I wish to share my time.
Private Members' Business. - Tourism Industry: Motion.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Minister for Tourism and Trade to:
— take action to promote more even growth in tourist numbers and income in the regions and in the off-peak season;
— to ensure that available finances and resources are no longer employed to further exacerbate regional imbalances;
— to develop marketing strategies which place more emphasis on quality and income generation than on numbers;
— to initiate and support integrated development at local level which will achieve sustained growth in tourism income;
— to address the lack of co-ordination of State and other grant-aiding agencies involved in tourism.
and urges the setting up of a national co-ordinated manpower development plan for training in the area of services to tourism.
Fianna Fáil has tabled this motion because of the depth of feeling among its members at the failure of the Government to realise and develop the potential of the tourism industry. It is fair to say that there is great frustration among those working in the industry and interest groups at the absence of progress on tourism initiatives. The Government has adopted a back seat approach to tourism. The Minister for Tourism and Trade is not driving change in this area; rather he is adopting a bystander approach, which is unacceptable. The Minister needs to be at the cutting edge of this industry and to show leadership and vision. Unfortunately, this has not happened and there is a great danger that his inaction will cool the white heat of the tourism revolution to a dull glow and slow down Ireland's development.
The evidence of the lack of priority given by the Government to tourism is clear from the allocations in the Estimates. Since the Minister took office overall spending on tourism and trade has declined by 11.1 per cent in real terms. This is a short-sighted view by the Government as tourism and trade present some of the greatest opportunities for the State. This is an important time to keep the spending in this area up, particularly having regard to the ongoing uncertainty about Northern Ireland. International audiences need to be reassured that matters are on an even keel; otherwise the progress made over the past 18 months could well be lost.
Tourism now provides employment for more than 90,000 people and will soon, if it is not already, be the most important sector in the economy, contributing huge amounts of GNP. Instead of nurturing and encouraging this sector the Government has adopted a negative approach to it. For example, in this year's Estimates the grant for Bord Fáilte is down 10 per cent while the grant for tourism development works is down 46 per cent. These cuts are being introduced at a time when costs in the Department for consultancy services are up 79 per cent. Overhead costs in the Department have also risen rapidly for this period, yet Bord Fáilte has to take a serious reduction.
Tourism can be the engine for employment and because it is labour intensive it can generate huge numbers of jobs. However, if it is starved of international promotion, capital and development grants then it has little hope of surviving. Bord Fáilte welcomed the 10 per cent cut in its budget. Do turkeys vote for Christmas? During my time in the House I have never heard a major State company with serious work and plans in hand welcome a cut in its funding. This smacks of ministerial interference or political pressure. There is strong reason to express concern at the Government's treatment of the tourism sector. For example, the sector was not even mentioned once in the Minister for Finance's Budget Statement. Given the reduction in growth rates, this sector must be encouraged and not taken for granted.
Another issue which gives rise to serious concern is the ongoing fiasco involving the national conference centre. There is no doubt that Dublin and the nation as a whole badly need this centre, yet the Government appears to be doing its best to undermine the plan rather than advance it. Earlier this year the Government prematurely called a halt to the contest for the conference centre and 13 of the groups which had submitted proposals and spent large sums of money on plans were suddenly told that the competition had been cancelled. No adequate reason was given for this decision. This was very unprofessional to say the least, if not downright bad manners. The RDS was then selected over the other 13 groups and asked to make a pitch even though it was supposedly one of the groups who had not met the criteria set down by the Minister. There has been much concern about the Minister's decision to single out the RDS. The selection of a site in Ballsbridge, which is already choked with traffic, for a major centre makes little sense.
As the EU clock for funding for a conference centre ticks quickly away the Minister has decided to bring another consortium back into the bidding, the Carlton Convention Centre group. We believe this group approached the Minister and he asked to see their submission. This is an extraordinary way of doing business. What is going on? The other groups which entered the competition are astonished at the carry on. Will they be allowed re-enter the race and why is all this happening at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour? The concerns about the RDS generally were known long ago but they wait until now to do something? This picking and choosing of applicants will result in a major multi-million pound legal action against the State. I call on the Minister to inject some clarity and reality into this issue.
The Minister of State may have misled the Dáil and withheld information on this matter. When he was sent into the House on 21 May to answer questions, to bat, he told us no final decision had been taken on the RDS and negotiations were continuing with Brussels. However, he then let it slip that planning permission had been applied for at the RDS but made no mention of the re-entry of the Carlton group. Why is the RDS applying for planning permission if another group is now in the frame? What do the Brussels negotiations relate to? Do they relate to the RDS only or do they also relate to the Carlton group? Is the Government for or against the Sonas proposal?
If the Sonas development becomes a reality an outstanding conference centre will be located there and 3,000 valuable jobs could come on stream. However, if two centres go ahead they will have to compete with one another, giving rise to great difficulty. Will the Minister of State give us full information on the conference centre? Has the Government taken a decision on the matter? Who will pay the costs of the groups which are back in the contest?
I am afraid that the project will be botched and that a major opportunity for the State will be lost. There has already been great delay in progressing the centre which will be worth £30 million in revenue to the State each year and will create 1,500 jobs. It is estimated that between 12 and 14 international conferences would come here every year if the centre was available. The conference centre forms an important part of the long-term planning for the tourism industry and I would like the Minister to say if he is satisfied that the centre will be ready by the end of 1999, the date when EU funds for the project run out.
The conference centre is only one part of the long-term strategic planning required but it is not being delivered upon by the Government. As the motion states, there is a need for more even growth in tourist numbers and income in the regions and for the co-ordination of agencies. Fianna Fáil has always adopted a positive and direct line in the formulation of tourism policy. It has been, and still remains, our policy to take whatever action is necessary to maintain growth in the tourism sector at a pace which will ensure its viability as a source of ever increasing sustainable employment. This implies the need for sensitivity, not only in regard to the needs of the country. We must never develop a level of dependency on low cost, low margin tourism like other countries associated with some sunshine package holidays. In order to develop the tourism industry we must invest in those features which make Ireland so attractive to tourists, without sacrificing the quality of the tourism product for what might well be short-term and short-sighted economic gain.
