In view of the fact that we are making additional money available to Bord Fáilte it is only fair to try to assess what is wrong with the board. What strikes me is that, despite the fact that over the last six months people connected with the industry have been making public statements drawing attention to the various problems in the industry and that statements have been made in the newspapers, the chairman, the directorgeneral and the members of the board have been remarkable and conspicuous for their silence about these problems in the industry for which they are responsible.

Let us consider the courageous statement by Mr. Michael Dargan of Aer Lingus the other day, with which the Minister agreed and which we all endorse, and the comprehensive statement made by Mr. Lemass of CIE some weeks ago regarding the financial problems of CIE. Let us contrast those statements with the rather milk-and-watery statements by the Director General at Carrick-on-Shannon in May in which he bemoaned the fact that the annual subvention to the tourist industry has remained static in real terms over the last couple of years.

Why have these people not had the courage to make it known to the people that there were certain problems that should be tackled? Why did they not make it known that the board were short of money, that hoteliers and others were embarrassed because the grants were not paid and the unfortunate building contractors were waiting for their money? Bord Fáilte is now known, in case the Minister does not know it, as the great silent service. I have heard this description being applied to Bord Fáilte, and I am talking about the board of directors. Looking at this board, I have made inquiries into the backgrounds, qualifications, experience in the hotel industry and so forth, of all these people and I have not been very impressed by what I found.

I do not think the Deputy should criticise individuals who can be identified by the Deputy's remarks. It is unfair that these people cannot reply. The Minister is responsible for the activities of the board and the Deputy may criticise the Minister if he wishes.

We are making additional money available from the taxpayers to Bord Fáilte for the provision of accommodation and the Minister has stated that he proposes to increase the number of directors of Bord Fáilte from seven to nine. I felt I was entitled to assess whether or not Bord Fáilte as at present constituted are entitled to extra money and whether the addition of two new members would make any practical difference to the tourist industry. I and my party will vigorously oppose the appointment of additional members to Bord Fáilte unless the Minister gives us certain guarantees. One particular guarantee which we want is that the Minister is not just finding jobs for two prominent supporters of his party. This has been a common feature of Fianna Fáil appointments to various State boards. If on Committee Stage the Minister can make the case for the addition of these two new directors I will be looking for an assurance that they have practical experience of the tourist industry and that their trade organisations will be asked to nominate the members. Assuming, for example, that one comes from the Hoteliers Federation and the other from the travel trade, these people should be asked to submit nominations to the Minister. We will be watching the Minister very carefully to see who he is going to appoint and what their backgrounds and qualifications are. The Minister wil have to be extremely cautious here.

I wonder will the addition of two new members to the board achieve anything. There might be a case for changing some of the present members, it could well be, for we are not very impressed by the performance of the board of directors. Anyone connected with the industry could not be impressed by the carry-on over recent months. Bord Fáilte will have to be made accountable to the people. They will have to account for the money which they get every year from the Oireachtas and account for the manner in which it has been spent or allocated. We want to know who is getting the money, to whom are the grants being paid. We are entitled to have this information just as we are entitled to have information about the number of tourists coming into Athlone or any other area.

Unfortunately, the Bill does not provide us with the opportunity we should have for a comprehensive discussion on the tourist industry. I hope that the Minister will not have to come in again in October to look for more money to pay more grants. Last November or December just before the Christmas recess we had to vote £250,000 to enable certain grants to be paid. This piecemeal method of paying grants is deplorable. In regard to the provision for setting up this new category of cottage holiday accommodation I am particularly interested in this and in favour of it. I have first-hand knowledge of the rent-a-cottage-scheme operated by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company in the mid-western region and I am aware of the success which has attended the initial projects which they have under way in Ballyvaughan and other areas. Projects for the erection of these cottages are going ahead in three or four areas in Limerick. This rent-a-cottage type of scheme is an excellent one with a very great potential. I am satisfied from the information I have and from the research which has been carried out that this is a good scheme and should be expanded. I should like to know if this provision for setting up a new category of holiday accommodation under the general heading of cottage accommodation will apply to individual cottages. For example, if the Minister or I decided to erect one—it will not? It will apply to the rent-a-cottage scheme as operated by the Shannon Free Airport Development Company?

The regulations will require a minimum of ten units. It will have to be people in the cottage renting business not just the ordinary person who has one or two cottages. It will not apply to them. Ten cottage units must be involved.

I understand that a register of this type of accommodation will be set up and do I assume correctly that grants will be payable to people who erect these cottages?

Yes. It will be done on a businesslike basis with a minimum of ten units involved. We will not be giving out grants to a casual person who rents his or her house or two houses. You have to be in the business, as it were.

