Written Answers. - Operational Programme for Tourism.
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation
if he will make a statement on the outcome of the review by the tourism monitoring committee of the report on the mid-term review of the Operational Programme for Tourism; the changes, if any, which are planned regarding financial aid for tourism projects in the eastern region; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Following its meeting in November 1997, the national monitoring committee for the Operational Programme for Tourism issued a detailed press release on the outcome of the mid-term review of the programme. I propose to circulate this press release in the Official Report.
In so far as the eastern region is concerned there were no decisions in the mid-term review which specifically target that region.
7 November, 1997
Mid-Term Review of the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99 New Priorities for Tourism
At its meeting yesterday, the national monitoring committee of the Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-99, continued its deliberations on the programme's mid-term review. The committee, which is representative of all the main players in the formulation and execution of tourism policy, took into consideration the Community Support Framework mid-term review package (based on the ESRI review), the mid-term evaluation of the tourism programme (which was carried out by Fitzpatrick Associates — the external evaluator of the programme) and the views of the members of the committee. The committee noted that while a significant financial implication for the Tourism OP involved a 10 MECU (about £7.5 million) reduction in funding under sub-programme 1, 6 MECU (about £4.5 million) of this was being reallocated to other priorities within the programme. The decisions made by the monitoring committee will have implications for many aspects of the Operational Programme for Tourism and these are described in the following paragraphs.
Natural Cultural Tourism
The monitoring committee noted the CSF decision to reduce the European Regional Development Fund allocation of the natural/cultural tourism sub-programme by 10 MECU (about £7.5 million) and agreed the individual measure reductions as recommended by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. The monitoring committee also approved the engagement of a consultant to undertake an audit of the physical progress of all projects in this sub-programme for the consideration of the monitoring committee at its spring 1998 meeting.
The monitoring committee, while recognising that over 80 per cent of funding has already been committed to projects by the independent management boards for product development, agreed that remaining funds must be very carefully targeted to achieve maximum impact and to address those areas where OP interventions can achieve greatest impact in the development of sustainable tourism into the next millennium. Consequently before further projects are approved for funding, the monitoring committee decided that the boards must first satisfy themselves that a project will act as a catalyst in achieving critical mass in developing non-traditional tourist areas in order to achieve a more balanced spread of tourism throughout Ireland; demonstrate a clearly defined and measurable contribution to the extension of the existing tourism season; from a sustainable development point of view, the project should contribute to the enhancement of the surrounding area, avoid overlap with competing facilities and contribute to a balanced area based strategy for promoting international tourism; and continue to ensure that aid levels are at the absolute minimum rate required to enable the project to proceed and only in very exceptional circumstances and as part of a strategic need in developing under-developed tourism areas should aid levels be at a maximum. The boards will be advised accordingly.
The implementation of the mid-term review of the Community Support Framework has led to an increase of 3 MECU (about £2.25 million) in the European Regional Development Fund funding available to support the promotion of cultural and off-season tourism marketing. The national monitoring committee has agreed that 1.500 MECU (about £1.1 million) is to be allocated to the marketing management board for new initiatives which aim to promote off-season tourism; an allocation of 0.750 MECU (about £0.56 million) to the overseas tourism marketing initiative to facilitate the promotion of Cultural and Heritage tourism facilities through the OTMI programme; and an allocation of 0.750 MECU (about £0.56 million) to the marketing management board specifically for the overseas promotion of the Natural and Cultural facilities which fall within the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.
It is intended that the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands would work with Bord Fáilte and other expert groupings to design appropriate marketing programmes and that these will be considered for approval by the marketing management board.
Moreover, the marketing sub-programme will now be divided into two Measures, "Overseas Tourism Marketing Initiative" and "Activity Approved by the Marketing Management Board", each with separate allocations.
Also, the national monitoring committee has agreed to the transfer of 0.400 MECU (about £0.3 million) from the tourism angling measure to the marketing sub-programme to substantially boost the overseas marketing of Ireland's tourism angling facilities. It is intended that the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources will work with Bord Fáilte, the Central Fisheries Board and other expert groupings to design appropriate marketing programmes and that these will be considered for approval by the marketing management board.
With regard to tourism training, the monitoring committee has examined the scope for providing more places for early school leavers and has asked CERT to further develop their proposals in this area including the setting up of a pilot programme. Early school leavers will also be targeted for inclusion on CERT's industry training and qualifications scheme.
The monitoring committee has also requested CERT to develop plans to extend further the training contribution of the larger operators in the industry and to focus more of their services on small and medium sized enterprises.
Tourism and the Environment
In July 1997 the monitoring committee for the Community Support Framework for Ireland, in the context of its review of all CSF Operational Programmes, decided that 3 MECU (about £2.25 million) European Regional Development Fund funding should be earmarked from within the Tourism Operational Programme to fund projects of a pilot demonstration nature, which will contribute to knowledge and understanding of best practice in terms of addressing sustainable tourism and the environment in which it operates. A detailed announcement will be made by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Dr. Jim McDaid, as soon as the administrative and operational details have been settled.
National Conference Centre and National Gallery
The Monitoring Committee noted the decision of the CSF that progress on the national conference centre and the National Gallery will be monitored closely and if there is a risk that these projects will not be completed in time to draw-down the funds committed to them, all or part of these funds will be decommitted next year. The monitoring committee resolved to ensure that these projects are suitably on target to satisfy the CSF Monitoring Committee.
Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, 7 November 1997.