For these reasons Fianna Fáil is committed to creating a stand alone Department of Tourism with overall responsibility for the tourism industry and for the legislative and administrative support to harness all available and necessary resources to implement tourism policy. Tourism has become so important in the overall context to economic development that the need for this concentration of effort is self-evident. It is with regret, that I must condemn the failure of the Government to acknowledge this need in any real way. The Minister has not troubled the House with a heavy burden of legislative reform. It is incredible that the Government has not initiated any legislative reform in the tourism sector, and there is no sign that there will be any during its term.
Fianna Fáil will continue to review the legislative and administrative regime governing the tourism sector and introduce such legislative measures as are necessary to ensure that our tourism industry is ready to meet the challenges of increased competition from other countries and reduced reliance on European Union funding. In addition, we will assign the Minister for Tourism and Trade specific responsibility for the co-ordination of legislation affecting the tourism sector with particular regard to ensuring the protection of the environment and the preservation of cultural and historic resources.
The unequal development of the regions was highlighted in a recent report of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation which noted that Ireland has out-performed most other tourist destinations in recent years. I do not want to go into the figures in detail because of time constraints but they are fully detailed in that very helpful report. The confederation has made a number of recommendations which include investment in additional capacity and direct ferry services from mainland Europe; promotion of tourist traffic into airports other than Dublin; cheaper car rental and specific tourist-related public transport services; positive discrimination in product development in disadvantaged regions; better marketing of regions outside Dublin and the east. Continued investment in the growth of Dublin as a tourist destination has been questioned several times in the past 18 months since it has become apparent that the distribution of tourists is so imbalanced but the concerns expressed have fallen on deaf ears.
In tabling this motion Fianna Fáil contends attention must now be paid to these issues and an integrated national plan drawn up. One certain way is to ensure that low-cost carriers fly into airports on the western seaboard. I have raised this issue on numerous occasions with the Minister but nothing ever appears to happen. In this year's Estimates, Shannon Free Airport Development Company's tourism allocation has not been increased. When inflation is taken into account, effectively its allocation is reduced by 3 per cent, representing a further cut following on a reduction of 40 per cent in 1995. How can there be regional balance if some areas are starved of badly needed funding?
The Minister has been slow to chart a future for Ireland as an off-season tourist destination. We have marvellous facilities for hang-gliding, abseiling, fishing, walking and a broad spectrum of outdoor activities, all of which must be marketed and used to increase the tourist spend in off-season.
Since the beginning of the peace process, the Dublin and midlands east region have experienced a dramatic rise in its tourism industry while other regions have experienced moderate growth rates, with Shannon, the west and south-west regions experiencing a decline in some areas. It is to be noted that the regions outside Dublin rely for a greater proportion of their local income on tourism. This splitting of the industry into a two-speed sector is becoming a worrying, possibly dangerous, development.
Despite many assurances and limited budgetary allocations to redress this imbalance in tourist numbers and income growth, there appears to be no ministerial action to tackle this problem. If this problem is not resolved the financial strength of the Dublin market will ensure that its marketing efforts will become ever more effective compared with other regions such as Shannon, thus perpetuating this regional imbalance. The allocation of marketing budgets, especially from the EU Operational Programme for Tourism, should give first call to areas showing lower levels of growth.
For example, the Minister could make greater efforts to tackle transport access, the main cause of the present regional imbalance in growth. The arrival of Ryanair and the new Stena vessel to the Dublin region has allowed greater transport access to Dublin from the United Kingdom in particular. The other ports across Ireland, with the exception of Rosslare, have experienced no such dramatic increase in access capacity, thus stifling possible growth.
My party contends the Minister could persuade his colleague, the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, to persuade semi-State companies under his remit, such as Aer Rianta, to reduce the cost of landing at Shannon and Cork Airports. He could initiate schemes, such as that implemented by my colleague, Deputy McCreevy, which paid a grant for onward flights from major United Kingdom and European airports to Ireland for travellers from Asia, leading to a trebling of Japanese tourists here within one year.
Since the 1920s the issue of seasonality had dogged the development of a vibrant tourist industry. The problems caused by seasonality, in particular a summer season-based industry, include lack of continual income to allow for realistic capital investment plans which, in turn, create the need for grant-aid backed investment; seasonality in the levels of the requisite workforce within the industry, thus creating periods within which the substantial workforce of in excess of 90,000 have shorter working hours, lower pay and lesser favourable working conditions.
Many problems that had caused seasonality have been overcome. In the past, workers were permitted to take holidays in the summer season only. Now most workers in Europe and America are entitled to longer holiday periods, work more flexible hours and take vacations throughout the year. An example is the rise in winter skiing holidays. The fact that access transport and accommodation were available only in the peak season have been resolved through ultra-modern air and seaport facilities across Ireland. Providers of accommodation and transport operators can offer much cheaper tariffs in the off-peak period.
The real reason for the continued existence of an off-peak season and an uneven development of tourism are the actions of the State agencies charged with developing tourism. For example, Bord Fáilte and the regional tourism organisations continue to pump the majority of their marketing budgets and efforts into promoting the peak season. While I should make it clear there is no harm in so doing, we advocate that they look at the whole question of seasonality and off-peak season which would be of tremendous advantage nationally and locally.
Our State agencies persist in thinking that foreign visitors are less likely to travel to Ireland in winter than in summer. State facilities, such as the Office of Public Works' visitor centres, are often closed during the winter months. The Minister could remedy this imbalance by persuading State agencies to adopt a co-ordinated, positive attitude to off-peak tourism, focusing adequate resources for this purpose, including financing facilities to remain open in winter and diverting high budget allocations to off-peak marketing. Some people might contend there is no need to market Ireland for summer breaks since visitors will travel here anyway but it is balanced development that is really needed. This can only be provided by a year-round tourist season without highs and lows.
Another part of the Fianna Fáil motion relates to the need for a national co-ordinated manpower development plan of training in services for tourism. CERT is doing a great job but there has been much concern voiced by restaurateurs about staff shortages. Is the Minister addressing that issue? Will he devise co-ordinated plans, in conjunction with his ministerial colleagues in the Departments of Finance, Enterprise and Employment and Social Welfare?
Fianna Fáil is very concerned also at the lack of progress being made on the EU Operational Programme for Tourism. We are facing into a period when the medium-term review of EU funds will be due, yet little headway has been made on the allocation of such funds to tourism. The Minister's inactivity in this area could lead to Ireland being penalised and losing up to 10 per cent of its allocation.
