I welcome the opportunity to contribute on the issue of sustainable tourism. The importance of tourism to Ireland cannot be overstated. The sector has made a significant economic and social contribution in recent years and it is a vital industry that benefits every part of the country. Maintaining our recent success while avoiding negative impacts on the environment, our communities and the long-term viability of the industry itself is the ultimate goal of sustainable tourism.
Revenue generated from overseas visitors to Ireland has increased by almost 60% in the past five years to more than €5 billion, with growth in all of our main markets. Overall, it is estimated that the sector was worth in the region of €9 billion to the economy in 2018 if domestic tourism receipts and the fare receipts of Irish air and sea carriers are included. Fáilte Ireland estimates that, for every euro spent on domestic and overseas tourism, 22 cent is generated in tax, thus highlighting the importance of tourism as a business sector to the economy. Fáilte Ireland also estimates that tourism now supports the employment of in excess of 260,000 people in our economy, representing more than 11% of total employment. It is a significant employer and particularly important in those communities across Ireland that rely heavily on tourism for revenue and jobs.
While this growth is a fantastic achievement by all involved in our tourism sector, we must be open to change, adaptive and resilient to maintain this progress. Public bodies and private enterprises must continue to ensure that social, economic and environmental sustainability is central to our tourism offering to maximise the future competitiveness of Ireland as a visitor destination. It has never been more important that the safeguarding and successful growth of Ireland's tourism sector is based on a sustainable and balanced approach. Environmental protection, economic competitiveness, community and visitor awareness and involvement all play a part in successfully achieving and benefitting from this approach.
Tourism is a growing sector internationally, with rapidly developing economies such as China and India driving global tourism growth. At the same time, there is a increasing recognition that tourism growth must be sustainable. In 2015, the United Nations published 17 sustainable development goals, SDGs, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to address the global challenges facing us. The SDGs call on countries to develop and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism in a way that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products. Ireland's national implementation plan sets out how the State intends to implement these goals through the development of actions and targets related to each goal. It is incumbent on all Government agencies and Departments to ensure that these actions and targets are adhered to and that each sector contributes to Ireland's realisation of these goals.
The Government's tourism policy statement, People, Place and Policy - Growing Tourism to 2025, commits to placing tourism as a key element of its economic strategy, with development of the tourism sector reflecting the highest standards of environmental and economic sustainability. This policy is implemented by way of a series of tourism action plans, which are developed and monitored by the tourism leadership group appointed by the Government. The first action plan to stem from the policy statement spanned the three-year period from 2016 to 2018 and contained 23 key actions aimed at securing growth in overseas tourism revenue and employment. The majority of these actions were completed ahead of schedule.
Along with the Minister, Deputy Ross, I launched a tourism action plan in December 2018 for the three-year period 2019 to 2021. It identifies the key actions to be progressed during this period for maintaining sustainable growth in overseas tourism revenue and employment. One of the first actions provides for the establishment of a working group to review international policy and best practice in sustainable tourism and propose guiding principles for sustainable tourism development in Ireland. This working group is chaired by my Department and includes representatives from the industry and tourism agencies. Its work will be informed by the overarching policy and strategy identified by the Government in Our Sustainable Future - A Framework for Sustainable Development in Ireland as well as the Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020. The work of the sustainable tourism working group will help us to achieve the tourism-related targets in the SDGs.
As we seek to make tourism socially and economically sustainable, we should ensure there is a greater geographic spread of tourists and seek to increase the proportion of tourists who visit outside the peak season. My Department is committed to strong regional dispersal in tourism through the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland. In line with the 2019-21 tourism action plan, the agencies are focusing on initiatives to improve regional and seasonal performance. As provided for in the tourism action plan, and as a result of the increased funding we have provided to Tourism Ireland this year, a new global brand campaign is being delivered in more than 20 key markets around the world. This campaign, Fill Your Heart With Ireland, is Tourism Ireland's first such campaign in seven years. It has been designed to drive continued growth to the regions and to encourage visitors to travel to Ireland all year round. It involves the promotion of less visited attractions and locations around the country. We have also increased funding for the regional co-operative marketing scheme, which supports direct access to regional airports and seaports by overseas visitors, this year.
Fáilte Ireland has developed initiatives in line with this policy. Its new food event, Taste the Island, will promote the island of Ireland's extensive catalogue of food and drink experiences to domestic and international visitors this autumn. It recently launched its Platforms for Growth capital investment scheme, which will drive growth in the regions. Major new visitor attractions of scale will be developed and existing attractions will be greatly enhanced under this €150 million programme, which falls under the Government's Project Ireland 2040 strategy. I recently launched Tourism Ireland's Great Britain market review and strategy for growth, which was drawn up in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and the industry. Britain remains one of our most important markets. British visitors are pivotal if we are to achieve our regional growth and season extension objectives. One of the key priorities of this strategy is the creation of hub experiences with compelling reasons to venture beyond our main attractions.
When the strategy for the future development of national and regional greenways was launched last year, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport demonstrated one of the many ways in which it is dedicated to the development of sustainable tourism in this country. Sustainability is one of the key components of a greenway built under this new strategy on which the proposals are being assessed. In the coming weeks, the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I will announce funding for a number of greenway projects around the country. These projects will mark the beginning of a wider network of greenways to be built throughout the island of Ireland under the greenways strategy. We are dedicated to the growth of greenways. Along with Fáilte Ireland, we will develop activity tourism over the coming years. This great form of sustainable tourism will have a positive effect on the economy of this country and the health of its people. It will also help to spread tourism into areas that are not benefitting from tourism as much as they could be and deserve to be.
Continued competitiveness is a key part of economic sustainability for tourism. A large number of factors determine competitiveness. It comes down to value for money for the visitor. If we do not provide value for money, we will suffer reputational damage. This will have an impact on our ability to continue to be successful. Capacity plays a part in determining our competitiveness, particularly in the accommodation area. Accommodation costs have been a concern in recent years. Increased demand has led to increased room rates in the main tourist destinations, especially Dublin, because supply has not expanded at the same pace. However, a number of new hotels have opened over the past year. A number of other projects are at various stages of development. This increase in supply should help to ease any concern that our accommodation prices are becoming uncompetitive. Accommodation providers have an important role to play in this regard. I am conscious that other costs can have an impact on this sector. We have heard much discussion of insurance costs in recent times. While this is a matter of concern across our economy, and not just for tourism, it cannot be denied that it is having an impact on tourism enterprises.
As Members will be aware, there are many aspects to this problem. The Government is committed to making progress on it. Budget 2019 marked a positive step forward in furthering the development of sustainable tourism growth in Ireland. The increased funding in the budget has allowed the tourism agencies to develop new campaigns, growth strategies and visitor experiences, all of which emphasise regional growth and season extension, as provided for in the 2019-21 tourism action plan. I will be interested to hear the views of Deputies on this subject.