Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Tourism Promotion.

1.

asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport the number of visits he has made to undertake promotional activities for Irish tourism to major markets abroad since October this year; and the similar visits he plans in the next three months.

I have not undertaken major tourism promotional visits since October and, as of now, have no plans to do so over the next three months.

I have to confess that I am shocked at the Minister's answer. Would the Minister not agree that at a time when Ireland's image abroad is unfortunately being damaged every day of the week by the continuing tragedy of the problems in Northern Ireland that it is essential for a Minister for Tourism to lead and to spearhead the fight to attract tourists to this country? Will the Minister say why he has not made any of these visits abroad and also if he has joined in any joint ventures with his Northern Ireland counterpart in order to work together to sell this island abroad and to counteract the bad image we have?

I can assure the Deputy that I am leading the drive for improved tourism in this country. I answered the question specifically in the terms in which it was asked, about what happened since October and what my plans are. I rely very heavily on the judgement of Bord Fáilte as to when a ministerial presence is profitable for their tourism drives and I am available to them every time that they so decide. I want to make that quite clear.

With regard to the Northern Ireland tourism link-up, there is a very good spirit of co-operation between the two tourism developments boards. I have a very good relationship with the tourism people along the Border and as the Deputy and the House know the international fund for Ireland is specifically geared towards providing tourist facilities in that area which will be seen to be of mutual benefit both to the people in the Six Counties and to us.

The Minister has stated that he relies on Bord Fáilte but in view of the fact that Board Fáilte have repeatedly said that they and everyone else rely on the Minister to give the lead in tourism and in view of the targets set by the Government in theirProgramme for National Recovery—these targets were not set by Bord Fáilte because they do not have the authority to set them— surely it is the Minister's responsibility to lead this battle and it is he who should be abroad selling this country. Will the Minister reconsider his decision and instead of staying at home for six months during the crucial time when we should be selling the country abroad will he consider undertaking some major promotional trips in the next three months?

I am afraid the Deputy did not listen carefully to the terms of my reply to the question. I said that tomorrow there may be a decision taken that a major ministerial drive is important and I can assure the Deputy that it duty calls tomorrow I shall reply. The Minister is leading in the Government's campaign to develop tourism over the five-year period.

I am delighted to hear that.