One of the themes of our motion is the development of strategies placing emphasis on quality and income-generation. The World Equestrian Games fit into this category since, through them, an image of Ireland can be presented abroad to an affluent sector of tourists. Rather than exploit that opportunity, the Minister has tried to eliminate it, with no support whatever for the project forthcoming from him or his colleagues. It remains unclear if this event will be saved, although a new sponsor appears to have come forward. That event offers a major opportunity to promote this country abroad. We have the capability, infrastructure and personnel to host. Since Ireland is the country of the horse it is all the more extraordinary that this once-off opportunity, so hard fought by the Minister's predecessor, has been almost lost to this nation. While, on the one hand, we proclaim the virtues of our horses, on the other we appear to throw away this opportunity to promote their interests. I understand there may well be a sponsor for this event in the background and, if so, the Minister should engage in urgent discussions with this individual or organisation.
The World Equestrian Games are a major opportunity for this country to promote itself abroad. It is an event we have the capability and personnel to run. With leadership and some input from the Minister, all the problems associated with the games could have been ironed out, but that interest was lacking. There was inflexibility and a lack of vision. That failure was not only on the part of the Minister, it was evident right across the board in the Government, even by Ministers with equestrian interests. They stood by and did nothing. Even the Minister of State, Deputy Mitchell, who wants to bring the Olympics to Dublin, was silent for once.
Will the Minister clarify the position on the games and explain if Ireland will be liable for a £1.5 million bond if the event does not go ahead? Will the Tour de France suffer from the same lack of interest? What are the Minister's intentions in relation to the Tour de France starting in Ireland?
The Eurovision is another of these major events that should be encouraged rather than criticised. I hope the Minister will play an active part in ensuring that Ireland hosts that event next year.
Fianna Fáil welcomes the publication by the Department of Tourism and Trade ofEuropean Funding in Ireland. That directory of the funding available to the tourism industry from the European Union is a useful tool for present and potential investors in that industry and it should be updated annually.
The recent introduction of tax incentives in certain seaside resorts has given a substantial boost to the renovation and reconstruction of those towns. That scheme is widely seen as a cast iron way of channelling investment into areas that have suffered from gradual decay and were at risk of serious and imminent infrastructural degeneration. I do not see why its scope should not be broadened. It is discouraging to learn from pronouncements that the tax reliefs incorporated in the pilot scheme were watered down by the Government before the pilot scheme has been implemented, which shows a distinct lack of conviction on the part of the Government. Any step which it can take to encourage reinvestment of earnings or savings in the infrastructure of our towns must be taken. If that results in tax advantages to those who decide to invest in such projects, common sense dictates that this is also in the national interest. Under this project we must aim to achieve the retention of profits in Ireland by encouraging people not normally associated with or involved in the tourism industry as well as those directly involved in it to invest in it.
We want proper regional development and co-ordination between the agencies promoting tourism and grant-aiding the sector. We do not want limited tourist budgets to be spent on exacerbating regional imbalances. We want co-ordinated marketing strategies where numbers alone are not the measure of success. There must be integrated development at local level. These steps must be taken urgently and we ask the Minister to heed our calls and to take action as a matter of urgency.
I wish to refer to two obvious problems affecting tourism, litter and our appalling signposting. It is time the Government took action under legislation dealing with litter to address the problem. I refer particularly to the flurry of paper one notices on passing fast food outlets in our cities and towns which has been disposed of by their clients on footpaths directly outside those premises. They should be obliged to clean up the litter outside those premises as a matter of social priority in the national interest. Our attitude to litter is nothing short of disgraceful. The sooner the Minister decides, if he has not already done so, to organise anti-litter competitions, the better. If Martians landed in O'Connell Street and did not know where they were, on looking around and seeing the litter they would realise they must be in Ireland. The litter problem is as bad as that. On travelling up from the west the other day, I noticed a person in the car in front of me roll down the window to throw out a brown paper bag. I almost crashed as I was overcome with road rage or litter rage, whichever is the appropriate term to describe one's anger in those circumstances. An empty box of matches and an empty cigarette packet were also thrown out the window. I belw my horn and was given the usual salutation indicating that I should mind my own business, which, maybe, I should but people who try to stop others littering our country act in the interests of the community. Litter is a national priority and should be addressed in the interests of promoting tourism. We should address the problem by teaching our young people, particularly those at school, that it is anti-social behaviour to throw litter in a public place.
Our main roads, particularly our highways, are second to none; the signposting on those highways is clear and conforms with European Union standards. However, one becomes dizzy trying to find a location when reading the signposts on secondary and tertiary roads. The signposts are nothing short of shameful. I urge the Minister and the Minister of State to address this problem as a matter of urgency. Defacing bilingual signposts, particularly in the west, where the English translation of the Irish location has been scribbled out and only the Irish version remains, does not do justice to the language I love deeply. The yahoos who deface those signs should be asked to leave them alone in the national interest and in the interests of tourists from France, Germany and other countries who assist tourists in their countries by providing bilingual signposts.
I ask the Minister and the Minister of State to address the simple problems of litter and defacing bilingual road signs. In the main the local authorities are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, particularly in view of the economic constraints inflicted on them, but I urge them, or the road authority responsible for the maintenance of road signs, to address the problem of defacing those signs as a matter of urgency. The road signs on byroads are a source of puzzlement, amazement and bemusement to tourists who try to find their way from A to B and inevitably end up in C and D, not knowing where they are.
I thank the Minister of State for replying to the motion.
I support this motion, particularly its recommendations to set up a national co-ordinated manpower development plan for training in the area of tourism services. Despite high unemployment here, there is a scarcity of staff to manage hotels, bars and restaurants. Traders continually complain about finding it difficult to recruit well trained staff. EU and State funding for tourism should be used in the most cost effective manner to maximise tourism growth. Until the year 2000 and beyond, it is widely forecast that tourism will be the biggest growth industry world-wide. Tourism is our most decentralised industry. It affects every city, town, village and parish and has great potential for job creation. If the Government is interested in creating jobs for our educated young people, now being properly trained in the areas of tourism, catering and management, everything possible must be done to ensure that State and EU funding is spent wisely to maximise future growth. I refer in particular to the marketing programme by Board Fáilte and the Department of Tourism and Trade under the operational programme.
