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Tourism Promotion

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 27 June 2013

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Questions (5)

Tom Fleming

Question:

5. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the up-to-date international response regarding The Gathering; the number of visitors from January to June 2013 in comparison to January to June 2012; the number of The Gathering events that have been organised nationally; his plans to target the lucrative British and German markets; the marketing strategy and plans he has to address this major issue for Irish tourism for the remainder of 2013 and in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31340/13]

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Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Transport)

The reaction to The Gathering, both domestically and overseas, has been overwhelmingly positive. We are targeting at least 325,000 extra overseas visits to generate €170 million in revenue. The most recent figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, show a 4% increase in overseas trips to Ireland between February and April 2013 compared with 2012. Detailed CSO figures for the first quarter of 2013 are particularly encouraging as they show a 12% increase in spending by overseas visitors in Ireland compared with 2012.

More than 4,000 individual Gatherings are confirmed with approximately half to take place in the second half of 2013, such as clan gatherings, special sporting events and concerts. Alongside established events, we are supporting targeted events such as New Year's Eve in Dublin, the people's parade at the St. Patrick's festival, with almost 6,000 overseas participants, and the Riverdance Gathering in July. Along with my allocation of more than €37 million in 2013 for overseas tourism marketing to enable Tourism Ireland to roll out campaigns in all key markets, this will ensure we maintain our good performance to date this year.

Visits from Germany were up 4.5% to 92,300 in the three months from February to April 2013 compared with 2012, whereas visits from Britain fell by 2.2% to 638,600. I am encouraged by Germany's recent strong performance. The continuing economic difficulties in Britain show the need to take a medium-term approach to this market, as agreed by the stakeholders on the tourism recovery task force in its report, GB Path to Growth. The recommendations of this report are reflected in the 2013 plans of the tourism agencies. For the longer term, to ensure our policy framework continues to support the long-term competitiveness of the Irish tourism sector, I am commencing a tourism policy review this year.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. It is heartening to hear The Gathering is gaining momentum and the projected number of visitors is being achieved. I hope we can build on this. It is giving a great uplift and reaching every corner of the country. It is invigorating rural areas that have been suffering decline in many ways over recent years and is giving great community spirit. I hope we can build on these foundations and repeat this Gathering in future years. It shows the major potential. It will benefit the country in many ways. People may come in and make various investments or encourage our diaspora to participate more in a continual way in this country.

There is a major void in the British tourists coming in. Figures have plummeted over the past three or four years. We have lost approximately 1 million in that period. Has the Minister of State plans to strive to recover the figures we were getting previously from the neighbouring island? It was very positive to hear the German statistics. We are still losing out in a large way on the German market. It is to be hoped there will be no repercussions due to the latest events over the past week. We are getting only 1% of the German market up to now, which is disappointing.

Tourism Ireland is rolling out a new plan for 2013 development, in conjunction with industry partners, called GB Path to Growth. We hope we can return the GB market to growth by 2016. The positive news is that there are 92,300 extra German visitors to this country. Britain is down only 13,000. We need to grow the British market and we are looking at that and working on ways to promote it. The positive thing is that all the other markets are also up. That is important.

We have more than 4,098 gatherings up to 24 June. Deputy Tom Fleming is correct that this has been community led in every corner of the country. They have had their gatherings and every place where gatherings have taken place has been positive for business, hotels, bed and breakfasts, carry-outs, pubs and vintners. They are all supportive of it and saying they can see a gain from The Gathering this year. We are reaching our target and we need to start examining how to get a legacy to continue it for the next few years. I particularly thank and compliment the voluntary sector. Businesses will naturally work hard to ensure they get as many people into their premises as possible, but the voluntary community effort throughout this country last year involved 8,000 to 9,000 people coming out on bad winter nights, organising Gatherings and carrying them through, and they are now working very well. They must be complimented.

The Continent should be a growth area for us. I mentioned this to the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, at the budget meeting of the Select Sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on Tuesday. He emphasised very much the use of the Internet as a marketing tool to get out to people. That is where they are accessing information. From other people involved in the market I am hearing about the hands-on approach whereby in the past we went to holiday fairs throughout Britain and Europe in particular. We were getting through to people at first hand, speaking to them on personal terms, speaking to the tour operators and the public. We were getting good publicity and public relations from it. We need a mix of that in tandem with the Internet. The first thing we must do is get it into their mindset. There appear to be five main visitor countries in Europe and we are among them, but we must get ahead of the other four.

Last year, 30,000 people came into this country for an American football match and they dispersed from Dublin into the other areas. That was a wonderful achievement which we should strive to repeat. That 30,000 was the biggest movement of people to come out of the United States in one venture since the Second World War. We need to replicate that.

We did a major campaign, Jump into Ireland, which ran on television channels, newspapers, at Tube stations and on the Internet. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, and I have done fairs in Germany, France and Britain. We have gone there, shaken the hands, met the trade and talked to the people who are bringing people into this country. I am very confident we can deal with the British market. We must remember the British market, like ourselves, is in recession. Surveys have shown they are not going somewhere else and instead are not travelling because of their economic crisis. I am delighted to see all the other markets, including the German and French markets, increasing. Top countries all over the world are bringing their Gatherings into Ireland and we expect that from here onwards, July, August and September will be the major months for The Gathering. We already have a 4% increase so I am confident we can reach the target of 325,000 visitors.

We have tried everything in the British market and we will continue to do so. We will also continue to look at the other markets, in particular, the markets where we are doing well, such as the German, French, and Italian markets. The British market is weak and we have to keep working at it.

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