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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 May 1995

Vol. 453 No. 7

Private Members' Business. - Investment in Tourism: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Andrews on Tuesday, 30 May 1995:
That Dáil Éireann is concerned that State and EU funding of tourism should be applied in the most cost-effective manner and so as to maximise tourist growth, having particular regard to the permanent cessation of violence in Northern Ireland, to the Government's proposals to reorganise State investment in the industry and to the need to increase investment in this growth sector.

I fully support this motion with particular reference to the fact that this House and the public are concerned that State and EU funding for tourism should be applied in the most cost-effective manner so as to maximise tourism growth. Until the year 2000 and beyond, tourism will be the biggest growth industry not only in this country but worldwide. Tourism is our most decentralised industry as it affects every city, town, village and parish. It is also an industry with great job creation potential and if the Minister and the Government are interested in creating more jobs for our well educated young people, who are now being properly trained in the area of tourism, including catering and management, everything possible must be done to ensure that State and EU funding is spent wisely in order to maximise growth in the immediate years ahead.

I refer in particular to the marketing programme by Bord Fáilte and the Department of Tourism and Trade under the operational programme. During the period from 1 October to 17 March as many people as possible from Bord Fáilte and the Department should be engaged in promotional work outside the country in order to attract more tourists here. Marketing is the key to tourism promotion. From information given to me by those with vast experience in the tourism trade and in the hotel and catering businesses, Ireland is merely scratching at the surface of the huge market that exists in the United States, continental Europe, Asia and throughout the world. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of marketing.

Low interest loans should be made available to entrepreneurs who wish to become involved in tourism projects such as the extension of existing facilities and the provision of new facilities, including buildings. Low interest loans are far better and indeed the tourism trade prefers them to grants. We must spend a percentage of State and EU funding for tourism on the provision of all-weather leisure facilities, including cinemas and conference centres. This may be Ireland's last opportunity to spend money of the magnitude that will be made available between now and the year 1999 by the European Commission.

I am convinced, as are those involved in the tourism trade, that a greater sense of urgency is needed on the part of planning authorities in deciding on applications for planning permission for tourism-orientated projects which have great employment potential, be they all-weather leisure facilities, conference centres, extensions to hotels and guest-houses or the construction of new projects.

I ask the Minister to consult with his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, with a view to issuing a directive to planning authorities to give priority to applications for planning permission in respect of proposals which will ultimately create many jobs. I ask the Minister also to consult with his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, with a view to restoring the grants for the control of pollution on farmyards. We must protect and maintain our strong healthy environment for our own benefit, for the benefit of tourists and in the interests of job creation, regardless of the cost.

I am anxious that towns such as Killarney, Kenmare, Killorglin and other coastal towns in south and west Kerry are given an equal and fair opportunity to obtain grants under the Operational Programme on Tourism. It is important that these towns, and indeed the entire constituency of South Kerry, get their fair share of State and EU funding having regard to the huge sums which entrepreneurs and others involved in the hotel and tourism businesses spent over the years out of their own resources.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le mo chomhleacaithe i bhFianna Fáil as an rún a chur os ár gcomhair agus an t-am a chur ar fáil chomh maith. I dtús báire, is trua liom a rá go bhfuil baol ann nach dtuigfear an rún seo i gceart. Tá mé buartha go gcuireann sé béim ar mhéadú ar uimhreacha turasóirí. Tá sé ag caint ar fás, agus an tuiscint a bhíonn ag daoine air sin ná méadú ar uimhreacha. Tá an cheist i bhfad níos leithne ná sin agus ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do na rudaí eile nach bhfuil luaite sa rún.

In suggesting a growth in tourism, the motion runs the risk of being regarded in the same way as a motion that might have come before the Spanish Parliament before the development of places such as the Costa del Sol. If we simply rely on growth in tourist numbers, there is a danger that we may end up with deserted communities during the winter months but which are inundated with tourists during the summer. In Kilkee, County Clare, there is a large hotel in the town which looked distinctly neglected when I was there some years ago. That is what I fear might happen if sustainable tourism is not at the forefront of Government policy.

The term "soft tourism" is often used these days. It is important to spell out what is meant by that because I believe it is our only hope if we are to have a sustainable tourist market, rather than one which will disappear in the short term. Soft tourism relies on low impact type tourist activities which are not concentrated in one area but which make use of the wide resources available over a broader area. It is community-based, unlike the Mullaghmore project where the towns around that area would not have benefited, except indirectly, from the development of such an interpretative centre. It is also activity-related because, due to our climate, we must promote all-weather activities for tourists. It is also heritage-based because that is one of our major strengths. Those areas must be developed and the problems teased out in this motion.

I ask the Minister for Tourism and Trade to look at other areas of policy and perhaps bring some influence to bear on his colleagues, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. Headage payments, for example, have the effect of encouraging farmers to have concentrations of sheep on mountain tops when there is no money available for pollution control. If money is going to be made available to keep people in a community it should assist the tourism industry through protection of the environment rather than the other way around.

In regard to forestry, places such as Connemara are severely risking their tourist potential by relying on an area which will not enhance that particular landscape. On industrial policy, I will simply refer to the current situation in Askeaton and the problems that exist around Cork Harbour. We must be integrated in regard to our tourism policy and not deal with it in isolation from other areas of policy.

I realise the time available to me is limited so I will be brief in my comments. This motion has been tabled at an historic time. I was amazed to discover that this is the first year our tourist numbers will actually exceed the number of residents in the country. To that extent, we are at a turning point and we must be careful that the attraction for Ireland does not begin to wane. An activity which initially attracted tourists here may become diluted if too many people take it up.

