I will deal with Senator McDonald's last point first. We have got a co-ordinating committee of the various State-sponsored bodies who work in the United States. They co-operate in regard to office accommodation and in regard to promotion. This relates to Aerlínte, CIE, Coras Tráchtála, Bord Fáilte and the others. This is functioning in a positive way already.
I wish to thank the Seanad for the constructive debate on this very important industry, one which is running into problems at the present time by reason of the fact that Bord Fáilte have created a situation where expansion has taken place in a very substantial way in a business in which problems are arising.
Now is the time to have a good, hard look at the current situation, to use Senator Russell's phrase at the beginning of the debate, at a very successful situation which Bord Fáilte initiated in the 'sixties, and to decide in the 'seventies what adjustments may have to be made and in which way our approach to tourist expansion should be recast, and generally in which way we as a nation should organise our tourist business in the years ahead.
For this reason, I met in recent weeks the members of Bord Fáilte, the trade unions interested and the Irish Hotels Federation. I have had meetings with the three bodies and there has been a very frank and constructive sharing of views with the idea of preparing plans now not only for next year but for five years ahead. Bord Fáilte and the Irish Hotels Federation will report back to me by the middle of September and in the meantime I have decided to introduce what one might call an interim way of dealing with the problem by appointing two additional directors to Bord Fáilte to ensure that expertise, experience and marketing ability will be brought to bear on the preparation of the plans for the coming season.
This in no way will militate against any fundamental proposals which I may bring in, and which may require legislation, to deal with the whole future development of tourism here. A commercial approach is necessary now in this competitive age. It is necessary also that emphasis should be laid on marketing, selling and on what you might call specific product selling. In that, Bord Fáilte have done an excellent job in selling the general image of Ireland to the world. They have done an excellent job in getting our people more tourist conscious and in getting them more involved in practical development work. What needs to be done now is to encourage people who are endeavouring to get specific business such as hoteliers, coach tour operators, self-drive car operators and travel agencies who may wish to sell Ireland as part of a European package. All of these people must be brought in more actively to the tourist industry and to the whole tourist marketing programme. At the moment, I am giving serious consideration to the question of having the scheme of marketing grants introduced for the industry on the same lines as the Córas Tráchtála scheme in respect of manufacturing for export.
Having said that, I want to make public acknowledgement of what has been done by Bord Fáilte between the years 1960 to 1970 in their development programme of that decade. The value of their work cannot be overemphasised. Some people in the Dáil saw fit to decry Bord Fáilte. This was not so in this House and I want to put on record that the debate here was more constructive than was the debate in the Dáil. There is no point in decrying Bord Fáilte because of the difficulties being encountered this year. These difficulties are specific ones and they must be isolated and itemised. They relate only to the month of June and can be attributed to the very sad publicity which our country, all 32 counties, was given by reason of the difficulties in the northern part of the country. My view is that these difficulties were the main contributors to the problem that arose and I am basing that view on the fact that business was up by 4.8 per cent for the first six months of the year. We have not yet seen any figures for the northern part of the country but I am of the opinion that at the moment business is up on the corresponding month, July, last year. Bookings are up for August, September and October on the corresponding months of last year.
The pattern emerging now is that for every month of this year until the end of October—we can only tell the full story at the end of November—other than the month of June the figures are up on the corresponding business of last year. The message, therefore, is clear as to what has happened in that respect and Bord Fáilte can share no part of the blame for that particular problem.
Investment from the State has been well worth while. In 1960 the Oireachtas voted £500,000 to Bord Fáilte. Now in 1970 we are increasing to £11 million the limit for holiday accommodation grants. That has resulted in very practical benefit in that the £5.5 million voted towards holiday accommodation in that ten year period out of what was heretofore allowed, a total of £36 million, was invested so that 14 per cent of public investment primed 86 per cent of private investment in the expansion of accommodation. From the national point of view the net effect of that was that a tourist income of £44 million in 1960 will become this year an income from the national point of view of more than £100 million. I say that with complete confidence. In 1960 there was hotel bedroom accommodation of 15,465 beds. In 1970 the figure is 23,300 and what is even more important hotel and guesthouse accommodation has increased from 17,800 beds to 27,800 this year which is a substantial increase.
An important feature is that there was practically no supplementary accommodation in the form of farmhouse accommodation and so on available in 1960 but now the number of beds available in this sort of accommodation stands at 9,700. This is supplementary accommodation, mainly farmhouse, approved by Bord Fáilte. That adds up to a substantial record of progress and all that is needed now is to have a clear look at the situation to realise that we are in a more competitive age. Also, countries that did not heretofore specialise in tourism have now proceeded to follow our example and Bord Fáilte have been admired by many other countries including Great Britain who did not specialise in the tourist business at all but who are now doing so. With this increasing awareness the competitive aspect of the tourist business is becoming more difficult so that we must have a look at the whole situation in a commercial and hard-headed way. That is the sort of exercise that I have discussed with Bord Fáilte and with the interests involved in the industry.
