Written Answers. - Transport Policy.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

50 Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the plans, if any, he has to produce on access transport which will address the regional imbalance of visitors to the country. [15148/98]

The Minster for Public Enterprise has overall responsibility for air transport policy, including the development of more competitive, regular and good access links to our main markets with particular emphasis on exploiting opportunities for expanding access to the regions generally.

The big expansion in access to Ireland in recent years has provided great opportunities for the regions with an increasing number of European tour operators undertaking direct charter services into airports outside Dublin, including Cork, Kerry, Shannon and Knock. Last week, I attended the inauguration of a new schedule service by Continental Airlines from Dublin and Shannon to New York/Newark. This new service will serve the growing demand for transatlantic air travel and I very much welcome another major US carrier choosing Ireland as an important European destination.

My Department also keeps in regular contact with the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources which has overall responsibility for ferries. The access sea links between Ireland and Britain have improved substantially with the introduction of a new generation of superferries by Irish Ferries and Stena, resulting in much improved capacity and comfort and shorter crossing times. This opens up the prospect of a range of new business, in particular, in the short-break and off-season markets.

The latest available statistics on total tourism revenue show that all regions are enjoying tourism spending far in excess of the levels achieved in the past. The 1997 figures show tourism revenue in every region of the country has grown faster than the International or European averages over the period 1989 to 1996.

As a result of last year's Supplementary Estimate, Bord Fáilte has available an extra £5 million to enable it to increase and intensify its level of promotional and marketing activity for the coming tourist season, with the particular objective of securing a broader regional distribution of tourism revenue. In response, the board has devised a multi-layered approach which consists of enhancing existing programmes, introducing new regional initiatives and exploiting opportunities which are coming on stream. The board's intention is to have a strong regional emphasis in the activities proposed and to maximise the return by integrating activity at local, regional and national levels.