My area, Fingal, means "the race of the stranger" and is apt for a place that is trying to develop its tourism potential. It seems to be relying on golf and motorways to attract tourists, which to my mind is not the best way. As a flat area it has immense potential for cycling. However, the Bord Fáilte map of tourist areas does not mention it. I think Bord Fáilte needs to correspond with people in local communities to find out the potential strength of areas but to date they have not done that in all areas. Similarly road signs at places such as Dublin Airport direct people solely into the city ignoring the medieval hinterland of north County Dublin and people are not even told about it. They are directed to Newgrange and by-pass everything on the way. That is a crying shame. People come to this country to find the villages which were developed at a time when the horse and cart was the mode of transport, and cycling is a perfect mode of transport for people who want to go a distance of three to four miles between villages.

Will the Minister take note of the danger of eroding rights of way? This is happening in a rush to grab whatever bit of land is available. In Portmarnock rights of way have been extinguished in the rush to develop golf courses. Golf is not of general interest to people who come to this country although it is a tourist interest. Will the Minister take on board those things that are immediate and cannot be left on the long finger?

Ba mhaith liom cead a fháil mo chuid ama a roinnt leis na Teachtaí Nealon, Upton agus Eric Byrne, má tá sé sin sásúil don Teach.

Carlow-Kilkenny): Tá sé sásúil is dócha.

The Government's commitment to tourism was recognised in the policy agreement, A Government of Renewal, which was negotiated last December by the three parties in Government. An imaginative and constructive seven-point programme was incorporated into the document emphasising the importance of the tourism industry with detailed plans for its development. In the meantime the peace process has gained momentum and its potential has been recognised by the Minister and the Government.

The tourism industry in the Border regions, and Donegal in particular, laboured under severe difficulty during these past 25 years due to the troubles in Northern Ireland. The north western region, which comprises five of the six southern Border counties, earned the lowest overseas and domestic tourism revenue of all seven regions in 1993. The Government recognises the particular problems in Border regions and a number of significant and constructive measures have already been initiated.

Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board have jointly established the overseas tourism marketing initiative with a fund of £6.3 million to promote Northern Ireland and the Republic as a holiday destination. The EU INTERREG programme is allocating £10 million for the promotion of tourism in border areas in the next five years. We have also the generous assistance of the International Fund for Ireland who have funded and are continuing to fund tourist-related development in border areas. Perhaps the most significant happening for a long time was the recognition given to the potential of the tourism industry as a generator of employment and economic activity at the Washington conference last weekend. I compliment the Minister, Deputy Enda Kenny, on the signing of the joint communique with Baroness Denton, who is responsible for the promotion of tourism in Northern Ireland and the US Secretary of State for Commerce, Ron Brown. I was privileged to be there as was my colleague, Deputy Nealon, and we were sitting within a handshake of the Minister and the Baroness when this was being done. It was a great day's work and I am sure this will be reflected in increased numbers from the United States and other parts of the world, as it received widespread publicity.

Despite the difficulties due to the Northern troubles, tourism is a major contributor to the north west region. In 1991 a study commissioned by the Irish Tourist Confederation estimated that income from tourism accounted for approximately 10 per cent of total personal incomes in the region and it was estimated to have been responsible also for 10.8 per cent of total employment there. In the period 1988-93 more grantaided investment went into the Border counties to help develop tourism projects than any other sub region. The sum of £510 million in EU INTERREG and International Fund moneys was three times as high as the average of £17 million for all other regions. Thus the necesary tourism infrastructure to replace and update the facilities which have suffered as a result of business losses have been put in place and the climate for significant further investment in the tourism industry is very good. I have never experienced since I came to this House more inquiries than are being made at present. There are far more projects being submitted for consideration than ever before, a mark of the confidence of entrepreneurs and others in the present policies.

Donegal is a well known tourist county and has a lot to offer from Bundoran in the south to Malin Head in the north. I was particularly glad that Bundoran was selected as a traditional seaside resort to be developed.

In Donegal we are separated from the rest of the country except by a bridge between Ballyshannon and Bundoran. Access is very important in order to reach one's full potential. There are no railways in Donegal. The airport is situated in the west of the county in a Gaeltacht area. It is verging on a disgrace that as yet no scheduled flights have been established between Carrickfin and Dublin. We have flights between Carrickfin and various points in the UK such as Edinburgh, Manchester and even London. We never succeeded — even though an application is in — to have flights between Carrickfin and Dublin. I appeal to the Minister to do his best to see that something is done in that area.

I applaud the initiatives already under way such as the all-Ireland marketing being undertaken jointly by private sectors in the North and South. I believe the Government is using every worthwhile opportunity to raise the international profile of Ireland abroad and to promote the attractions of the whole island as a tourism destination. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this endeavour in many more visitors to Donegal and the border counties this summer and in the years ahead.

I want to deal with one specific area in the limited time at my disposal. Among the great attractions we have as a tourist country are our beautiful lakes and splendid beaches and this is the case particularly in the west. They will be of little tourism value unless we continue to enjoy unfettered access to them. Traditionally we have had free access but I fear that in many areas this freedom is being rapidly eroded. Lands adjoining the beaches and adjoining the lakeshores are being brought up, and sad to say the new owners come equipped with their iron gates and private notices. One of the latest such areas to come under threat is Lough Arrow in County Sligo, a lake of enormous scenic beauty, as many Deputies will know from passing along the Curlew Mountains. At the same time it is one of the leading trout fishing lakes in the entire country. Now the fishermen and other visitors are finding the main access to the lake waters — what people thought was a public pier at Brickeen in Castlebaldwin — closed to them. Another access point at the bridge on the Ballyrush side is also under threat. Where are the advantages of this tourism treasure if access over a large area is cut off and the lake can only be admired from afar?