During the period from 1 October to 17 March each year, as many people as possible from Bord Fáilte and the Department of Tourism and Trade should be engaged in promotional work abroad to attract more tourists here. Marketing is the key to tourism promotion and I cannot over emphasise its importance. From information given to me by those with vast experience in the tourism trade and in the hotel and catering businesses, I know Ireland is merely scratching at the surface of the huge market in the United States, Europe, Asia and throughout the world.
Low interest loans should be made available to entrepreneurs who wish to become involved in tourism projects such as the extension of existing facilities and the provision of new facilities including buildings. Low interest loans are far better than grants and the tourism trade prefers them. We must spend a percentage of State and EU funding for tourism on the provision of all-weather leisure facilities including cinemas and conference centres. This may be Ireland's last opportunity to spend the large amounts of money that will be made available by the European Commission between now and the year 1999.
I am convinced, as is the tourism trade, that a greater sense of urgency is needed in planning authorities in deciding on applications for planning permission for tourism oriented projects which have great employment potential, such as all-weather leisure facilities, conference centres, extensions to hotels and guest houses or the construction of new projects. Will the Minister consult his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, with a view to issuing a directive to planning authorities to give priority to applications for planning permission in respect of proposals which will ultimately create many jobs?
Will the Minister and the Minister of State consult their colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, with a view to restoring the grants for the control of farmyard pollution? We must protect and maintain our healthy environment for our own benefit, for the benefit of tourists and in the interests of job creation, regardless of the costs.
The Minister of State knows I am anxious that coastal towns in the south and west Kerry areas, such as Killarney, Kenmare and Killorglin are given an equal opportunity to obtain grants under the operational programme for tourism. It is important that south Kerry gets its fair share of State and EU funding, having regard to the huge sums which enterpreneurs have spent over the years out of their own resources.
I am disappointed the Minister for Tourism and Trade is not here tonight because I want to ask him to ensure the available finances and resources are no longer employed to further exacerbate regional imbalances in County Kerry and in the south west region. We have not received our market share of the increase in tourism in the past two years. These imbalances are closely linked to undeveloped marketing strategies which place more emphasis on quality and income generation than on numbers. I am firmly convinced that a good marketing strategy would help in a major way to spread the market share of the increase in tourism more evenly throughout the State.
I welcome the part of the Fianna Fáil motion regarding proposals to initiate and support an integrated development marketing plan at a local level which would achieve sustained growth in tourism income. For example, I have for some years advocated one marketing unit for County Kerry. I want the Minister to let this House know now how he views such a proposal which arose from an unanimous decision taken by Kerry County Council. He was asked to meet a deputation from the county council on the matter. Perhaps the Minister could let us know now when he will receive this deputation.
I call on the Minister for Tourism and Trade to state clearly what message he wanted to convey to tourism interests on a recent visit to Killarney, when he stated he wanted a cap placed on tourism development in the area. I am disappointed he is not here tonight to answer that question. I sincerely hope he will be here tomorrow night to answer it.
Does the Minister wish the people of the Killarney area to stop building bed and breakfast houses, guest houses, hotels and to stop adding extensions to such buildings? Does he wish to phase out or destroy the construction industry in Killarney? I want him to come into this House and answer those questions fairly and squarely because he did not do so in Killarney when he was cross examined. The people of Killarney and south Kerry are entitled to an explanation from the Minister on this important matter.
Some 11,500 people are employed in tourism in Kerry and we have a very important regional airport which is vital to the development of tourism in the county. The Government is not paying the airport the attention it should, particularly in relation to marketing. I want to see more money coming to Kerry for the market tourism, particularly through Kerry county airport. I also make a case here for a conference centre in Killarney. The facility is badly needed. The case made for it was rejected by the Department of Tourism and Trade and I would like to know why. A better case could not have been made for the provision of a major conference centre in Killarney to which substantial grants should be allocated.
The Minister for Tourism and Trade should consider the provision of an indoor public heated swimming pool in Killarney. It has been on the agenda for almost ten years. The question of the indoor heated swimming pool is a matter of great concern to those in the bed and breakfast business, the guest house business and indeed to many hoteliers in Killarney who do not have these facilities in their hotels. I understand there are approximately 15 hotels in the eastern region at either the planning or construction stage. This is one of the reasons neither I nor the people of Killarney and south Kerry can understand why the Minister wants a cap on the development of tourism and tourism facilities in Killarney. I sincerely hope the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, will convey my views very precisely to the Minister if the Minister cannot come in here tomorrow night to answer these questions.
I wish to apologise for the Minister's absence. It will not be possible for him to be present tomorrow to respond to the issues raised by Deputies as he is in Finland on a tourism and trade promotion. I do not know what was said regarding the cap. We will, therefore, have to await the Minister's return to provide an answer for the Deputy.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"notes the exceptional performance of the tourism sector in 1995 in terms of foreign revenue earnings and visitor numbers and the substantial growth in tourism in all sub-regions of the country in recent years; and calls on the Minister for Tourism and Trade to continue to pursue, in association with the industry, a range of policy measures in the product development, marketing and training areas designed to assist in the achievement of the targets set for sustainable growth in the industry under the EU Operational Programme for Tourism, 1994-1999."
I am grateful to the Deputies for tabling this motion and providing the House with an opportunity to debate issues which have been raised recently concerning the growth of tourism throughout the country. I am thinking, in particular, of the recent study commissioned by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation on the regional distribution of tourism. In order to put these issues in their proper context, however, I would like to touch briefly on overall national tourism policy and Government targets for the sector.
The Operational Programme for Tourism sets out the Government's targets for the tourism industry for the period 1994 to 1999. These are: to increase foreign exchange earnings to £2.25 billion per annum by 1999, thereby creating the equivalent of up to 35,000 additional jobs; to concentrate an increasing proportion of growth outside of the July-August peak; and to improve the quality of service in the Irish tourism product by the provision of high quality training programmes.
Unlike the first Tourism Operational Programme, the current programme does not contain targets in relation to the number of visitors, reflecting a shift in emphasis from numbers to revenue yield which I am sure will be welcomed. The strategy to achieve these targets will focus on a large expansion in marketing activities; further product development to meet specific market deficiencies and, major improvements in the conference, angling and cultural tourism products and an expansion in the range and scale of training to cater for anticipated employment growth.
