Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 May 1995

Vol. 452 No. 4

Written Answers. - Disabled Tourists.

Mary Wallace


73 Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the efforts, if any, which are being made to develop Ireland as a tourist destination for people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8157/95]

The rapid expansion of the tourism sector in recent years has seen a proportionate increase in the number of tourists with disabilities. This has led to an increasing level of inquiries from tourists and potential tourists about accessibility of tourist facilities in Ireland. As a result, the National Rehabilitation Board, with the assistance of Bord Fáilte, held a conference on tourism and people with disabilities on 18 January 1994. At this conference, tourism by people with disabilities in Europe was estimated as being worth £31 billion, £22 billion of which is unsatisfied demand. Bord Fáilte currently estimate that Ireland's share of this market could be worth as much as £180 million. While some research may be needed in relation to both supply and demand, it is clear that this is a very valuable market which we cannot afford to ignore.

In line with the commitment of both the Government and the European Commission to improve the position of the socially disadvantaged, the Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-99, which is the main vehicle for tourism development in Ireland over the next five years, makes support available to hotel proprietors to help meet the additional costs of providing suitable access-friendly accommodation and related facilities for the disabled in existing hotel premises, and to assist hotels and major visitor centres to provide access for the disabled, where this can be provided on a cost-effective basis. Furthermore, in inter-Departmental discussions aimed at ensuring consistency and complementarity between the tourism and other operational programmes, my Department has stressed the importance of improved access for disabled tourists.

There is a growing awareness in the tourism industry of the importance of the disabled holiday market. Ultimately, of course, it is the industry itself which must adapt its facilities and product if it is to appeal to the disabled holiday-market and his/her family and friends.