Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Questions (47)

Denis Naughten


129 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans he has to review the quality standards in tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5972/04]

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

I have no direct responsibility with regard to conducting a review of quality standards in tourism, as these are a day-to-day function of the State tourism agencies. However, the Deputy may wish to note that, in policy terms, maintaining standards and quality in the tourism sector is clearly identified as a priority measure in An Agreed Programme for Government.

Since taking up office, I have consistently emphasised that the quality and levels of service offered by the tourism industry are critical to the successful development of the sector. Excellence in the physical design and quality of tourism products and good investment planning must be matched with equally good operational planning and delivery of services. If operational standards do not match the physical quality of facilities, the market potential of these facilities, for both overseas and domestic tourists, may not be fully realised.

Last May I established the new National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland. This is a strong and well-resourced body, dedicated to the promotion of excellence in product and service delivery, the twin experiences of both the overseas and domestic tourist. It has a clear mandate to take whatever actions are appropriate to help the industry to hold and increase its market share in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Fáilte Ireland is now up and running and is ideally placed to support the industry in addressing the new set of challenges facing tourism into the future, including issues such as value for money, competitiveness and quality.

Just over a year ago, I spoke about the tourism industry being at a cross-roads and the need for a major review of policy. That comprehensive review of policy has been completed with the publication last September of the Tourism Policy Review Group's report, New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action. This report sets out a new vision for Irish tourism as a dynamic, innovative, sustainable and highly regarded sector, offering overseas and domestic visitors a positive and memorable experience beyond their expectations.

One of the key messages in the report is the need for the industry to restore competitiveness and ensure a high level of quality in the Irish tourism experience if it is to maximise the opportunities for future growth. There is no easy or single solution — the competitiveness of Irish tourism is influenced by a huge range of factors and experiences for customers, from initial inquiries about visiting Ireland through to travelling here, where they go when they get here, where they stay, whom they meet, what they do, what they see and their perceptions about price and quality.

Having identified competitiveness and value for money as one of the key strategic drivers of success for Irish tourism, the review group listed some ten integrated actions aimed at the industry, Government and State agencies, designed to translate the strategy into action. These actions require a holistic approach to addressing the issue and focus, in particular, on acknowledging industry responsibility, measures to tackle inflation, benchmarking of the competition, building capability within the industry and upgrading standards as a competitive response.

Work is already under way on a number of the key issues but it will fall to the implementation group, established earlier this month in line with the recommendations 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 coordinated efforts are required if the full potential of the industry is to be realised.