Overall, investment totalling £652 million is envisaged during the lifetime of the programme. A sum of £369 million of this will come from the EU with the public and private sectors contributing £84, million and £199 million respectively. Programmes under the aegis of other Departments will also assist smaller tourism projects as part of their primary non-tourism objectives. In addition, tourism projects in the Border counties may also qualify for assistance from the International Fund for Ireland, the EU INTERREG Programme or the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation.
The targets I have outlined are national targets, but the Operational Programme for Tourism also contains an indicative breakdown of expenditure on a regional basis in order to achieve a balanced distribution of investment throughout the country. Tourism has the important added value effect of energising and raising the morale of communities in regions which have been adversely affected by emigration and depopulation. Apart from the grant aiding programmes I have outlined, tourism development also benefits from a number of schemes involving tax incentives and subsidised, fixed interest loans.
Some of the programmes and schemes I have mentioned are by their nature confined to specific regions. The overall tourism support framework could be seen therefore to provide a positive bias in favour of regional development.
The targets we have set out for the tourism industry are ambitious but realistic. Tourism performance over the past two years indicates that we are well on course toward achieving them. Foreign earnings from tourism to Ireland in 1995 grew by 12 per cent over 1994 to almost £1.7 billion. This rate of growth compares very favourably with the average European growth in tourism revenue of 2.3 per cent, making Ireland the top performing European destination in 1995.
Overall visitor numbers in 1995 reached a record high of 4,256,000. We experienced particularly strong growth in visitor numbers from Britain, up 13 per cent, North America, up 30 per cent and mainland Europe, up almost 12 per cent.
The year 1995 also proved to be very successful for job creation with Bord Fáilte estimating employment supported by tourism at 102,000 — an increase of 4,000 on 1994 and representing a 50 per cent increase since 1988.
In April of this year the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation announced the findings of a study on the regional distribution of Ireland's tourism. The study, which focused on overseas holiday visitors in the period 1993-95, showed that while nationally overseas bednights rose by 11 per cent in this period, there was a decline in bednights in the western regions with the result that their share of the national total dropped from 59 per cent in 1993 to 50 per cent in 1995. Interestingly, the report said that there was no single factor which could be said with any certainty to be the cause of this change. It identified a number of possible factors which may have had an impact including the European-wide growth in the city tourism, the increasing international trend towards shorter holidays, seasonality, access and mobility within Ireland.
I very much welcome the ITIC study which is a useful addition to existing studies on the regional impact of tourism. However, there are a number of points which should be borne in mind in any discussion of this issue.
The study focuses entirely on the overseas market and makes no mention of the regional impact of the domestic or Northern Ireland tourism. Deputies will be aware that the domestic market, which Bord Fáilte estimates at £625 million or almost one-third of all tourism revenue in 1995, is particularly significant for the west and south-west which have always been the favourite destinations for Irish holidaymakers.
I would also like to emphasise the point that the ITIC report deals solely with bednights or, in other words, the number of nights spent in a region by overseas holidaymakers. There is no question of a decline in tourism revenue in western regions or anywhere else in the country for that matter. All regions are enjoying tourism revenue far in excess of the levels achieved in the past. Indeed, tourism revenue in every region of the country has grown faster than the international or European averages over the period 1989 to 1995 and there would be many European countries which would happily trade places with any one of our regions.
Dublin has enjoyed significantly higher growth in recent years, partly because of the increased international demand for city breaks and shorter stays. As regards city breaks, the ITIC report points out that Dublin is not competing with other Irish regions but with cities such as Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Indeed, the report recommends further development of Dublin campaigns to attract tourists who would not otherwise consider visiting Ireland. A point worth noting in this regard is that 40 per cent of all bookings made in the Dublin Tourism Centre are for accommodation and activities in the other regions which means that the growth in visitors to Dublin has important spin-off benefits for the country as a whole.
In discussing city tourism, it may also be of interest to look at some international comparisons. In Scotland, for example, Edinburgh and Glasgow account for 50 per cent of all overseas revenue, while London has an average 54 per cent share of British overseas revenue. Here, we have a much more even distribution with Dublin's share averaging 27 per cent in the past seven years.
I would like to make it clear that any differential growth in the Dublin and eastern regions is not a function of development incentives, but can be attributed to many other factors including the special appeal of Dublin as a capital city. There is no question of public or EU funds contributing to the imbalances in the regional growth rates. This is recognised in the ITIC report which also points out that 60 per cent of all European Regional Development Funds and BES investment in the 1989-95 period went to projects in the western regions.
In the final analysis, the challenge for western regions is to achieve the same level of performance. In this connection, a well known hotelier in the west has recently said that price is a key factor in the east's performance in recent years and has made the point that he sees further growth prospects for west of Ireland tourism in selling the off-season at the right price.
The big expansion in access to Ireland in recent years has provided great opportunities for the regions with an increasing number of European tour operators undertaking direct charter services into airports outside Dublin including Cork, Kerry, Shannon and Knock. Nearly 180,000 seats are now provided annually on inbound charter services — an increase of some 70 per cent on 1992. Of these, 80 per cent go to airports other than Dublin. The decision of tour operators from Germany to commence services to Knock for the first time in 1996 is a further positive development.
Increased competition on the London-Shannon route has been facilitated by the commencement of services on that route by AB Shannon since December 1995. In addition, Aer Rianta has announced that new carrier development at Cork and Shannon will be further facilitated by a package of landing charges rebates which exceed the incentives available in Dublin. Combined passenger movements at all regional airports in 1995 were 20 per cent higher than in 1994, reaching over 350,000 and Cork and Shannon airports reported terminal traffic increases of 21 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The issue of appropriate marketing strategies has been raised by Deputies. The Operational Programme for Tourism 1994-1999 provided for total programme related spending on marketing of almost £125 million over the period 1994 to 1999, with some £51 million of this funding coming from the EU. The programme identifies specific marketing themes which focus on the key objectives of the programme, including the achievement of foreign exchange earnings of £2.25 billion in 1999.
The five themes which underpin the marketing sub-programme of the operational programme are: improving seasonality; expanding sea and air access; developing new markets; developing products and niche markets and attracting more high-yield business.
These themes have guided the work of the independent Management Board for Marketing which, up to 31 December 1995, had approved over £12 million in marketing grants under the operational programme. A wide variety of projects have been supported ranging from brochure production to direct mail campaigns to mainstream consumer advertising. Tourism enterprises of every type have been assisted, including carriers, tour operators, marketing cooperatives, individual suppliers and relevent public bodies. I understand that in 1996 the Marketing Board, having reviewed its activities to date, will be seeking to focus more support towards projects which are strategic in direction as opposed to the more tactical nature of previous years.