We can have another word on that on Committee Stage. I wanted those matters clarified because I have been asked for information and clarification on them. I am rather disappointed that the Minister did not attempt to outline future policy regarding the provision of holiday accommodation in general. In recent months many people have been saying that we have too many of certain types of hotels, that all hotel building should be stopped for the next four or five years and that the money should be diverted to the provision of, say, amenities or supplementary accommodation. I have looked into this fairly carefully—I am not clear about the validity of the argument which has been put forward particularly by the Hoteliers Federation—that all hotel building should cease for the next five years.

There are indications that in certain parts of the country there are too many hotels and for this reason I am raising this matter. Are we going to continue building hotels and what criteria will Bord Fáilte use in determining the feasibility of an application to build an hotel?

The building of hotels is only part of the service of providing for tourists. We have made rapid strides in constructing hotels but we appear to have overlooked other aspects of the hotel industry. Items such as staff training, staff conditions, the provision of amenities and recreational facilities are neglected. The tendency is to construct the hotels and forget about the provision of staff training facilities, entertainment and so forth. In many parts of the country one can see unfortunte tourists walking around the streets with no entertainment available. This lack of suitable entertainment has been criticised by many tourists, particularly Americans.

The Shannon Free Airport Development Company have started a development in the matter of providing Irish cabaret and concerts in tourist centres. When the Minister is replying to this debate, will he state what is the policy of the Government and of Bord Fáilte in regard to the provision of hotels and guesthouse accommodation? Has any assessment been made? I have figures here that show the enormous growth in recent years in the number of hotels and guesthouses that have been built.

I have with me a memorandum issued by the Irish Hotels Federation dated 7th July, 1970, which outlines various proposals put forward to Bord Fáilte on the occasion of the meeting between the hoteliers and Bord Fáilte. In regard to accommodation it is stated that there was some confusion as to the actual figures for accommodation but these have since been clarified by the Deputy Director General. It is stated also that the target for 1965-1970 was a total of 1,200 rooms in all sectors—for hotels, guesthouses and supplementary accommodation—and this target has been exceeded by 600 rooms. I presume this explains in part the reason Bord Fáilte did not have enough money for grants for hotels.

The breakdown of the room numbers is of some interest. Hotel accommodation has increased by 6,700 rooms; guesthouses have increased by 1,500 and supplementary accommodation by 6,200 rooms. This is the kind of information I had hoped the Minister would supply. Were it not for the fact that I was able to get this document I would not have been aware of how much accommodation was provided and of the breakdown into the various categories.

I can give the Deputy that information any time he asks a question.

Yes, the Minister has a point there. I am concerned about the future policy regarding the provision of holiday accommodation. I regret the Minister did not attempt to analyse the situation when he was introducing this Bill.

The Irish Hotels Federation recommended that no further encouragement by way of grants should be given to hotels for the present. It is difficult for an individual Deputy to assess the situation thoroughly but this matter must be examined and we will be looking for information in the months ahead regarding the Government's policy in relation to the provision of accommodation.

There are one or two other points I should like to mention. I do not want to infringe the rules of the House by going outside the scope of the Bill which is very limited. However, in view of the fact that the Minister has been allowed to comment on the present situation in the tourist industry and on the prospects for tourism in 1970 and 1971, I presume I will be allowed to make some comments.

The Minister in his speech states that there has been a good deal of comment and speculation for some time about the prospects for tourism in 1970 and he states that he covered this subject very extensively in reply to questions. The Minister then mentioned the amount of money that has been allocated by the Government to Bord Fáilte and the fact that in the current year an additional £300,000 has been made available to the board for tourism development and promotion.

The Minister appears to think that the present difficulties in the industry are of a temporary nature. He has made a case, as has the Director General of Bord Fáilte, that the situation this year has been due to a combination of factors which may never occur together, in future years.

I want now to pin the Minister down. A question was raised here in the House last week and the Minister evaded answering it to a certain extent. Can the Minister explain why, if it is a fact that Bord Fáilte got £300,000 extra from the Government this year, Bord Fáilte are spending more than £100,000 less on promotion in America, Britain and on the Continent? It is extraordinary that this reduction in promotional activity should have taken place at a time when so many adverse factors were present. In such circumstances, would not commonsense have dictated an increase in promotional activity rather than a decrease? It is no harm to list the factors: trouble in the North of Ireland; the political situation down here; the economic recession in the United States; the decision in Britain to increase the holiday allowance from £50 to £150; the restriction on charter flights, particularly from North America, and the problem of high prices.