The problem in Lough Arrow in County Sligo is being addressed by the local people but the Minister must take action at national level, by way of legislation if necessary, which I am sure would have all party support.

We are rightly concerned about the pollution of lakes and beaches. This is another form of pollution. I thank the Minister for including Enniscrone in the traditional seaside resorts which will benefit under the important and imaginative renewal programme. There is an excellent community in Enniscrone which will avail of this. I know the Minister is considering including other resorts in County Sligo next year and I thank him for that. This is an important time in tourism and I know of no person better suited to be at the helm than the Minister.

I welcome this non-contentious motion and pay tribute to Deputies Andrews and Killeen for moving it. It is constructive and in welcome contrast to the many discordant, tiresome motions which come before the House which do little more than highlight problems without offering solutions to remedy the situations they denounce. If remedies are offered little is said about how they would be financed or implemented. As far as some motions are concerned, one wonders if argument and disagreement are not major factors in preventing progress and if those who engage in constant argument realise the futility of their actions or if they believe that is the only way of attracting some modicum of attention or credibility.

There is enormous potential for the development of tourism especially since peace was established. The recent Tansey Weber report indicated that tourism is a major growth area in the economy. In 1993 it accounted for 66 per cent of earnings. Growth in tourism earnings from 1982 to 1990 averaged 10 per cent per annum, the highest in Europe. That was the position before peace was declared so it follows that there is huge potential for an acceleration in the growth levels we have seen since 1980. Earnings from tourism are of the order of £2 billion per year and 90,000 people are employed in the industry. There is potential for further employment.

Dublin has fared badly. While 29 per cent of the population live in Dublin, only 24 per cent of tourism earnings are spent in the city. Dublin is the major location for tourists but most only visit it for a short time. Dublin Tourism, and those charged with responsibility for promoting tourism in the city, should endeavour to extend the stay of tourists in this city and try to develop the services and tourist attractions which are available. Dublin's tourism potential is grossly underdeveloped and that is particularly true in areas outside the old city. Historic buildings, centres of culture and so on are promoted although there is scope for further development but outside of the area bounded by the two canals there is untapped potential which receives little attention.

There are many parks in the county and city but little is done to promote them. That is in sharp contrast to cities like Paris where tremendous effort is put into promoting its beautiful parks. Our parks are a tribute to those in Dublin Corporation and the old Dublin County Council who developed and enhanced them over the years. There is potential for outdoor activities such as orienteering, equestrian sports and water leisure pursuits. Within a few miles of the city centre there are beautiful mountains yet nothing is done to promote and develop the attraction of the Dublin mountains. Very little is done to promote continental-type camping sites in the city or exploit the attractions of the Liffey Valley and Dargle Valley.

When one considers the potential of the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal the level of neglect is truly appalling. I am delighted that the Grand Canal study is completed and I look forward to rapid development of the canal. If these waterways were in the Minister's constituency he and others would be loud in proclaiming their attractions and would have much to say about securing money to develop them. The people of Dublin take them for granted and that is a pity although it is understandable as it is a capital city. I hope the Department will place greater emphasis on developing the tourism potential of the city. Tourists should be encouraged to extend their stay in the city. There is great potential for job creation which is badly needed in a city where 90,000 people are unemployed.

I compliment Deputy Doherty on his speech. He highlighted the issue of signposting which is dreadful. It is assumed that signposts are ornaments and that people know exactly where they are going. That is not so.

As far as possible every tourist should leave Ireland happy. There have been instances of sharp practice which derive from a belief that one can make a short term gain on the grounds that tourists will not revisit the country and will not remember what happened. They do remember and will leave the country with a bad impression.

In a recent press release, Deputy Killeen mentioned the potential for developing tourist based attractions in public houses. He did not spell out exactly what he had in mind but I have no doubt he will let us know before the debate concludes. There is need to look at the licensing laws. I know there are many considerations to be taken into account but it is important to have a degree of flexibility in that area. Apart from the canals, there is virtually no reference in the promotion material for Dublin city to its tourism attractions. This is a pity and something should be done about it.

I thank my constituency colleague, Deputy Upton, for sharing his time with me. I support all the points he made except the implied criticism of Dublin Tourism, of which I am a member. I agree that Dublin is ripe for a major tourism drive. It is very difficult even during non-peak periods to get accommodation in Dublin city. The promotion of Dublin as a destination for weekend breaks has proven so successful that my colleague from Cork could not get a room in a hotel and I had to put her up in my home. This demand for accommodation is reflected in the number of hotels under construction. A magnificent new hotel is being built in Tallaght which in the past received very bad press and was regarded as a dumping area in terms of housing developments. This is a magnificent location for a hotel as it is halfway between the Wicklow mountains and Dublin city.

Dublin tourism has a large number of projects in hands. It has revitalised the north side of the inner city around Parnell Square through the establishment of the Dublin Writers Museum. This magnificent museum attracts not only tourists but also large numbers of Dubliners and Irish people in general. This project is a credit to Dublin Tourism. It has also issued a contract for the development of its headquarters which is beside Grafton Street — a tourist friendly location so to speak. This building was formerly a Protestant church and when the refurbishment is completed it will provide the best of services for tourists.