Senator Russell referred to the fact that on the reconstituted board there should be people of the highest ability. I can give the House the assurance that I gave to the Dáil to the effect that people of that character will be appointed in the form of the two new directors of Bord Fáilte. I shall be appointing these within the next two or three weeks. They will be people who can make a positive contribution as members of the board.
I want to emphasise a point that was raised by both Senators Russell and Boland that in so far as our friends in the northern part of the country are concerned there is the maximum co-operation between the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Bord Fáilte. I have had discussions with Mr. Bradford in connection with this and the two organisations co-operate in regard to publicity and every aspect of selling Ireland as one island. This is good business both for us and for them. It is in the interest of administration, too, that there would be co-operation. Indeed one would wish that that approach would apply in every sense as well as in the tourist sense.
Senator Russell spoke about the necessity for proper entertainment facilities and for facilities of a traditional flavour. This again is an aspect that I am considering at the present time. I agree that it is not sufficient to provide hotel or bedroom accommodation only. There is much more to the business than that. It is a comprehensive business in which entertainment and national cultural festivals as well as the many ancillary facilities play a large part because it is all important for the business that when visitors come, apart from having a bed on which to sleep, they can share in the atmosphere of our country.
A number of speakers mentioned the regional tourism organisations and the overlapping between Bord Fáilte and these organisations. We do have a Bord Fáilte representative on each of these organisations with a view to dealing with this particular problem but at the same time I agree with much that has been said. This is something which must be tackled more vigorously. There must be a greater unity of effort between the regional bodies and Bord Fáilte itself. I want to emphasise that one important contribution which Bord Fáilte has made to the whole morale of our community is the encouragement it has given to local and civic interest. The Tidy Towns competition is an obvious example, this helps to benefit our tourist effort. It is precisely the promotion of that sort of civic and voluntary effort which makes a community aware and conscious of tourism and makes the people interested in tourists in their own area. There is a two-way operation here: it is good sound business and it is good socially. I want to pay tribute to the voluntary organisations particularly the Irish Countrywomen's Association who have helped to make such competitions as the Tidy Towns competition an outstanding success. This merging of effort between State-sponsored bodies like Bord Fáilte and voluntary organisations has proved practical.
I agree with the view expressed that the smaller type hotels should be encouraged. The development of guesthouses and supplementary accommodation has been a main achievement of Bord Fáilte's activities over the past ten years but this does not mean to say that we can rule out the Grade A type hotel. Tourism is like education; it is a business that everybody has a view on. It is easy to be facile about it. We get a lot of laymen's opinions about it, but it is a highly complex and sensitive business. The notion that we can rule out a certain type of hotel and rule in other types of accommodations is wrong. There are about five or six different types of accommodation and in my view there is room for expansion in every one of them. It is too facile to say that we should have no luxury hotels and that we should only have a certain type of guesthouse or supplementary accommodation. We should have all types of accommodation. We are catering for a wide range of customers in this business. We have not priced ourselves out in any one of these fields. The sort of value given by some of the chains of hotels which specialise in package tour operations is very good for a certain type of customer. The traditional luxury Grade A type hotel is good value for other customers. But we must have guesthouse accommodation, farmhouse accommodation and modest type hotel accommodation to facilitate other people. We must have the whole range of options open to all visitors to this country as far as possible.
The rent-a-cottage scheme was referred to. This is a new development which is being pioneered in the Shannon region. It is working very well. We intend to extend it throughout the country to all regions. That is part of the purpose here of applying standards and drawing up a register of approved cottages of this kind. The point has been made that perhaps ten units is too large. I agree with this point and when the regulations are being made I propose to have the number of cottages which apply for such registration and approval reduced from ten.
Training of staff was mentioned and this is both important and fundamental. In the current year £120,000 has been allotted to CERT for recruitment and training in the hotel industry. We have over 900 young people, including management students, being trained under the auspices of CERT. I regard this as fundamental and Senator Alexis FitzGerald also referred to it as well.
Senator FitzGerald also made an important point that when people talk about expensive hotels the actual investment return is not all that excessive. He also referred as did Senator Boland to the question of marketing tourism. The assessment I have made in the past month as to the pros and cons of the problems facing the industry has borne out one important fact that any hotelier or person interested in tourism in any of its facets who went out and sold his product last autumn and winter has done well. I found this both at the top of the scale and at the bottom. This is a salutary example to people who did not go out and sell of precisely what must be done. Tourism like everything else must be sold.