The Minister spoke tonight of the difficulties confronting the industry, but he made no attempt to assess these adverse factors. He made no attempt to say which of them has been the main cause of the reduction in tourist traffic. People are puzzled. Most of the adverse factors were known several months ago. The troubles in the North of Ireland were there 12 months ago and it was obvious that the situation there would have an effect on tourist travel this year. There were political troubles here. The economic recession in the United States has been in existence for several months. The decision to increase the holiday allowance in Great Britain was known last November. The restriction on charter flights has been the policy of the Government for several years. We all knew that prices were rising. The Government helped to increase prices by increasing the turnover tax in the Budget. People ask why, in Heaven's name, the Government did not increase the subvention to Bord Fáilte last April or May when it was obvious to all engaged in the tourist industry, except to the board of directors and the Minister, that there could be adverse effects. Instead of that, the subvention for promotional purposes has been cut by £100,000; £100,000 less is being spent on advertising, publicity and other promotional methods. This is an extraordinary situation. Perhaps the Minister was not aware of it. The board may not have told him. I am beginning to suspect that the directors themselves did not know what was happening.

This is the situation. I agree that the total subvention has been increased by £300,000. Why is it then that Bord Fáilte had to cut their promotional budget by £100,000? Where did the £400,000 go? Has it gone in costs of administration? I have the figures here for the number of employees, particularly abroad, and I can see no noticeable increase in the numbers of field staff or other staff.

I am convinced, as are most people in the industry, that had the Government stepped in last April or May and given Bord Fáilte a special subvention to mount an intensive promotional campaign in Britain, on the Continent and in the United States, such a campaign in would have gone 90 per cent of the way towards counteracting whatever ill effects the adverse factors to which I referred were having. If a businessman is hit by new competition he takes steps to counteract that competition. The Minister and Bord Fáilte have failed completely to take the necessary action.

I have been to Britain on five promotional trips over the last eight years. I understand the British market from the north right down to the south coast. I was there within the past five weeks. Several people commented on the fact that no attempt was made to counteract the ill effects of newspaper and television reports of the unfortunate troubles in the North of Ireland. They explained that these tended to frighten them off. I met British tourists who admitted to being a little apprehensive about their welcome here this year.

I suggested to the Minister recently that he should have been at the tourism workshop in London last May. Had the Minister gone to London he could have availed himself of the opportunity to make a comprehensive statement on the situation here in order to reassure the British public who spend their holidays here that there was still a welcome for them and that they had nothing to fear in this country. The tourism workshop was attended by 1,200 representatives of the travel trade. The presence of the Minister would have provided Bord Fáilte with a considerable amount of extra publicity because I am sure the Minister would not have been shy or bashful about going on television or anything like that. There was a tourism workshop in Frankfurt a fortnight ago. The Minister could have been there. There is one coming up in Holland in the near future. The Minister may smile but this is bread and butter for a great many people. I have here the figures for Athlone this year as compared with last year. This is the Minister's own area. If he wants the figures I will give them to him.

Despite the adverse factors affecting the industry I have the greatest confidence in the future of the industry provided the lessons which have been learned this year are taken to heart. The first and most necessary step to be taken is the restructuring of the entire board of Bord Fáilte. This board will have to be mainly composed of persons with experience in the industry and who know the problems. Some attempt must be made to introduce proper communications, proper liaison, between Bord Fáilte and the regional tourism organisation.

My comment on the letter I quoted from a hotelier and which was published in yesterday'sIrish Press is that this should not occur. When the full picture of this year's tourist season is known I trust the Minister will be able to submit to the Dáil long-term proposals for the development of the industry. Some time ago he spoke about a five-year plan for the tourist industry but there is nothing in this Bill about a five-year plan. We do not even know the policy regarding future accommodation developments.

The Minister proposes to increase the number of directors of Bord Fáilte by two. I shall have much to say on that point on the Committee Stage. I am not satisfied that this step will resolve the obvious problem that has arisen this year. I do not see what improvement this will effect in Bord Fáilte. A more drastic reconstruction of the board must be carried out.

For too long the Minister and Bord Fáilte were not prepared to admit the truth about the tourist industry this year. I appreciate the motive behind that approach. A person in charge of a large organisation does not like to be the first to admit that things are going badly. It is not unknown in business that you put on more of a show when things are going badly; if things are going well, you do not have to put on a show. Unfortunately, there has been an exaggerated euphoria in the approach of the Minister and Bord Fáilte in this connection up to recently.

The Chair suggested to the last speaker that people might easily be identified. With the exception of one individual whose photograph appears frequently in the newspapers, I do not know any other director of Bord Fáilte. Therefore, anything I say is not intended to reflect on any person in that organisation.