Dublin Tourism also looks after the James Joyce Tower and the magnificent terraced house in Synge Street where George Bernard Shaw lived. It is only right to put on record the progress made by Dublin Tourism in encouraging Icelandic tourists to take weekend breaks in Ireland. They are huge spenders and this campaign has been very successful. The previous Government must also be given credit for the exciting developments in tourism in Dublin, for example, the Temple Bar area which is a major attraction for tourists. Dublin Tourism has also acquired an old Catholic church on the quays beside the civic offices where it has set up a tourism centre based on medieval Dublin. Dublin is worthy of greater promotion from a tourism point of view.

The development of tourism has massive job creation potential. In this respect I express my appreciation to the new Jury's Inn opposite Christ Church Cathedral for in conjunction with the South Inner City Community Development Association employing young local long term unemployed people in the construction of that building.

On the necessity for North-South co-operation in the area of tourism the peace process has challenged us to turn swords into plough shares. For 25 years people on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland had their lives destroyed by violence. The peace process gives us an opportunity to develop sections of the economy which were neglected during those years of violence. The entire island has a green image but it was under exploited in Northern Ireland for obvious reasons. Approximately 20 per cent of overseas visitors to Northern Ireland are tourists whereas 50 per cent of visitors to the Republic are tourists.

In this regard I welcome the measures taken by the Government to promote cross-Border co-operation in the tourism industry. Tourism is a labour intensive industry with a high job creation potential. Since 1988 approximately 25,000 new full-time jobs and many part-time and seasonal jobs have been created in the industry in the Republic. The job creation potential in the industry in Northern Ireland is enormous and I hope it will help underpin the peace process. Cross-Border co-operation in the tourism sector will be encouraged by the substantial funding available under the EU INTERREG programme, the International Fund for Ireland and the exciting new EU special support programme for peace and reconciliation which is expected to receive Commission approval for the summer.

Tourism on both parts of the island is sharply divided between what might be termed urban and rural tourism. Until we develop our towns and cities as tourist destinations holidaymakers will continue to view them as little more than stopovers to other areas. Unfortunately the 25,000 jobs created in the industry over the past six years have not been distributed equally throughout the country. Some progress has been made in this regard and the conservation projects in Dublin and Cork will add to the tourism potential of these cities. The greatest potential for the development of urban tourism is contained in the operational programme for tourism which is expected to lead to a £640 million investment in tourism. The Minister said that 1,000 proposals for the development of the tourism industry had been received under the operational programme. Decisions on projects will have to be made within the parameters of the programme. I hope a substantial proportion of the projects funded under the programme will be in urban areas and that integrated tourism projects are developed so that towns and cities are no longer regarded as stopovers on the way to airports.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Morley and Kirk.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ba mhaith liom, ar an ócáid seo, comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire nua. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh sé sult agus taitneamh as a phost úr. Táimid ag fanacht anois ar an airgead.

I am delighted we have had the opportunity to speak to the motion this evening and I commend my colleagues for introducing it to the floor of the House. This is the most opportune time given that we both had the privilege of attending the Washington conference at which we witnessed the enthusiasm and energy generated with regard to investment. None of us in the House will be ashamed of being parochial in this debate. Donegal has been most successful in the tourism trade during the past number of years but we have had our disadvantages and we have had to deal with the problems of Northern Ireland. I hope the Government will become aware of the need to reorient their policies and to benefit from the peace dividend.

Tourism is one of the areas where we will have real potential in job creation and in the promotion of this country as a holiday destination. We cannot put a ceiling over the entire country so we cannot have sunshine but we certainly can give a lot more. The marketing of this country, and in particular the Border counties, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland tourist board is the way forward. The fresh air of Donegal is preferable to hot steamy New York in June, July and August and the pollution of our large cities. I do not think Bord Fáilte has taken and transferred that image into something from which we in Ireland could benefit.

We need to invest money in marketing initiatives. In particular we should look at the growth markets of Northern England and Scotland, especially when we have the opportunity to re-establish many of our old markets. We have seen Scottish people, in particular, and English people coming to the north west region and to the Border counties. We will have to take difficult decisions, one of which is the promotion of Belfast as an international base. I realise we have the problem of the Shannon stop-over and with Dublin but we will be able to overcome those problems if we work with the Northern Ireland people. We in Donegal would like Larne promoted as the port of entry. We want to see the airports of Belfast, Derry, Carrickfinn and Sligo promoted to encourage tourism, particularly in the north west.

The Minister should look at the possibility of Canadian airlines coming into Belfast and working with some of the Canadian tour operators. It is important to exploit fully the Northern Ireland tradition where many people emigrated to Canada.

Donegal has a good product mix but if we do not market it we will not benefit from the peace dividend. Tourism should not be isolated from the operational programmes and the need to work with the Department of the Environment with regard to infrastructure. We do not want motorways around the coast of Donegal but we certainly want good access. I thank the international fund which has helped many of the Border counties to develop leisure facilities in particular. We have 13 hotels in the county with leisure facilities, 13 18-hole golf courses and 27 new visitor centres. Certainly there has been growth and development but that has only been because of the international fund working with Bord Fáilte. Much more needs to be done.

There is a grave need for self-catering accommodation in County Donegal. There has always been a reluctance in Bord Fáilte to grant-aid hotel beds, which is wrong and should be changed. We should seek to upgrade our existing facilities; en suite leisure facilities, etc., and increase the number of hotel beds. We should examine the type of hotel bed psychology introduced by Jury's Inn which may be the way forward for package holidays.

