Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Questions (70)

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Transport)

We will move on, and it looks as if this will be the final question. It will be the question, one supplementary and one answer.

Robert Troy


70. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way in which the additional €35 million committed in Budget 2019 to provide targeted support to the tourism sector will be spent. [45629/18]

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I will let the Minister go ahead straight away.

The Minister will proceed with Question No. 70 without introduction.

Is this the question from Deputy Troy on the spending of €35 million?

Yes, that is it.

The breakdown of the total Exchequer provision for tourism services by subhead will be available in the Revised Estimates Volume, REV, for public services which will be published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is not possible to provide details of the specific amounts allocated to the various subheads within the Vote in advance of the publication of the Revised Estimates Volume. I am delighted to have secured a 26% increase in funding for the tourism sector in budget 2019, which represents the largest increase in the tourism budget in 15 years. This increased funding will allow Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to continue to grow tourism regionally and across the seasons in line with key policy objectives.

Brexit has already had an impact on tourism, and funding has been allocated to the tourism agencies to ensure that the tourism sector is Brexit ready. In this context, Fáilte Ireland will implement a programme which places a focus on retaining business from Northern Ireland and Britain while also offering supports to enterprises to equip them for the post-Brexit marketplace. Tourism Ireland will implement the recommendations of a recent review of its operations in the British market and extend the regional co-operative market access scheme.

The increase in the tourism marketing fund will also enable Tourism Ireland to begin implementing growth strategies in new and emerging markets, along with Germany and the USA, in line with the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy. Tourism Ireland will also be able to increase its investment in digital tourism marketing.

As well as helping meet the challenge of Brexit, additional funding secured for Fáilte Ireland in budget 2019 will help to build resilience into the industry through a multi-strand programme of specific industry supports, festivals and events and targeted marketing campaigns. In line with the national development plan, NDP, the capital allocation to Fáilte Ireland for tourism product development has been increased to enhance tourist attractions and Ireland's activity-based offering.

The development and sustainability of Irish tourism will be further supported by funding targeted at growing high-yielding event and business tourism. This includes provision to support Ireland’s hosting of Euro 2020 matches and, in particular, related promotional activities to be undertaken in 2019.

Extra funding has also been allocated to greenways for 2019. This will be drawn down by projects that are successful under the current funding call which closes on 30 November 2018. It is planned to allocate greenways funding in 2019, following assessment of the applications.

The increase arises because the Minister failed to retain the favourable VAT rate for the hospitality sector. He blamed everybody else instead of taking responsibility for the failure. The additional €35 million is welcome but this year's budget of €135 is still far below the €153 million it was in 2008. There is a way to come. When the Minister considers how to spend the additional money, will he engage with the key stakeholders, including Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Hotels Federation, Bed and Breakfast Ireland, as well as representatives of the museums and cultural institutions, to see where the money can be best spent? We need to increase our marketing budget in existing and emerging markets, and we must consider how we will tackle the shortages in key personnel that are having a major impact on our tourism industry. Before the Minister allocates this, it is critical that he engages with the key stakeholders: they know where additional money must be allocated and we will get a better return on the €35 million investment as a result.

It is appropriate to say there is one thing about which Deputy Troy and I agree. That is that the tourism agencies, Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, have done a spectacularly good job. As Deputy Troy is aware, tourism figures are improving and continue to defy gravity, despite the effects of Brexit, one of which was a plunge in the value of sterling. The numbers of visitors year on year from the United Kingdom are up, which is an extraordinary achievement, and that must be put down, partly at least, to the amazing efforts being made by both our tourism agencies. I am delighted to be able to take this opportunity to say that the tourism industry continues to boom. I accept the Deputy's congratulations on that and it is very appropriate that he should send those congratulations to those responsible for it.

The Minister had nothing to do with it. It is happening despite him.

I know the Deputy regrets this but his own area of the country is benefitting from it as well, as he knows. The tourism agencies have embraced very widely the idea put forward so eloquently by one of his colleagues, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran. They have embraced the idea and it will run hard. It will be part of the continued success of the Irish tourism boom.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.