The major consumer advertising campaigns for Irish tourism in 1996 will, as in 1995, be undertaken under the aegis of the industry-led Overseas Tourism Marketing Initiative (the OTMI), which is a marketing partnership involving Board Fáilte, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the tourism industry, North and South. A budget of £6.5 million will be available to the OTMI this year, comprising £1 million from the industry, £500,000 sources from Northern Ireland, £1 million from the Exchequer and a total of £4 million from the Marketing Sub-Programme of the Operational Programme for Tourism.
The renewed mandate for Bord Fáilte, in line with the Arthur D. Little Consultancy review, has been confirmed as international marketing and the organisation is refocusing its resources on this key task while divesting itself of other non core functions. The new structure reflects a concentration on three core priorities of selling and promoting Ireland overseas, helping the less mature elements of the industry to develop its marketing and product development capabilities and providing information for enhanced decision making by marketeers, investors and managers in the industry as well as Government.
I mentioned earlier the importance of the domestic tourism market. One of the significant achievements of the last Tourism Council — which is made up of representatives of the industry, the tourism State agencies and Government Departments under the chairmanship of the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Kenny — was its endorsement of the comprehensive report Domestic Tourism Marketing which was commissioned by the marketing sub-committee at my specific request. This report outlined the value of domestic tourism in economic terms, the increased level of competition especially in the short break sector and the marketing opportunities which are emerging. It specifically recommended that a new and reorganised approach to support growth in the domestic market was opportune and put forward a number of suggestions for new marketing initiatives.
Following from this, I am pleased to say that I secured Government agreement earlier this year to the allocation of £500,000 towards the cost of developing a new initiative to encourage greater marketing by the industry of home holidays, particularly in the off-peak and shoulder season. This initiative will only succeed, however, if it has the co-operation and involvement both financially and actively of the tourism industry right across the board. I can inform the House that, this morning, I chaired a meeting of the working group, representative of all sectors of the industry, which I established to plan and implement the initiative. The meeting agreed a strategy which will be implemented in coming months, commencing in a few days time on a limited basis with targeted newspaper advertising.
I now turn to the question of co-ordination of State and other grant aiding agencies involved in tourism. Arising from concerns about possible inconsistency and duplication in tourism development efforts, the product development sub-committee of the last Tourism Council prepared a report on co-ordination of tourism in June 1994. Essentially, this report recommended that the Operational Programme for Tourism should be seen as the starting point for all tourism-related initiatives and the Minister and Department of Tourism and Trade the final arbiter of tourism policy. Other agencies and measures that assist tourism projects as part of their primary non-tourism objectives should complement rather than act in conflict with the incentives offered under the tourism operational programme. The report made a number of specific recommendations to this end.
Deputy O'Leary addressed the issue of manpower policy which is an issue of vital importance to the future of Irish tourism. By the end of the century we expect that five million people will visit us each year. All of these tourists want and must be provided with an efficient and friendly service which they will remember and associate with their visit to this country. This is acknowledged in the Operational Programme for Tourism where training is one of the four main sub-programmes. A total of £110 million will be invested in tourism training between 1994 and 1999 and over 72,000 people will be trained. This almost doubles the number trained under the last operational programme.
In keeping with overall national tourism policy, CERT's role and function will be to provide training for new entrants and the existing workforce in tourism, in order to assist in the provision of a higher quality tourism product leading to the creation and enchancement of employment. European language training will continue to be an integral part of the overall training strategy of CERT.
The last Tourism Council, through a sub-committee chaired by Mr. Peter Malone of Jurys Hotel Group, produced a report on tourism manpower and training for the 21st century. A number of key issues were highlighted by the report, but the two most important were the shortage of trained staff and the poor image of the industry.
The perception of the tourism industry as an industry dogged by long hours and low pay is attractive to no one. We all agree that poor image needs to be seriously addressed and this must be done sooner rather than later. The Minister, Deputy Kenny, when addressing the annual conference of the Irish Hotels Federation in Cork in February raised this whole question and the industry itself is aware of the problem.
Action must be taken now to face these problems. The Government, through CERT, will train over 70,000 people for tourism by 1999. This is a major commitment. CERT has produced a draft corporate plan for the period up to 1999 which takes on board much of the recent analysis conducted and seeks to reposition the organisation to meet the future needs and requirements of the industry.
However, the industry itself must address these critical issues if it is to continue to secure and retain a quality trained workforce. The level of European Social Funds available for training and other related tourism initiatives will be uncertain after the current operational programme expires in 1999. The industry must plan now to develop and take responsibility for its own training needs. Manpower planning is also one of the strategic issues which will be discussed by the new Tourism Council.
Understandable concerns have been expressed recently about the regional spread of tourism growth. It is important, however, that we maintain a sense of proportion in what is an outstanding success story for all regions.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle would agree with me that Wicklow is arguably the most beautiful county in Ireland and indisputably the most beautiful county in Leinster and we agree there is need for greater promotion of the area. The opening sentence of the Private Members' motion may have relevance for places such as Wicklow, Carlow and Kildare. An impression is created in the motion that investment in tourism is going to the west, the south and the north but not the east. However, we in the east outside the city and county of Dublin are making an effort to attract tourists. I hope we will see many thousands in Wicklow for the Murphy's Irish Open Golf competition in Druids Glen during July. It will be one of the biggest promotions ever in County Wicklow.
It is hard to understand how Deputy Andrews supports his criticism of tourism when one considers from that foreign earnings from tourism in 1995 grew by more than 12 per cent in 1994 figures to almost £1.7 billion. It is predicted that 1996 will be even better. Overall visitor numbers for 1995 reached a record 4,250,000 people. There was a 13 per cent increase from Britain, 30 per cent from America and 12 per cent from Europe. These figures show that the Department of Tourism and Trade is doing its job well. I compliment the Minister and the Minister of State for their efforts since taking office. These figures put paid to the argument that people do not visit this country.
There is an argument for improving tourism promotion in certain areas. I doubt if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will agree with me, but County Wicklow should not be in the midlands-east area. It should be in the south-east area because it has access to sea transport at Rosslare and Dún Laoghaire. It should be in the same category as Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. County Wicklow has got some benefits from being in the midlands-east area but somebody driving through Athlone is a long way from Arklow, which is in the same tourist area.