We must sustain the moneys that will be made available to tourism. We have the potential to extend the tourist season and we need to do it. We must have quality, customer care and high standards.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a short contribution to this worthwhile debate. I wish to avail of the opportunity to congratulate my good friend and long time colleague the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Kenny, on his appointment. I am sure he will be very successful in his Department and I wish him well. Many of the people of Mayo are delighted with his recent appointment and I am sure he will do his best to live up to their high expectations in that office.

Some of the points I wish to make have already been made. We have been told that tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world. It is certainly a fast growing industry here and threatens to replace agriculture, our most important industry. Even in Ireland tourism is more important to some parts than to others. It is an uneven patchwork: in some areas tourism is well established while in other areas it is in its infancy.

The first criticism I make of those in charge of the development of tourism is that there appears to be a great imbalance in the way the money is doled out vis-á-vis the established areas and those which are underdeveloped. In the past the bulk of the money available from the EU — I do not think it will be any different in the present tranche — went towards developing even more sophisticated facilities in areas which had long since been established in the industry while areas which were in their infancy could not get grants to provide basic facilities.

I will be parochial and refer to County Mayo. We know that every report we read holds up tourism as being the great saver of the economy of our county. If we are to develop tourism in the county to the extent projected we need to double the number of bed night accommodation, yet people could not get grants for the provision of that extra accommodation. That is wrong thinking on somebody's part. While unlimited funding can be provided for the provision of sophisticated facilities in an established area there is no incentive to provide basic facilities in the areas which are trying to break into the industry. I hope something will be done to correct that.

Many of the smaller hotels in the west are family owned. They organised a great campaign during the past number of years to extend and modernise their facilities. Out of all the money available to the industry from the latest EU funds only £5 million was set aside for this purpose. That is a pittance and will result in many of these people being unable to obtain grants for the facilities they wish to provide.

Our beautiful beaches — we have ten blue flags in the county again this year — and our scenic beauty spots are in areas where tourists do not have ready or safe access to them. This is a matter that should be addressed. I realise it is not in the Minister's immediate bailiwick but perhaps he would have a word with his colleague, the Minister for the Environment. Roads leading to beaches and places of scenic interest should be improved. I am sure the peace process will impact greatly on the tourist industry. We have had thousands of visitors from the North already to our part of the country. They should be provided with easy access. I would like the Government to ensure that next year the Claremorris by-pass goes ahead. It is the main thoroughfare from the North through Mayo to Galway and further South. In the context of tourism this by-pass would be invaluable.

I would like to congratulate the Minister on the initiative he took on the traditional seaside resorts, which had fallen into decline. It is a pity that scheme is confined to seaside places. I am thinking of the village of Knock where we attract about one million visitors a year. The infrastructure there is urgently in need of overhaul. We need new water and sewerage schemes and I hope the application before the Government for such facilities will be approved shortly. People going there should be facilitated in the same way as people who have to be encouraged to go to other areas.

More use could be made of Knock Airport in the context of tourism. I hope the Minister will see that some attention is given to that.

The tourism industry is one with real potential for development. Nowhere is this potential more obvious than in the north eastern counties. For reasons that do not need to labour, the development of tourism in Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and the other counties along the Border has been somewhat stagnant for over 20 years. It is our earnest hope, now that dramatic changes are taking place in the six northern counties, that we are moving into a new phase that will see tourism develop on a level playing pitch. For obvious reasons the west and south west is where the real dynamic has been in tourism. We have much ground to make up and I hope we will do so rapidly. It would be naive to expect that tourism will immediately become as important an element in the local economy as it is in the west and south. We will have to identify what the deficiencies are. There is a need for great investment in the infrastructure in the area. It is appropriate that we have the Minister with direct responsibility for the industry present tonight. This is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate him and wish him well. I hope he will place emphasis on the north east.

In places like south Armagh and south Down phenomenal progress has been made in terms of infrastructural development. There has been ongoing investment despite the fact that places like Crossmaglen were pivotal to the Northern troubles. It would be well worth the while of the Minister, and his officials, to visit such places and see what has been achieved in the midst of economic chaos. The strong work ethic that exists in the northern counties and the great spirit of self help is as vibrant as ever. Its influence will become more obvious with the passage of time. It is only in recent days they have appointed a promotional officer for the area. Promoting the area will be relatively easy because there is a beauty there that we do not have in many parts of the country. We wish them well and we are looking forward to developing our own area in tandem with them.

It is no harm to ask what is the real dynamic in the development of a tourism industry. Do visitors come spontaneously to an area? Is it promotion by word of mouth? Is it the role of the promotional agency like Bord Fáilte and the effort and the amount of money they put into it? Is it a combination of that and the efforts of the local industry? Is it the importance of the tour operators, the people who decide whether a tourist trail extends into the north east or takes another route to the east or the south east, to the south west or to the west? We will have to look at all these elements. Sometimes getting all elements co-ordinated is not easy. I spend some time working with local voluntary groups and I know how difficult it is to get the cohesion that is required to get development going in sectors like this. There always has to be a catalyst to make things happen. I do not want to labour this because it helps to create a dependency culture but Bord Fáilte, and the Minister's Department, need to look at the underdeveloped areas and ask what needs to be done to be dynamic and make things happen. There are different segments in the tourism market.