How much of their own money do these developers put into new hotels or new rooms or new what-have-you? In the western part of the country there is 40 per cent for new hotels and they can borrow money which will be guaranteed by the State. There is no difficulty whatever about getting money if you have a State guarantee. I trust that Bord Fáilte and the Minister's Department examine propositions with a sceptical eye and say, in effect, when necessary: "Look, that is too much of a good thing. You are not going to borrow all that much or, if you do, we shall not support you". Fifty per cent of the cost of new hotel bedrooms in the west is given by way of grant. How much, then, can be given by way of guaranteed loan?

The Minister says the gross amount of grants has been pushed up to £11 million and the gross amount of money that may be guaranteed is pushed up to £8 million. For all practical purposes, they have been moving side by side. This would suggest that they get 50 per cent by way of grant and 40 per cent by way of guaranteed loan— a total of 90 per cent. Doubtless this has happened occasionally. Elsewhere, 40 per cent of the cost of a new bedroom is given by way of grant plus some amount by way of guaranteed loan or moneys may be got by way of guaranteed loan which makes that particular part of the approach an open-ended approach.

The Minister talks about the scheme for caravan and camping sites. Do the words "in each case" mean in the case of each camping site or do they mean in the case of each person who develops caravan and camping sites?

Each project; each scheme.

A man who develops ten schemes can get a maximum, therefore, of £20,000 in each case?

That is right.

Except for being in Kilkee a few months ago I have not been in the holiday parts of the west of Ireland for many years. Perhaps this year I might do a tour down in the west. Is it true that one well-known firm has developed a number of these camping sites? I assumed a camping site was of the kind developed years ago by a private person in Skerries, namely, a field with toilet facilities and a washing room for ordinary domestic washing. I was so busy and so intent on my work that I did not take the opportunity when I was in Kilkee recently to go up and see the camping site which I understand is being developed there. I am told that the site includes caravans.

I assume there are certain platforms to which people can take their own caravans, but I understand that other caravans are provided on the side by the developers, and that there is a television room. There is also a play-room. I presume that is also the case in the other sites in the west. I am not to be taken as being against this. That is not the point. I want to get my thinking straight. If this 50 per cent is subject to a maximum of £20,000 in each case, presumably as much as £50,000 could be spent on one of these caravan sites.

Not by the State, but gross.

Yes, gross.

As much as £50,000 gross. Inevitably the Minister and Bord Fáilte will come under criticism if a kind of supermarket in caravan sites develops. Since I have not seen them I do not know whether it is developing. If it does develop, there will be severe criticism of the Minister and Bord Fáilte.

The Minister said that Bord Fáilte found it necessary to introduce a moratorium, the effect of which is that the board are not entering into any new grant commitments for the time being. Whenever I talk about management development to people in semi-State bodies or to civil servants, they say it has all changed since I was in the Civil Service and that they have much improved methods of budgetary forecasting. When I was in the Civil Service for a long period, this kind of thing would not happen. It was never known to happen. A thing can be called by a fancy name like "budgetary forecasting" but I know a fair amount about estimating. It is not all that accurate a science but you can get very close to it if your mind is really on your job and you would not get into this kind of situation very easily.

The Land Commission with which I used to deal at one time had a vast number of what they called commitments. We all knew what their commitments meant. We knew the percentage that would mature. In this case it seems to me that Bord Fáilte had not the foggiest idea of how their commitments were running, judging by the effect. The result is that we are now in the "stop" part of a "stop-go" economy. Obviously there was a tremendous "go" if all the money was spent, and we are now in the "stop" part. Perhaps in view of the fact that tourism is not going so well this year, there will be some little saving in not having extra accommodation made available.

I said on the Supplementary Estimate that so far as the development of tourism went I regarded advertising by Aer Lingus as one of the most valuable parts of it. It seemed to me, at any rate, that there was more advertising in the good journals in Britain by Aer Lingus than by Bord Fáilte and, therefore, such success as tourism has had is partly due to the efforts of Aer Lingus. In this Bill the Minister is making provision for the next seven years, more or less. I am not to be taken as against this, and I am not to be taken as against the philosophy which the Minister puts forward in this Bill, that you should plan on a systematic basis and that, if you make up your mind to do a certain thing, you should not be put off it because you have a bad season. I am with the Minister there.

