Written Answers. - Tourism Facilities for Disabled Persons.

Mary Wallace


569 Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the significant opportunity for Ireland to serve as a centre for holidays for people with disabilities and their families; and the action, if any, he has taken to meet this opportunity. [16894/96]

As I have indicated in response to previous similar Dáil questions, the rapid expansion of the tourism sector in recent years has seen a proportionate increase in the number of tourists with disabilities. This has led to an increasing level of inquiries from tourists and potential tourists about accessibility of tourist facilities in Ireland, making it clear that this is a very valuable potential market.

In line with the commitment of both the Government and the European Commission to improve the position of the socially disadvantaged, the operational programme for tourism 1994-99, which is the main vehicle for tourism development in Ireland up to the end of this decade, makes support available to hotel proprietors to help meet the additional costs of providing suitable access-friendly accommodation and related facilities for the disabled in existing hotel premises, and to assist hotels and the major public and private sector visitor centres to provide access for the disabled, where this can be provided on a cost-effective basis. Furthermore, in interdepartmental discussions aimed at ensuring consistency and complementarity between the tourism and other operational programmes, my Department has stressed the importance of improved access for disabled tourists.
There is a growing awareness in the tourism industry of the importance of the disabled holiday market. Ultimately, of course, the industry must adapt its facilities and product if it is to appeal to this market and avail of the sales opportunities which it offers.