If the needs of the sector in a particular area are satisfied, there will be a gravitational pull towards it. Will people at the commercial end of the sector be able to justify the expenditure of large sums of money in providing accommodation with minimum support in terms of grant aid if tourists cannot be regularly attracted? If the tourist season only lasts for a month to six weeks will they be able to justify investment decisions where they will have to meet repayments on the modest sum of £70,000-£80,000? These factors have to be taken into consideration.

The Minister comes from a county where the tourism sector is of importance to the local economy and I congratulate him for introducing the pilot scheme for traditional seaside resorts. I am particularly glad that Clogherhead in County Louth was chosen for inclusion as its natural amenities are in need of development and investment. I hope this grant scheme will act as a catalyst and make things happen.

When the Minister has an opportunity to visit County Louth in the not too distant future I hope he will visit places such as Omeath, an old Gaeltacht area which lies between the Cooley Mountains and the sea, and Carlingford which lies between Omeath and Newry on the northern side of the Border. Each Sunday in the late 1940s and 1950s Omeath was a mecca for day trippers with spending power from the North, including Belfast, who travelled by ferry from Warrenpoint. Eventually, because of price differentials — commodities in the North were much cheaper — this business evaported. This, however, does not take from its natural beauty.

There is an urgent need for investment. The extension of the pilot scheme for traditional seaside resorts to include Omeath would be greatly welcomed and would have a dramatic impact on the village. Tourists were visiting Omeath long before the concept of tourism as we now understand it had evolved. We should examine the infrastructural deficiencies and consider the impact a pilot scheme would have. Such a scheme would transform the village.

I hope the Minister will take the opportunity to visit the north east, including Newgrange which lies on the Meath-Louth border and attracts in the region of 90,000-100,000 visitors a year. The new interpretative centre on which work is well under way will make a significant difference to the Boyne Valley area. There is, however, an urgent need for development in areas north of this valley. The Minister should consider the possibility of devising a local co-ordinated plan and asking the east midlands tourism body to focus on the need for development in the north east and to ensure that over a period of two to three years the tourism sector becomes just as important to the local economy as it is in places such as Belmullet, Bangor Erris or Killala.

There is a strong farm enterprise culture in Counties Louth and Monaghan, the home of the mushroom, poultry and pig industries, where people are nothing if not adaptable. If they see an opportunity, they are prepared to pursue it. It is important therefore that the State agency with responsibility for development in these areas should lead by example and set a headline.

Last week at the Washington investment conference hopes were raised that benefits, in terms of major developments, would flow from it but this will not happen overnight. People with huge bags of money will not arrive and ask in which project they should invest. The viability of all projects, be it in the industrial or tourism sectors, will have to be examined rigorously. No one any longer makes investment decisions based on sentiment but rather on the return for their money. The quicker they can obtain a return the more attractive a project becomes.

The Washington investment conference was attended by the most representative political grouping ever to leave this country. It is ironic that they had to leave these shores to meet at the same conference. However, a meeting anywhere in the world is welcome if it furthers peace and economic well being. I hope the tourism sector will not lose out in terms of the investment opportunities which may flow from the conference either in the short or long term.

I thank Deputies Andrews and Killeen for tabling this motion which I am prepared to accept. It is noncontentious and highlights their concerns in respect of the tourism industry. It deals with maximising tourism growth having regard to the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland and Government proposals to reorganise State investment in the industry.

These are the most exciting times in the tourism industry in the past 25 years and it is now the third largest industry in the country supporting 91,000 people in full-time employment. Government targets in this area are clear. We have laid down objectives to bring an annual expenditure of £2.25 billion and to create a further 35,000 jobs by the end of 1999. We want to ensure progress in the international marketing of Ireland, the changing of the focus of concentration of Bord Fáilte and in encouraging people in the industry to provide quality products so that the visitor to our shores will be able to avail of a range of facilities that are of top class international standards. This year we expect approximately four million visitors, more than two million from Great Britain, more than 500,000 from North America and the remainder from continental Europe and other countries. Expenditure by every 40 visitors from North America creates an extra permanent job.

We all recognise the need to support the peace process, and I am happy to indicate how I and my Department have redefined tourism strategy and activity with this in mind. I have supported the expansion in 1995 of the private sectorled overseas tourism marketing initiative which is costing £6.3 million. For the first time, we have brought the public and private sectors in Ireland and Northern Ireland together in a unique partnership which is selling tourism on the island of Ireland in the major markets of the US, Britain, France and Germany.

Baroness Denton, my Northern Ireland counterpart, announced in Limerick about two months ago the introduction of a number of cross-Border regional marketing initiatives, which are being implemented in the 12 northern counties by both tourist boards. Earlier this month, with support from the two tourist boards, we jointly sold Ireland's attractions as a tourism destination on Eurovision '95 to an estimated audience of 300 million people. Deputies will recall the emphasis laid on peace during the broadcast.

The International Fund for Ireland, the new INTERREG Progarmme and the forthcoming Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation are creating new opportunities for North-South contact at governmental, tourist board, community and business levels. The House will, I hope, appreciate that the range and depth of co-operation between the tourism sectors, North and South, has grown significantly since the ceasefires and, as I indicated much has already been achieved. It is my belief that as these contacts develop, further progress will be reported in policy co-ordination between North and South.

It is appropriate to return to the Washington Conference and to provide the House with my perspective on what was achieved. It was, first and foremost, a major opportunity to raise the profile of Ireland and Irish tourism, particularly in the US market. US tourists are vitally important to the Irish tourism industry. In 1993 tourism from the US accounted for: 17 per cent of all holiday visitors to Ireland; 32 per cent of all nights spent in Irish hotels by overseas holidaymakers; 18 per cent of all nights in other accommodation; 34 per cent of all car rentals to overseas visitors and the highest spend per holiday visitor at £430 approx.