I have one serious criticism about the holiday cottage scheme. I am not against the Minister refusing to register one or two cottages but he says there will have to be a minimum of ten before a person may use the terms "approved holiday cottages" or "approved holiday houses". The Minister said that similar descriptions will be confined to registered premises. This is an example of the kind of minutiae used by public officials in certain Government Departments and semi-State bodies when they are allowed their heads. It is one thing to restrict the word "hotel", an international word which is well known, to a particular kind of place and when we come to "guesthouse" it is a doubtful matter, but when we come to "approved holiday cottage" or "approved holiday house" we are getting into the position where we are dealing with a kind of never-never land. The Minister takes a jump in his brief. He says that a person with one or two holiday houses will not be required to meet the registration standards and that you must have ten houses before you can be registered. The Minister then makes the logical jump, as is the pretence in his statement, and says:

This is in line with the present registration schemes for hotels, guesthouses, caravan parks,et cetera.

There is no necessary connection between somebody who wants to let a cottage or cottages to people and the registration of hotels and guesthouses. I agree with the Minister when he says there is a very substantial increase in the amount of money which he is making available for tourism. I disagreed with my good friend Deputy O'Donnell about this before. On the Supplementary Estimate he said the money being made available was not adequate for this important industry. I think £5½ million a year is a very big sum indeed. The Minister demonstrated the point by saying that in 1960 the sum provided was £500,000 and now it is over £5 million. That is ten times as much in a decade and, even with the fall in the value of money, that is a sizeable increase.

The Minister said:

I met the Board of Bord Fáilte on 8th July last.

He means the 8th of this month?

That is right.

I realised when I went down through the sentence that he meant the 8th of this month. I understand we will have an amendment to the Bill tomorrow. The most significant part of the Minister's statement occurs where he says:

I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to increase the membership of the Board of Bord Fáilte in order to enrich the expertise and experience available at board level.

There are differences of opinion about what is the ideal committee or board but certainly for this type of job I would bet that five would be better than nine. In the age in which we live we are all so sophisticated that the Minister cannot come to the House and say: "These fellows are wrangling with each other" or "They are NBG", which means "no bloody good". The Minister cannot really make any criticism of them but we all understand this sophisticated language. To return to the Minister's speech, he continued:

The existing board has done a magnificent job, but I am convinced that it would benefit from an expanded membership in preparation for the challenges of the future.

These are pretty well-known words which we hear frequently nowadays.

I stand over my point that if, in fact, the Minister and his Department are dissatisfied with Bord Fáilte, it would be better if it were recast completely.

I do not know of this criticism of Bord Fáilte. I do not mind admitting that I have not the same interest that Deputy O'Donnell has in it——

Except that the Deputy used the right word, "recast"; I said "restructure".

I am thinking of the genuine argument, not of language at the moment. The Deputy has obviously put tremendous effort into getting information about the tourist industry. I do not profess to know very much about it except what I see once in a while. However, I shall do better. I shall take my holidays in this country in future and go back to my old habit of a lifetime. In five years' time, if the Minister and I are still here, perhaps even in three years, I shall be in a better position to say something about it.

It is necessary to pass this enabling statute in the system of financial operations we pursue here. This kind of legislation is necessary and I have no objection to it, subject to the criticisms or the queries I have made about the size of the grants and the possibility that certain favoured persons, not necessarily political people—it is extraordinary how certain people have a greater capacity for getting grants than others—might be enabled to dip their hands fairly deeply into the public purse. Such people would be facilitated by this Bill.

This Bill is timely in that it is getting its Second Reading at a time when tourism is topical all over the country. I welcome the Bill if for no reason other than that the purposes of the Bill are to raise the limit on the amount which may be paid to Bord Fáilte for giving grants for the development of holiday accommodation; to raise the limit on the amount of loans which may be guaranteed and to provide for the registration of approved holiday cottages. Apart from that, the Bill gives us an opportunity of discussing the tourist industry as a whole, of considering how successful we were in building up this industry over the past ten years or so and learning where any mistakes were made. It gives us an opportunity to discuss the existing situation and to say how we think the tourist industry should be developed in future and how we think our marketing system in particular can be improved.

It is well worth nothing that expenditure in grants has increased over the past ten years or so from £½ million to over £5½ million and also that the amount of money availed of in respect of State guaranteed loans shows a substantial increase. It is also worth noting that the number of bedrooms in hotels and guesthouses increased from almost 18,000 in 1960 to nearly 28,000 in the present year, an increase of over 56 per cent.

Capital investment by the State in this industry played a major part in providing increased accommodation. Approximately 25 per cent on average of the investment of £36 million in accommodation development was provided by Bord Fáilte by way of State-guaranteed loans. In other words, I think the developers invested approximately 75 per cent of the £36 million of their own money, or by way of loans which they raised and are repaying, and the State invested 25 per cent by way of grants.