The Minister should look at the dearth of accommodation in the eastern countries. He mentioned higher growth in the east but he referred only to Dublin where we are aware the tourism industry is booming. However, other counties do not have proper facilities. Mobile investments will always go to Dublin which is an all year round attraction for tourists. A BES type investment, specifically for rural counties, would address the dearth of accommodation there.
We must provide indoor facilities if we want to extend the tourist season beyond July and August and the shoulder periods of June and September. Swimming pools are an all year round tourist attraction. I ask the Minister for the Environment to answer the demands of the people of Wicklow for a swimming pool in Arklow and in Wicklow town.
The tourism industry has a poor image as regards pay. I am glad the Minister proposes to take action in this area because the problem has persisted for many years. There has been a huge increase in the numbers visiting this country, which has led to the expansion of the industry. However, we seem to have forgotten the need to promote better pay and conditions for those who work in it. The Minister said the industry must do more to promote itself as being able to offer a worthwhile and rewarding career for young people. The Department of Enterprise and Employment must also ensure that it has enough inspectors to check working environments and pay conditions in hotels, guesthouses and bars where young people work. This area needs immediate attention. I know that the Minister of State, a former trade unionist in Cork, will want to do something about the industry's image in this regard.
The tourism industry can help this country. Last year we reaped the benefits of the peace initiative and the hot summer. We hope peace continues on our island because people will not visit it if there is violence. The country should be promoted abroad. Many television broadcasts on BBC, ITV or Sky include Ireland as a holiday destination. That is important for people who are deciding where to go on their holidays. We should accommodate television stations because such broadcasts have a beneficial effect on this country.
We should not only concentrate on attracting people to this country, we should encourage Irish people to take their holidays here. People will get good bargains throughout the year. The tourism industry will always be at its height in July and August, not only because employees get holidays then but because children are off school. Costs are highest during these two months, but we should encourage people to avail of long weekends and breaks at Easter, etc. We welcome and encourage visitors to come here but approximately 40 per cent of our tourism industry is home based. Something positive has been done in the past year and the Minister must take credit for that.
We are dealing with our most successful industry. There have been huge increases in the numbers of people coming here and I know the Minister will ensure that continues.
I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution on this motion. The tourism industry, particularly since 1987, has become a key sector of the economy. The positive decision of the then Fianna Fáil Government to identify tourism as a potential growth area has reaped beneficial rewards for the economy. The growth in numbers employed directly in the industry and the growth in foreign earnings since 1987 are testimony to the success of that policy.
I represent a constituency which had severe difficulties in attracting visitors over a period of 25 years because of the political difficulties in the other part of the province. Regardless of those difficulties, the people involved in tourism, particularly those involved in angling tourism, succeeded in attracting huge numbers of fishermen from Britain. The numbers grew each year and there was substantial repeat business. Those private tourist operators deserve lavish commendation for their work and the quality of the accommodation and fishing and product made available for anglers.
Since the cessation of violence at the end of August 1994 the communities in the region, North and South, have looked to the future with great hope in the realisation that the major obstacles to tourism promotion have been removed. We sincerely hope and are confident they have been removed for ever. The communities I know on both sides of the Border recognise the strength of the thirty-two counties as a tourism product. It is essential that we sell the island of Ireland as an attractive holiday destination.
As Members are aware, specific funding was provided to advance, consolidate and underpin the peace process under the European Union's operational programme to promote peace and reconciliation. The communities in the region hoped and believed significant flagship projects would be assisted with this funding. One could not identify better projects for assistance under the programme than cross-Border ones. particularly tourism projects. There is serious discontent in the Border counties at the lack of action or progress made to date. If investment is to be made to support the peace process, the best option would be to support worthwhile viable projects that will last and provide long-term jobs. I have yet to meet anyone who knows of worthwhile projects which have been assisted under the programme.
Tourism, with its potential to create jobs, should have been identified as the vehicle to generate employment in the Border economy. Allied to its potential to create additional employment is the added opportunity to develop cross-Border projects and worthwhile social and economic links between North and South. If tourism is to significantaly expand in Border areas and advantage is to be taken of the new climate created by the peace process, there is an urgent need to develop a strong and improved product attractive to the more general visitor and supported by a broad range of attractions.
A number of key development requirements must be addressed if the region is to successfully exploit a wider tourism market. These include the creation of a well defined tourism image and identity in the general tourism market and the provision of a number of quality attractions and facilities supported by an improved tourism infrastructure. A limited number of high profile flagship attractions would play an important role in creating an image and identity for the region in the marketplace.
On numerous occasions I appealed to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to progress the Erne navigation project. This project, the purpose of which is to make the Erne navigable southwards from Belturbet to Killykeen and Killeshandra, would be complementary to the restored Erne-Shannon waterway which has been an outstanding success. At a time when specific funding is available for the regeneration of the Border economy I could not mention a more suitable project.
My colleague, Deputy Leonard, has appealed to Ministers during the past 12 months to make funding available under the tourism angling programme for projects in the Cavan-Monaghan area. I support his request.
I wish to share the remainder of my time with Deputies Foley and Leonard.
I support the motion which calls on the Minister for Tourism and Trade to take action to promote more even growth in tourist numbers and income in the regions and in the off-peak season. The importance of tourism to the economy has increased beyond the expections of industry experts in the past ten years. It is the fastest growing source of new sustainable jobs and, in many rural areas, exceeds agriculture and all other industries as a source of jobs and wealth. It has become clear that the features which make Ireland unique as a tourist destination need to be nurtured and developed to meet the needs of the 21st century tourist and reap the proper rewards and for those engaged in the industry and for the Ireland we all hope to see prosper for present and future generations.
It costs the State virtually nothing to create a sustainable job in tourism. This fact alone is sufficient to warrant the intensive involvement of the Government in the business of shaping the industry. Projections indicate steady growth in the immediate to long-term.
Tourism contributed in excess of £160 million to the economy of County Kerry in 1994, more than agriculture which had been the principle earner. It has a significant impact on employment generation and employment opportunities. It is estimated that more than 7,000 full-time jobs are generated directly as a result of tourism. The projected growth and the preparedness of the county are, therefore, critical to the long-term economic well-being of many people.