From a tourism perspective, the conference was very successful on three levels. First, the statement by the US President on international television that this country is open for business from America is the kind of publicity we cannot buy, as will be borne out by Members opposite who were at the conference.

Second, I was delighted to sign a joint communique with the US Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, and my counterpart in Belfast, Baroness Denton, which reinforced our joint determination to promote tourism throughout Ireland, develop initiatives to increase private sector investment and improve training for the sector. This communique was proof positive of the support which the Clinton administration is giving to Irish tourism, and it is another example of effective cross-Border co-operation.

Third, at a very well attended working session of tourism, Baroness Denton and the chief executives of the two tourist boards, gave the audience in indication of where they saw opportunities for US investors in Ireland. I indicated that I saw the Conference acting as a catalyst to helping us achieve a new and higher level of investment in Irish tourism, especially in the Border counties and in Northern Ireland. We identified three areas where the contacts made at the conference could bear fruit.

The visit of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, to our country today adds immeasurably to Ireland's profile abroad.

I thank Deputies for their contributions. I do not have time to respond to detail to Deputies Coughlan, Kirk and Morley, but I will take up the invitation to visit the north-east. A number of important matters were raised which I hope we will have time to deal with again. This is a very exciting time in tourism. I thank Deputies Andrews and Killeen for putting down this motion and I accept it as it is in accordance with Government proposals in this area.

I wish to share a few moments of Deputy Killeen's time, he will reply to the debate.

I am sure that is satisfactory.

I support the motion. The Government's amendment refers to the enhancement of North-South co-operation in the tourism area. That is very laudable but, since the peace initiative, no great effort has been made to bring that about. The Minister stated that a North-South consumer advertising campaign is under way on British television and that campaigns are being conducted in the US, France and Germany, costing £6.3 million.

The region from which I come is not in the business of selling a product but producing a product for marketing. The Border area is not traditionally a tourist area but with increased funding there is now an opportunity to change that. I hope the best possible use will be made of that funding. The Minister referred to the Delors initiative under which 15 per cent of funding will go to projects with a cross-Border dimension. Of the remaining funds, 80 per cent will go to the North and 20 per cent to the South. The regional tourism boards should examine how we can take up as much as possible of that funding to obtain the maximum benefits. Between now and the allocation of the funding the Minister and the tourism boards should say what structures they will put in place. I ask them to concentrate on areas that are not traditionally tourist areas.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na Teachtaí go léir a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht agus is trua nach bhfuair daoine eile go raibh suim acu san ábhar deis cainte. Faoi mar a dúirt an Teachta Andrews, níl na gearáin atá againn dírithe ar an Aire go pearsanta agus ceapaim go dtuigeann sé é sin. Táimíd ag iarraidh a chuid polasaithe a fheabhsú agus a athrú áit atá gá leis sin agus na nithe atá ag cur as do dhaoine ag obair i dturasóireacht a léiriú dó.

There is a complacent view that tourism is a good news area and that the Minister's role is to attend functions, be available for photo-calls and show up at travel fairs in exotic locations, but as the Minister said, that is manifestly untrue. Tourism is hugely important in terms of job creation, with 88,000 people employed in that area. It is vital in its contribution to GNP, put at 6.9 per cent by Tansey Weber and Associates in a recent report. In 1993 the industry accounted for 56 per cent of all export earnings from services. It has contributed between £400 million and £500 million of a surplus to the State's balance of payments in each year since 1990. The State cannot afford to take tourism for granted. It cannot ignore the preliminary figures for 1994. The Government cannot hide behind the claim that its predecessors were responsible for the level of funding and the shortcomings of current strategy. The Minister and his colleagues must act quickly and decisively in conjunction with the industry to ensure that all areas benefit so that the successes of recent years continue.

This debate is being held against the background of our country having had the highest tourism growth in Europe last year. First time visitor numbers in 1994 exceeded that of our population and one in every eight people employed in services works in tourism. There is a foreign exchange target of £2,250 million leading to the creation of 35,000 extra jobs from tourism by 1999.

Unfortunately, cuts are being made at a time when two critical elements which have been missing in Irish tourism have come together, that Ireland is an attractive destination for visitors due to the success of the peace process and that there is extra capital available through EU operation programmes to pump prime the industry to take advantage of this new marketplace. The cutbacks are being made at a time when the Northern Ireland economy is about to boom due to EU Structural Fund allocations, INTERREG, the peace initiative and US and other subventions to the North. That has been made clear by a number of speakers from the Border regions. It is possible, and somewhat worrying, that we may have two speed tourism development pattern in Ireland. Northern Ireland could find the fast track and outpace us. Surely it is vital to seek an even pace and pattern to development to consolidate the peace process and to ensure that benefits are evenly spread throughout the country.

As a Minister from the west where the developing the west together initiative by the western Bishops and the unfortunately lacerated Leader-funded schemes put a great deal of hope for the future in tourism investment, development and jobs, Deputy Enda Kenny will be familiar with the statement that, "we will give responsibility to people to decide their own approaches by an effective regional development policy which will unlock the growth potential of tourism". We may wonder to whom the responsibility has been given or conceded when the earnest and worthy policy document sop to regional development is contrasted with the imposed Government decision which overrode the planning process and the majority wishes of the people of the area when abandoning the Burren National Park visitor centre project.