Tourism is infallible as a means of improving the economy, especially in the western parts of the country and in areas where industry has not yet appeared to the same extent as in the cities and industrial estates. I welcome the provision for the registration of approved holiday cottages and the manner in which this scheme is being promoted. It appears that the pilot scheme in Clare is very successful and this should encourage interested persons in other parts of the country to adopt similar schemes. It appears that at the moment we have surplus accommodation and that in certain areas there are surplus bedrooms while in other areas there is a scarcity of bedroom accommodation.

In considering future applications for grants Bord Fáilte should have regard to the areas in which the proposed developments will take place. The grants should be directed more towards the provision of accommodation in areas where there is great potential for tourism but where very little development has taken place to date. I also welcome the idea that proprietors of holiday cottages would supply the board with a statement of the maximum prices. This should be a safeguard in many respects.

It is certainly too late now to do anything to improve the tourist situation for the current year. Marketing for any year should be done during the preceding winter. To a great degree promotional work in the spring, certainly after 1st April, is too late for that year. I am informed that particularly in England the majority of people who go abroad on holidays decide around Christmas where they will spend their holiday the following year, and then proceed to save up for that holiday. Therefore, marketing should be carried out during the winter prior to the tourist season.

I can see good reason why Bord Fáilte are not considering applications for grants for bedroom accommodation at present but the board should definitely proceed with the provision of grants for the development of caravan parks in certain tourist districts and in areas where there is a great demand for properly serviced caravan parks. I have in mind the town of Kenmare where there is certainly a great need for such a park. There is an application before the board for a considerable period for a grant in respect of this park. The developer is prepared to put a substantial sum of money into this project. He has great confidence in the future of this project, and schemes such as this should be given a grant without which they could not proceed.

There is a great tourist market which is completely untapped. I have been told by people who have visited Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands during the past year that the people there who go abroad on holidays know very little about Ireland and that we have practically no marketing system there. The hoteliers should form chains or groups. The time has come when the hotels should not be depending on either the Government or Bord Fáilte or any other organisation to bring in their business; they should go out and seek it themselves. A scheme of marketing grants should be devised whereby any hotelier or representative of any chain of hotels would go abroad to seek business and get a grant, as is given in the case of industries.

For individual hoteliers?

Would that not be a waste of money? Does the Deputy mean groups of hoteliers?

There is a tendency to form groups but at the same time you could have a proprietor of a fairly large hotel who would like to go it alone and who would probably have his own contacts in a certain city or country. He should get a grant the same as a traveller for a chain of hotels. I can see the difficulty in so far as it could be costly to give a grant to every hotelier, even a man with a ten-bedroom hotel. However, some scheme should be worked out whereby marketing grants would be paid to hoteliers and to representatives of chains of hotels.

One hotelier in the Deputy's own constituency has been very successful in that regard.

Yes, he has. There are a few of them in Kerry who are quite successful in this line. Any hotelier who went abroad during the past winter and sought markets is doing quite a good business.

I think they get grants.

As a matter of fact I met a hotelier the other night who spent a period last winter in the North of Ireland and is doing a very good northern trade at the moment.

It might be dangerous to comment.

I hope it is in the hotel business—that he is not bringing other stuff into the north.

I believe Bord Fáilte are overstepping their functions in regard to their obligations in the operation of the Planning Act and the regulations made thereunder. I do not mind Bord Fáilte lodging appeals against decisions of planning authorities in respect of amenity areas, areas of great scenic beauty. However, I do not like the idea of Bord Fáilte lodging appeals against decision of planning authorities in respect of areas outside amenity areas. This is a matter which the Minister could take up with Bord Fáile with a view to allowing the planning authorities to operate this Act in the manner in which it was intended.

I can see nothing wrong with increasing the membership of the board provided good men are appointed. An appointee to the board should have a special interest in the tourist industry. He should be a director of a hotel or a group of hotels. He should have an interest also in the transport system, experience of dealing personally with tourists and he should have good contacts abroad. He should have contacts particularly in the countries I have mentioned where there appears to be huge untapped market, such as Germany, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. I do not agree with Deputy O'Donnell that the additional directors should be nominated either by the hotel federation or the travel agents. The directors should be independent and not answerable to any organisation. In conclusion, I would urge the Minister and Bord Fáilte to consider seriously the provision of a scheme of marketing grants for hoteliers and representatives of hotel chains. For the moment, at any rate, we should concentrate on marketing and if we are successful with that we should proceed with building additional bedrooms and accommodation.

This Bill reminds me of a prescription for a very sick man. It is a poor prescription for a very sick industry. The moneys which are to be injected into this industry will have to be watched carefully. The figures which are quoted here relate only to retrospective grants, the payment of grants to which the board are already committed. One would think that it was something that was to be done in the future. Men are waiting to be paid these grants. The bank strike was the greatest blessing in disguise.

