This Bill is very necessary, as anybody familiar with the tourist trade knows that in the last 12 months a number of hoteliers who had been promised money failed to get it. Consequently, they are paying for their own money through the banks, having raised overdrafts. Such people, I hope, will now be dealt with and paid speedily. Some of them have been out of pocket for two years.
There seems to be a great tendency to lump Cork with Dublin as if Cork had all the facilities that Dublin enjoys. The Minister lists the grants available to hotels and guesthouses and says that grants of up to 30 per cent are provided, subject to the exclusion of certain locations such as Dublin and Cork. I suppose there are 1,000,000 people living within 30 miles of here. There are three railway stations, a port and an airport, and it is the capital city and seat of Government. Deputies who must stay overnight are, as far as Dublin is concerned, tourists. If somebody wants to build a hotel and if no grant is available in Dublin or in Cork he will build in Dublin because the facilities and the people are there. Everybody in Ireland at some time each year, I suppose, has business in Dublin. The Minister should reconsider the exclusion of Cork from grants. It seems most unfair that Cork which is one-sixth or one-eighth the size of Dublin should for certain purposes be lumped with Dublin and not given grants.
Dr. O'Connell last night said he thought Dublin was overprovided with beds. At certain times I suppose every hotel is full and there are times when every area seems to be overprovided with beds. In various locations we seem to be providing beds on a peak period basis. As regards the sad decline in tourism this year I am willing to accept the Minister's statement that we should wait until October before deciding that the year was a flop from a tourism point of view. The 4.6 per cent or 6.8 per cent growth which the Minister quotes for the first six months is very gratifying, but it was the result of the tremendous effort put in last autumn and winter by various tourist organisations and hoteliers on their own behalf to drum up off-season business for winter sports here.
This country can never compete with the Spanish Costa del Sol or the French Riviera in providing sunshine but we have other things to offer. I think we could make tourism most valuable in the autumn and spring when this country is much more attractive and there is much more to do here than in other parts of Europe. This year that was obviously happening. The regional boards and others interested in promoting their own centres brought in people in the off-season and this accounts for the 4.6 increase. Speaking to managers of various tourist boards, not just in my own region, I find that the number of cancellations between mid-May and the end of June was phenomenal and the number of inquiries in that period was down by one-third or 40 per cent. All the good work done in the early part of the year to bring in tourists was nullified by the June figures. I do not know whether trade will pick up again in this and the remaining months. I hope it will. I am willing to wait until the final figures are available before passing judgment on this season.
I ask the Minister to look again at the position of Cork city and to provide some grants as an incentive for people who want to build hotels there. Those who go into the hotel business in Cork should not be legislated against and treated in the same way as the people in Dublin where many considerations apply that do not apply in Cork. Cork is not the capital city. There are other sectors and areas of Government control where this discrimination arises. I do not say there is a conspiracy but there is certainly a shrugging of shoulders and an idea that Cork is all right, that it can look after itself. If this trend continues and is extended to all other Government Departments there will be no Cork, because it will have been wiped out. There is no reason why anybody should come there either to provide industries or hotels.
I asked the Minister for Labour a question here last year about AnCO in Cork. He mentioned Galway and other places. I have no objection to Galway, the Shannon region and the Dublin region coming before Cork, but the Minister's attitude and that of the Government seems to be that Cork is able to look after itself.
I should like to see the guesthouse allowances increased. We have possibly, although this would not apply over the whole country, enough Grade A and Grade B bedrooms. With the advent of car ferries, many people coming over here are not interested in staying in the better-class hotels but want good, clean accommodation, bed and breakfast and to be able to move on a day or two later to some other part of the country. For that reason people should be encouraged to provide guesthouse accommodation at reasonable rates. The building of more big hotels should be discouraged and grants provided in respect of guesthouse accommodation up to Bord Fáilte standards.
Holiday cottages are a new development in tourism here. The Shannon development region was the first to do this but I believe there is another one, a ten-cottage one, on the shores of Lough Ree. I cannot see why a minimum of ten units must be registered with Bord Fáilte. The Minister says here:
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 registrations standards...
If people want to register and if they have not ten units they should be allowed to do so. What the Minister seems to be doing is excluding them from the Bord Fáilte register and only catering for companies or firms of developers who can provide a ten-unit site with cottages on it.