The tourism industry of Clare, which is being bypassed by national growth, will be keenly interested to know how this Government honoured the Fine Gael policy pledge to let the people decide their approaches. In the light of his policy commitment to devolved regional decision-making in tourism, the Minister sadly did not have a convincing explanation for the 37 per cent slashing of the Shannon Development budget for tourism promotion and development.

I explained that to the Deputy.

That is the same region where the Mullaghmore centre has been shelved. The Minister did not give a convincing explanation. The savage cutback in funding for Shannon Development which is stalling investment and development initiatives——

That is relative.

——in a region where they are critically needed to counteract the loss of the Shannon stopover contrasts with increased budgets for other agencies involved in tourism promotion.

The drastic cutbacks in Shannon Development funds, for example, compares with the 63 per cent increase in the Office of Public Works' budgets for tourism related projects. It would be interesting to know if it is part of the rainbow shareout agreement that the pot of gold in tourism funding is not under the control of the Department of Tourism and Trade this year. While Bord Fáilte has £18 million to spend on tourism development works the Office of Public Works has £27 million, almost as much as it combined budgets for the past two years and more than six times what it had in 1990. The Office of Public Works is certainly building up a very formidable tourism empire and the Minister and his party do not appear to have as much influence on it as they and we would like.

We have more influence than Deputies opposite.

In light of the Government's commitment to regional selfhelp, hopefully the Minister will be able to enlighten the tourism industry on how he proposes to give decision-making powers to the regions when he has transferred the product development functions of Bord Fáilte directly to his Department.

I did not hear the Deputy mention Kilkee or Lahinch.

That has the effect of reinforcing centralisation rather than fostering decentralisation and is a cause of considerable concern in the Shannon region.

The Minister is aware of the worries voiced by the President of the Irish Hotels Federation that the 1994 preliminary figures from Bord Fáilte bear out that the western seaboard was effectively shut off from last year's tourism growth. While east cost tourism flourished with up to 35 per cent growth in the south-east and 25 per cent in the midlands and the east, there were reverses in revenue figures for the south-west and the midwest. I do not blame the Minister for the outturn in 1994, but he and the Government must respond to the preliminary figures with appropriate action to redress the balance.

The excellent, but largely ignored, Shannon Task Force report highlighted the need for balancing co-ordination of inputs from various Departments in place of follow-the-leader policies which have tended to be dictated by transport issues to the detriment of tourism. It was not only the Irish Hotels Federation which voiced its concern about last year's tourism performance outturn which became more of a turndown for the western seaboard. Like the western regions, one of the neglected aspects of this month's study published by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation on the economic impact of tourism is the shift from the west to the east in overseas tourism. In noting the shift, the economic consultants state that if the preliminary figures are confirmed this would constitute a worrying trend.

I am sure the Irish Hotels Federation and the tourism industry will be keen to hear the Minister put forward measures to ensure that worrying trend does not take root. Unfortunately, as the Shannon lobby was warning for four years of its campaign, the shift away from the west once started will not be easily reversed. Just as the clock cannot be turned back, neither can tourists without a carefully planned stratey.

That shift, described as worrying by independent economic analysts, is being accelerated and reinforced by the tactics geared to locate everything in Dublin. The casino concept resisted by Government Departments for 30 years as an extra dimension to Shannon's free zone is now being considered for Dublin. The Minister is adamant that the national conference centre must be sited in Dublin and is turning his back on a thoroughly researched corporate conference centre for Shannon which had planning permission and firm commitments from the most senior members of the last Government regarding Euro funding.

Lest I be misunderstood I welcome increases in tourist numbers and revenue in Dublin and the east and I am impressed by the case made by a number of Deputies in the peripheral areas of the city concerning potential development in their areas. I am concerned about the trend of the spread of tourism income outlined in the 1994 preliminary figures. Dublin and the east coast have enormous advantages in terms of access by air and sea and they also have excellent attractions. Unfortunately other areas in the west and south-west which have a strong tourism tradition are not showing growth at present. That is what Deputy Andrews and I want the Government to address.

It is encouraging, as confirmed by the Minister, that funding is being sought for up to 1,000 projects, but a number of problems have developed, particularly with the management boards. Hotel and leisure facilities in the midwest region appear to be getting 10 per cent funding while in the Bord Fáilte area appear to be getting 25 per cent. Deputy Upton reminded me of my interest in the role of pubs. I believe they have a constructive role to play in the development of tourism, one that is not but needs to be further encouraged.

In 1952 consultants suggested that State involvement should be focused on marketing. The A.D. Little report suggested similar action. Arising from that report new legislation was put in place in 1952. The Minister indicated that it is his intention to put legislation on the Statute Book shortly. Critically, he has an opportunity to establish the structure State involvement will take in the future. For example, at present the regional tourism organisations are not accountable to the Dáil. They have many offshoot companies which are, in effect, semi-State, but are not accountable to the Dáil. Those bodies must be strengthened. The existence of so many offshoot organisations to Bord Fáilte is creating a lack of focus and a duplication in State tourism efforts. This needs to be rectified with fully comprehensive, responsive and streamlining tourist traffic legislation. My colleagues and I look forward to examining the Minister's legislative proposals and to having a constructive input. Concern has been expressed about the lack of funding for the tourism expansion scheme, the plans for which the Minister outlined today. As many applications from the tourism industry have been received for structural funding, this matter must be treated with some urgency.

I thank the Minister for accepting the Fianna Fáil motion in my name and that of Deputy Killeen.

Question put and agreed to.