The county attracts well over one million visitors. Recent research indicates the number of continental visitors has increased from 25 per cent of all overseas visitors in 1987 to 38 per cent. The number of United States visitors on the other hand has declined from 25 per cent of all overseas visitors to 15 per cent over the same period.
The McNulty tourism development and marketing plan, commissioned by Kerry County Council, projects that tourist numbers will grow by 42 per cent to 1.65 million by 1998 and tourism revenue to £250 million if a cohesive and sensitive development and marketing strategy is followed. This will require Government involvement and finance.
Overseas visitors account for 48 per cent of all visitors to the county. This figure is likely to increase to 52 per cent by 1998. It is expected that the number of continental visitors will continue to grow. While these figures are attractive there is need for Government funding. to pursue the marketing programme over the next five years.
The features which make Ireland strong in the tourism market are well known: our countryside, heritage, cultural wealth and sense of fun. These features cannot be sacrified for short-term economic gain and tourism must develop in harmony with the essential ingredients of the Irish experience. We must aim to lengthen the tourist season, not, simply, to intensify it. We must aim to attract tourists who will be impressed by the package on offer and sell Ireland to their friends on their return home.
The industry is a major focus for those who aspire to a life of sustained employment and the job satisfaction and expectancy that derives from this. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 long-term sustainable jobs in tourism and this number can be increased with Government involvement. These jobs provide an economic and social lifeline to a country facing the alarming prospect of rural decline.
To develop the industry we must invest in the features which make Ireland so attractive to tourists without sacrificing the quality of the product for what might well be short-term and short-sighted economic gain. We accept that the aim is easily articulated, but not so easily translated into a policy which can ensure its implementation.
The sector has benefited from private investment in the past ten years, mainly through the BES. The Government must introduce an attractive grants scheme for the industry. The recent introduction of tax incentives in certain seaside resorts and towns has provided a substantial boost in terms of renovation and reconstruction. The scheme is widely seen as a cast iron way of channelling investment into areas which have suffered from gradual decay and which are at risk of serious and imminent infrastructural degeneration. There is no reason the scope of the scheme cannot be broadened.
Of major concern to Kerry County Council for some time is the division of the county between two separate regional tourism organisations, Cork-Kerry Tourism and Shannon Development. It is imperative that the county is marketed as a single unit. If not, serious problems could arise in the future development of the industry within the county. Kerry County Council has for some time requested a meeting with the Minister. I urged him to accede to this request and agree to a meeting as soon as possible.
I support the motion. There are five headings, the fifth of which is of relevance to the area which Deputy Smith and I represent. It reads: "to address the lack of co-ordination of State and other grant-aiding agencies involved in tourism". There is a complete lack of co-ordination among those agencies and Government Departments. Currently 36 programmes are being funded in the Border region administered by eight Government Departments and four State agencies. Since the peace initiative there have been continuous calls to refocus funding with a view to supporting that initiative but since that time there has not been any re-examination of the funding for those projects.
People such as myself, who represent non-traditional tourist regions, continually complain about the neglect of such regions. The emphasis continues to be on seaside resorts and established tourism centres. Following the ceasefire in 1994 those of us living in the Border regions had great expectations that funding would be provided for these areas. We are disappointed that the Department and the State agencies, who talked so much about what they intended to do, did not deliver in that regard.
A Bord Fáilte attitude survey carried out last summer revealed that 10 per cent of those surveyed who were not Irish born would not have come to Ireland but for the peace initiative. In 1994, the then Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy, announced substantial INTERREG funding for fishery tourism. The various local community groups in my area submitted requests for additional funding to develop the lakes, river etc. This involved shrub clearance and the provision of permanent access to lakes, car parks, fishing platforms and so on. Two years later we are still awaiting approval of these projects. I understand a North-South committee has been established but I believe such committees can be very slow in taking action. I am aware from replies to questions I tabled that these projects are being assessed but decisions have not been made on them.
Has the Minister or the Government any commitment to that region? On asking an official a question concerning cross-Border economic development, I was extremely disappointed at his reply that there was not a great deal of interest in it. That brings me back to my points that if action is not taken at local level, nothing will be done.
When Fianna Fáil was in power in the late 1980s it put in place a strategy which provided for the building of "pay-as-you-play" golf courses. That initiative proved to be extremely successful and recent figures show a 31 per cent increase in the number of tourists coming to Ireland to play golf. The figure for 1994 was 170,000 while the 1995 figure was 228,000. The figure for specialist golf tourists increased by 72 per cent from 57,000 to 98,000. Those figures are welcome in the areas I represent because they will benefit from that increase in tourist numbers.
When the county enterprise boards were established I believed they would have a useful role to play in supporting, through grant-aid, small tourism projects and providing funding to improve tourist accommodation. Unfortunately, we get only £90,000 per quarter and we are now faced with a huge backlog of applications to provide tourist accommodation. The position is similar with regard to the Leader programme; we have applications from people wishing to provide tourist accommodation which cannot be processed. The IFI has also exhausted its funding to tourist accommodation. Funding must be provided for additional tourist accommodation, self-catering, guest-house or bed and breakfast facilities. Funding should be co-ordinated at various levels so that the best value can be obtained from that region.
We should be ashamed of our litter problem which has not improved. Pressure from county councils has resulted in indiscriminate dumping being restricted to some extent. I travel the Derry-Dublin road three or four days per week. In the spring Monaghan County Council removed litter from the road and the ditches, much of which was made up of plastic items thrown out of passing cars. That behaviour is disgraceful when one thinks of the costs involved to local authorities in removing this litter.
The outdoor pursuits education centre at Tannagh in Rockcorry attracts many school groups from Northern Ireland. That is a successful cross-Border project but we are unable to obtain grant-aid for this centre which is viable and serves a wide spectrum of clients. I ask the Minister to provide funding for the centre.
There has been a tremendous upsurge in heritage tourism but more emphasis should be placed on developing this area at county and regional level. The Kavanagh Centre, which is the leading heritage tourism centre in County Monaghan, attracts many tourists. Our castles and historic buildings should be restored where possible to accommodate the 60 per cent of tourists interested in our heritage. Deputy Smith mentioned the canals. The Ulster Canal, the link from the Ballinamore-Ballyconnel Canal to Lough Neagh, is a substantial development, but it is holding up road works in Monaghan town by the fact that a decision must be made. I ask for a decision as soon as possible.