Coming from the major tourist centre, I measure the tourist industry in my town in one way. Whenever I have a £10 note to change I go into the town and change it and I will get £9 English notes in the change. Today you will not get nine English pound notes; if you get four or five you will be lucky. One matter to which I should like to draw attention is the question of foreign exchanges in tourist centres. It is all right to say that the rate may appear in the local paper but you have German, Belgian or French tourists coming to a town in which some of the smaller hoteliers do not know what the rate of exchange is and you will find these tourists wandering around seeking to have their money exchanged because they cannot go to the banks. I should like to know if we have been meeting the needs in this regard.

We have to examine the possibility of whether we will win back the trade which we have lost-because we have lost it, there is no doubt about that. The new film industry which we are about to start could be utilised in this direction, particularly as we are going to have colour television, to try to attract tourists. We should try to get our own people to go to our tourist centres even at this late hour. Television could help to encourage people to spend their money in their own country.

I was greatly disappointed to hear the Minister for Local Government saying that he intended to see that the signs in Connemara would be only in Irish. Because a subversive element tarred out the English version, we have the Minister, jelly-spined, not able to stand up and say: "We are catering for tourists and not Irish speakers alone." We should be able to direct foreign tourists to wherever they want to go. Who are we catering for? The majority in the west want the signs to be bilingual. It is bad enough to have only Irish signs over toilets. Mistakes have been made, very embarrassing mistakes, by our own people who do not know the difference.

I had the privilege this year of visiting the northern English counties with a promotion group and I heard a lot of complaints about the cost of food here. That was before the Budget. Overnight the Minister doubled the tax on hotels, or additions to hotels, on food and drink and on the furnishings for these hotels. One could go on and on. These are the things which priced out the tourists.

The Deputy could go on but it is not in order to deal with these things.

Facts are facts. We have very many empty beds in this country today. Let us face up to it, I can go further into what the cause of the decline in our industry has been —we had the cowboys and Indians in the front bench there, the trigger-happy men who——

The Deputy will have to withdraw that statement. He cannot speak of Members in disparaging terms like that.


The Deputy will withdraw the expression he used.

Of cowboys and Indians?

The Deputy will withdraw the expression.

I may withdraw it but here it is recorded——

The Deputy will withdraw it and leave it unqualified.

Well, I will not qualify it any further.

Dr. O'Coogan

The cowboys are heroes.

Do not be adding to it. We would expect it from Deputy Coogan.

We saw your photographs at the match with some of these people who caused a lot of——


It is a very poor prescription to deal with a sick situation and I must admit that I am sickened by some of the members of the Government front bench.

We have been told that information regarding Ireland is not available in the booking offices in England. We all know that in these offices colourful advertisements are displayed for countries such as Spain, frequently depicting glamorous blondes on sun-drenched beaches. We, too, have a beautiful country which we should publicise to a greater degree.

Of the tourists from England, nine out of ten are either Irish or of Irish descent. I have met scores of them and know that in many cases they take their cars over here and drive with their families around the country. It is a sad state of affairs that at the moment some hotels have more staff than tourists. I would add that taxi men also have been affected adversely by the fall-off in the tourist trade and they are finding it difficult to pay the insurance and tax on their cars.

Visitors sometimes have an unfavourable concept of Irish behaviour and this is illustrated in the following anecdote. Last year an old English lady came to my town with a coach party of tourists. She was invited by the courier to attend at some Irish entertainment in the hotel and her first question was "Will there be much fighting?" I am glad to relate that she did attend the "Irish Night" festivities and she told the courier the following day how much she had enjoyed hereself. However, this image of the fighting Irish is the image many visitors have of our people and I am afraid in view of recent events it will be even more difficult to eradicate this impression.

The Deputy is not being of much help.

I will conclude by telling some of the Deputies opposite that instead of going to Liverpool for their holiday they might come instead to the west where they will receive a welcome.

Dr. O'Donnell

Tourism should be the concern of us all because of its contribution to the economy of the country. Therefore, when we see signs of recession quite properly we should be alarmed.

We should ask ourselves if we have concrete plans regarding tourist accommodation: have we set a target and are we making any forecasts as to the accommodation that is required? We got off to a good start in this connection but in this era of intensive competition perhaps the mere provision of accommodation is not the answer.

Have the troubles in the north, the high cost of living here and the service we offer been responsible for the drop in the tourist trade? We must examine carefully all these matters because this is a most important industry. As an attraction to tourists we should consider offering special rates for Irish-manufactured goods, for petrol and so on. Some years ago in France, General de Gaulle ensured that French products were available at 35 per cent of cost to American tourists. As a result, he built up a reservoir of American currency which he exchanged for gold and later sent his planes to collect the gold from the United States.

