Priority Questions. - Tourism Report.

Bernard Allen


8 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he has studied the recommendations of the recently published document by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation entitled A Strategy for Growth Beyond 2000; and if he will make a statement on his key proposals. [15450/98]

The Deputy may be aware that I attended the launch of the ITIC document, Strategy for Growth Beyond 2000, on 25 May 1998. The study is a welcome and timely contribution to the consultation process initiated on the basis of my own Department's paper entitled A Strategy for Tourism Development, 2000-2006, which is now under way between my Department, State tourism agencies and the industry.

The ITIC study provides an industry perspective on the continued development of tourism and is particularly timely in the context of future EU Structural Funding. The study highlights the potential for further growth in Irish tourism, based on an examination of global markets, changes in consumer preferences etc. It makes recommendations inter alia regarding future funding requirements, training and institutional arrangements.

Bord Fáilte has been preparing a draft business plan for tourism marketing, 1998-2003, which will be published in the near future. Obviously, given the different perspectives involved, there are differences in emphasis in the planning documents prepared by my Department, ITIC and Bord Fáilte which will have to be teased out in the coming weeks. However, a common thread running through all three documents is the need to maintain high investment levels in the key areas of product development, marketing and training if the industry is to sustain its momentum.

The overall objective of the current consultation process is to develop a shared vision for the development of tourism into the new millennium. Over the coming weeks, discussions will focus on key issues, including those emerging from the aforementioned documents, such as funding arrangements post-1999, destination marketing, training and institutional arrangements. The discussions will make a significant contribution to the creation of a clear vision for the future of Irish tourism which will inform my Department's input in the autumn into the preparations by the Department of Finance of a new national development plan.

I also welcome the publication of A Strategy for Growth Beyond 2000. Does the Minister agree that the key issues facing tourism are imbalance in regional growth, access to the regions, manpower problems and funding future developments? How does the Minister propose to deal with the future financial investment in tourism? Does he believe that Bord Fáilte is equipped to deal with these challenges and issues which are the responsibility of a number of Departments? Has he discussed the document with Bord Fáilte? Has he met the board since the publication of the document and discussed his and the board's response to a document which sets out major challenges for Government and Bord Fáilte?

The three parties involved are Bord Fáilte, the Department and the industry. These parties have been in continuous contact since the publication of their respective strategies. I have a strategy document which has not yet been published but which is being discussed in the industry. Bord Fáilte is the facilitator between the industry and the consumer. It is a public service management board which must try to effectively manage the relationship between the different interdependent and independent areas which comprise the industry. I would like to see the day when we could implement the excellent AD Little report in full. I am moving towards that objective. I would like the industry to take more control of tourism. If the industry is prepared to contribute economically and in an advisory capacity and carry its share of the burden, I am prepared to offload to it many of the policy making responsibilities.

I will answer questions on future investment in tourism. The industry has to be more conscious of the fact that after 1999 there will be a diminution in the funding available. We have to ensure that we do not take our foot off the pedal. From that point of view I maintain that all sectors of the industry — traveller, tailor, soldier, sailor, doctor, sergeant, candlestick maker, are benefiting from tourism. If there are 7,000,000 in the country then one is bound to be able to achieve this. If enough people are interested the industry itself should come forward.

We must proceed to the next question.

I got only one short question in — the Minister seemed to take up all the time. May I ask the Minister one short question?

No, Deputy, we are moving to Question No. 9.