I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 to 114, inclusive, together.
Tourism is a key driver of social and economic development at both national and regional levels in Ireland. Through the strength of our tourism brand and the quality of the tourist experience, tourism also plays a central role in creating a positive image of Ireland. Part of my role, as Minister with responsibility for tourism, is to ensure that the important contribution of the tourism industry is widely recognised and that the tourism agenda is accommodated in all relevant policies and programmes. This is being put into practice by my Department and the tourism agencies through engagement with the relevant Departments and agencies. The Report of the Tourism Renewal Group, published in October 2009, endorses this view and clearly sets out tourism's contribution to Ireland's economic, social and cultural development. The wide-ranging set of measures recommended in the Group's Framework for Action now forms the strategic basis on which Government is responding to the current difficulties and tourism is a key element of the Government's wider strategy for economic renewal as set out in the policy document Building Ireland’s Smart Economy: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal .
Building on the recommendations of the Renewal Group, and in line with the Government's overall framework for economic renewal, Budget 2010 recognised the tourism sector as a critical, labour-intensive sector and provided for a 3% increase to over €153 million in the overall tourism services budget. This included maintaining the real level of investment in overseas marketing, as well as a significantly increased capital allocation for tourism product. The tourism sector was included in a range of beneficial cross-cutting measures to support enterprises and jobs, including the Employment Subsidy Scheme, the Work Placement Programme and the Credit Review System.
Building Ireland's Smart Economy included a commitment to develop an action plan to drive export-led growth over the coming years. Accordingly, the Government's new Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy , was drawn up by the representatives from the key Departments and agencies, including my Department, Tourism Ireland and Culture Ireland. Its tourism-related elements draw on the robust analysis already carried out by the Tourism Renewal Group in its Report and Framework for Action.
This Strategy, which was launched on 28 September last, contains targets for job creation, exports, tourist numbers and inward investment projects by 2015 and details on how the Government and its agencies will achieve these priorities and targets. As regards tourism specifically, it sets a target of increasing visitor numbers to 8 million by 2015 and provides for 15,000 new jobs to be generated directly in the tourism sector by this growth in numbers. Drawing on the recommendations of the Tourism Renewal Group, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy reiterates the scope to develop both the leisure and business tourism sectors and highlights certain areas where Ireland may have a particular competitive advantage — namely Food Tourism/Gastronomy; Eco-tourism; Film and TV production, Cruise Tourism; Irish Diaspora; Music, Literature and the Arts; and Niche Tourism. In terms of achieving the tourism-related targets, the Strategy recognises that in the short to medium term, Ireland’s best prospects are in the United States, Great Britain and the major European markets and these priorities will be reflected in Tourism Ireland’s overseas marketing plan for 2011, which I will be launching next week.
On the domestic front, Fáilte Ireland will continue its significant investment in tourism product and services and will also continue to support local festivals and events. These, together with Fáilte's highly successful "holiday at home" marketing campaign, are playing a key role in boosting tourist revenues around the country as well as boosting employment. Fáilte Ireland also continues to work closely with businesses all over Ireland to increase their customer base, better manage costs, improve overall performance and sustain employment.
Overall, I believe that Government is pursuing the right policies and programmes to support the continued development of tourism, working with the industry and the tourism agencies in order to position the sector for recovery and growth as part of the Government's wider strategy for economic renewal. This work is being greatly assisted by the two tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, as well as by the Tourism Renewal Implementation Group, which will continue to oversee and drive further action on measures to support the competitiveness and sustainability of tourism in Ireland.