The Government should remove the tax from Irish goods, food and petrol and thereby provide an incentive for tourists to come here. On a recent TV programme many British visitors commented that prices were much too high in Ireland. Visitors will not go to places where high prices are the order of the day and the Minister should give this aspect very careful consideration. The recent Government taxes certainly have not helped and perhaps the hotel charges should be reviewed.

Two years ago I spent a weekend with my family at Tramore and the cost was £65 18s 6d, which is exorbitant. An American friend recently booked for four days into a Nenagh hotel. Subsequently it transpired he could stay only for one day but although he had paid for the four days he did not get a refund. If this practice persists or becomes prevalent we will certainly have a reduction in the number of tourists coming here. The people who engage in such practices do untold damage to our tourist industry and the recent announcement of increased hotel charges next year will certainly kill the goose that lays the golden egg. It is not good enough that those people, for their own selfish interests, can carry out this exploitation. It is up to the Government to protect the important tourist industry.

I am concerned about the grants paid to hotels and the fact that we are never given any data about those grants. We have a list of the grants made available to industry; however, the Minister and his predecessor have refused to give details of grants paid to hotels and I should like to know the reason. I was surprised to see that such large grants are given in respect of caravan sites. Are these grants available for the caravans themselves?

Only for the developement and servicing of the site.

I should like the Minister to tell me why we cannot have lists of the grants made available to individual hotels. There is a glut of hotels in Dublin.

There is not a bed to be had in Dublin tonight.

That is surprising. That would suggest the Minister is right and we are wrong; we have the tourists.

We do not panic if a week or two are bad. It is the long haul that counts. Wait until the end of October and November; then we can make our comments.

Are our advertising and marketing as good as they should be? American tourists on package deal holidays stop over for just one night and then go on to Britain and the Continent. I do not think we give potential holidaymakers enough information about the country. There are people who think Ireland and England are all one. Ignorance about this country is greatest on the Continent. We should pay more attention to marketing.

I am disappointed that the Minister for Local Government has decided that destination signs in the west are to be in Irish only. I deplore this decision. We should have a realistic approach. Is there proper liaision between the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Transport and Power? Harm could be done to the tourist industry by this decision because this kind of thing could discourage tourists. The Minister is a realist. I should like him to discuss this matter with his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, before a final decision is made. The Minister made some comment about unionised hotels.

I did not cast any reflection on them.

No. I am aware of that. Is there a proper recruitment programme from the point of view of staff? As far as I know, there is no proper training programme for hotel staffs. Working conditions are not good. Could these be improved?

This would not arise on this Bill.

I agree, but it is an important aspect from the point of view of the tourist industry.

The Deputy will appreciate that conditions of service would be a matter for the Minister for Labour.

That is so. There is need for a closer liaison between Government Departments because these matters cannot be dealt with in isolation. If working conditions for the staff are not satisfactory we will not get people to join the industry and that will adversely affect the tourist industry ultimately.

Ought we, I wonder, to change our licensing laws? Drinks should be available with meals for tourists. Our liquor laws are antiquated. They should be brought up to date even at the risk of offending some vested interests. We must be realistic about this. I would like to see drink made available to tourists tax free. The tax forms a considerable part of the cost. Why not encourage tourists by making drink available to them at a very low price?

The locals might have something to say about that.

It is a very important industry and we must be realistic.

Cheap drink built up the Spanish tourist industry.

There is a slight difference in the type of society.

The attraction for tourists was cheap drink.

It happens to be a dictatorship. Is that what the Deputy is advocating?

That is an extraordinary statement to make.

It is a fact.

The fact that it is a dictatorship has nothing at all to do with the price of drink.

You can impose things in a dictatorship that you dare not attempt in a democracy.

The Minister can take off the tax he put on.

My suggestions are, I think, worthy of consideration by the Minister especially when it is realised that we have really had it too easy up to this. The tourist trade will become more and more competitive from now on and we will have to offer new attractions. Do individual hoteliers get grants for travelling abroad to sell?

They do not, no.

I think something should be provided.

Do they not get help from the regional tourist boards? They arrange trips for them.

It is something we should look at. We should help those who help themselves. The people who have done this marketing are the people who are filling their hotels.

Would it be an idea to offer incentives to our own people to holiday in their own country? No one has ever given the figure of what is spent abroad by Irish holidaymakers. It is not that I think people should not travel abroad. Of course they should. It is most valuable experience, but I should not like a wholesale exodus. Holidaying abroad is becoming more and more popular. We may have to offer some incentives to our own people to holiday at home.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd July, 1970.