Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (23)

Trevor Sargent


105 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the objectives set out in his Department’s mission statement are being achieved in relation to the continued development of an environmentally sustainable and spatially balanced tourism sector, through formulating, monitoring and reviewing a range of supporting policies and programmes; the units of measurement to gauge progress being used; if these targets will be tangibly met by the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6116/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The high level tourism goal referred to in the Deputy's question was designed to provide my Department, in the context of its overall mission, with an operational focus over the three years of its first statement of strategy. The Statement of Strategy 2003-05, which is available in the Oireachtas Library, also identifies: specific strategies for the achievement of this high level goal; specific outputs or objectives for the delivery of those strategies; and specific performance indicators to measure the outputs.

My Department's first annual report, which is expected to be published in April next, will detail progress during 2003 in regard to individual strategies and objectives. In the meantime, I am pleased to report that there has been good progress overall in respect of the tourism sectoral goal.

Two developments, in particular, are worth highlighting. The establishment of a new statutory National Tourism Development Authority was one of the main tourism priorities for, and achievements in, 2003. Working closely with the tourism industry, Fáilte Ireland now provides a one-stop-shop for strategic and practical support to develop and sustain Ireland as a high quality and competitive tourist destination. With its establishment we have, for the first time, an organisation dedicated to excellence in product and service delivery, the two key experiences of the tourist visitor to Ireland.

In terms of tourism marketing, both Tourism Ireland Limited and Fáilte Ireland regard environmentally sustainable and spatially balanced tourism as key components of their marketing strategies, with an appropriate emphasis on both seasonal and geographical spread of business. The annual reports of both bodies provide details on the outcome of their respective marketing strategies and are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The concepts of sustainability and regional spread are also reflected in the tourism product development scheme administered by Fáilte Ireland where the overall objective is to develop the tourism product in an environmental and sustainable way that widens the spatial spread of tourism, diverts pressure from highly developed areas and increases the Border Midland and Western Region's share of national overseas tourism revenue. Under the scheme, support will be concentrated on a limited number of new major visitor attractions, on marketable clusters of existing and new day visitor attractions and activities that have yet to achieve their full tourism potential, and on a series of special interest activities to meet identified niche markets. Progress is reported on a six-monthly basis to the relevant ERDF monitoring committee, in addition to which the Tourism Product Management Board publishes an annual report.

The other major highlight of 2003 was the completion of the first major review of tourism policy and performance in over a decade. The tourism policy review group report sets out a strategy for tourism that is comprehensive, coherent and challenging for both Departments and agencies and for the industry itself. It has put the emphasis on an agenda for action — highlighting 70 individual recommended actions that will support the development of the tourism sector over the next decade. While many of the actions proposed by the review group will have an impact on the sustainability and regional distribution of tourism, key actions in this regard include those relating to product development, tourism promotion, access transport and the appropriate infrastructure and arrangements for the delivery of tourism at regional level.

Work is already under way on a number of the key issues highlighted in the review, but it will fall to the implementation group established on foot of the report to help ensure that it is implemented in an integrated manner and that a partnership approach is adopted by the many actors whose co-ordinated efforts are required if the full potential of the industry is to be realised. In the years ahead, the tourism agenda is likely to be influenced heavily by developments in the wider economy and by concerted action on the part of the tourism industry itself. The new implementation group will be in a strong position to influence the wider agenda in favour of future sustainable tourism development.