Tourism Industry: Statements.

I am glad to have the opportunity on behalf of Fianna Fáil to speak on the tourism industry and on the necessity to continue to invest in it. Ireland's tourism industry has grown significantly in the past few years and it is anticipated that it will continue to grow into the next century. It contributes approximately £3 billion annually to the economy and employs over 100,000 people. Tourism is a highly labour-intensive industry and as such can have an important impact on our unemployment figures and on employment opportunities in remote regional areas. It is important to expand and develop the tourism business and to maintain and enhance the high standards which have been a feature of the industry's success.

Ireland has always had a positive image as a tourist destination. It is a challenge for us to maintain that image, especially in view of major environmental issues, such as pollution. It is a cause of serious concern that, at a time when we would like to promote Ireland as a destination for angling tourism, some of our unique angling resources and fisheries, such as the trout fishery in the Corrib, are threatened with pollution to the extent that this year's large scale angling competitions are at risk. It is not only necessary to continue to invest in tourism and tourist related businesses, but is vitally important that investment, particularly through Cohesion and Structural Funds, is provided to deal with environmental problems which are preventing the development of areas such as Lough Derg, the Corrib and Lough Mask.

The £650 million investment in tourism under the operational programme and the £370 million in grant aid means that Ireland is in a good position to expand its tourism business. Tourism can make a bigger contribution to the economy and to the creation of employment in the future so it is necessary to take every step to ensure that we do not neglect to deal with some of the major problems faced by the tourism industry.

The AD Little report, which was commissioned by Deputy McCreevy before he left the Department of Tourism and Trade, outlines the changes necessary in Bord Fáilte if it wants to meet future challenges, many of which have already been implemented. Bord Fáilte has been reorganised over the past year. I want to put on record our appreciation of Mr. Padraig Ó hUiginn, the retired Chairman of Bord Fáilte, for the work he did in Bord Fáilte and in the Department of the Taoiseach where he planned the structural and operational programmes for the development of the tourism business. I also express our best wishes to Mr. Mark Mortell, the newly appointed Chairman of Bord Fáilte, and to the board who have a daunting task ahead of them if they want to develop the tourism industry to its full potential.

Almost five million people visited Ireland last year, which is an increase of approximately 10 per cent. There has been a 12 per cent or 13 per cent increase in the North American and United Kingdom markets — the UK market will continue to be the most significant market for the Irish tourism industry. However, visitor numbers from the European market were up only 7 per cent last year, which is below the national average and below the American and UK figures. Bord Fáilte must address this problem in co-operation with the tour operators. Bord Fáilte's decision to appoint an international marketing director with an impressive record in international marketing is a progressive step and one which deserves our full support.

While developments in the tourism industry have been dramatic, there are mounting concerns about the failure to spread the visitor numbers evenly throughout the regions. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, will be aware that last summer there was criticism that the number of people who visited Dublin and the east coast did not move to the west or south. Not only was there criticism in Cork, Galway and Limerick, but also in the north-west where some of the more successful hotels found it difficult to fill their bed complements.

It is important to underline for the Minister, the Government and Bord Fáilte that new initiatives are necessary if the benefits of the numbers visiting us and of the transfer is to be spread evenly. Western tourism should not decline further because those regions, particularly the resort areas, have always been the backbone of the Irish tourism business. They are the most scenic areas, they offer huge opportunities for leisure and recreation and they allow the visitor to have an enjoyable stay in a relaxed atmosphere away from city life. It would be unwise if the bulk of new activity was concentrated in Dublin and the east coast to the detriment of smaller towns and provincial regions as it would prevent the spread of resources into areas which need it most. We are concerned at the trend which is beginning to develop and call on the Government, Bord Fáilte and the other State agencies to find ways to redress it. Last year this was a cause of concern for many hoteliers, not least the big hotels outside Dublin which had many beds available while the market in this city was saturated.

I have no objection to the huge number of hotel developments taking place in Dublin and it looks like these will continue. Some are taking advantage of the benefits available in urban renewal and special incentive areas. However, we should highlight the necessity to counterbalance this trend by making it attractive for small hoteliers in western provincial towns to benefit from the spin-off in the tourism business. The grant schemes for refurbishment and additional accommodation in small provincial hotels were welcome but perhaps the Minister and Bord Fáilte would indicate how they will redress the imbalance and support, by way of incentive, people in the regional areas so that they can play a greater part and get more benefit from the current expansion of our tourism business. There has been trenchant criticism of the inability of smaller operators to get funding and resources and of the delay in the payment of European funding.

I compliment Bord Fáilte and Shannon Free Airport Development Company for their work in the mid-west region which has enhanced the tourism product by developing new amenities, such as the adventure centre in Kilrush, "Water World" in Tralee, Lahinch and Kilkee, and the new product lines such as conference centres. I also compliment both the current and the previous Government for taking the initiative to give tax breaks in resource areas. These have transformed towns like Kilkee and Lahinch whose tourism development had stagnated in the last few years. The huge investment since the renewal scheme was put in place is an example of what incentives and special encouragement can do to bring investment into areas and to make the tourism business work more satisfactorily.

I urge the Minister to press ahead vigorously with the enhancement of the tourism product. Far greater attention is required in areas such as the environment, heritage areas and the roads network. The tourism business can play a far more important role in the overall national economic drive in the future and we will be forthcoming with any support which will ensure that.

I welcome the Minister and support Senator Daly's remarks. Tourism is one of our country's lifelines — we earn about £3 billion in tourism revenue with an employment of approximately 100,000 people. If our tourism industry were to collapse tomorrow it would have an awesome effect — we can see what happens if a factory closes, so imagine the effect of 100,000 people becoming unemployed.

I have a personal interest in tourism because my wife has run a bed and breakfast business at my home in Dingle since 1970. I used to be annoyed when people described unregistered houses as "illegal" bed and breakfasts — that was wrong because no one was operating illegally. Normally I praise Bord Fáilte highly but if houses were unregistered the fault often lay with the board, although there were other factors. A number of people from my town were turned down because of the number of rooms available to let, but they put up their bed and breakfast signs anyway. I was glad to see that 90 per cent of those who formerly would have been "unapproved" are now included in the new Bord Fáilte book of bed and breakfast houses.

We should remember that the bed and breakfast business started long before Bord Fáilte was established. It was a traditional type of accommodation offered to tourists. They were given exactly what the household had to offer, which was clean, good country and town living. The rules and regulations were introduced later. While I am happy with those which cover adequate fire warnings and clean, hygienic food, it is possible to go overboard. It is now specified that there should be a living room of a certain size for the tourists from which the family would be excluded. That is not how bed and breakfasts operated at the beginning; tourists used to mix and live with the family. We should not go too far and put people to unnecessary trouble providing special treatment for tourists.

The accommodation provided by my wife is as good as any hotel in the country. The rooms are en suite, are based on hotel accommodation and are extremely upmarket, as is all the en suite accommodation in Dingle. However, we are in danger of pricing ourselves out of the market, particularly in the hotel sector. According to the prices in the brochure published this week, ordinary hotels charge £60 per person during the peak season, which is far too much. Such prices would not be charged in any other country.

Guesthouse prices are pretty reasonable and bed and breakfast accommodation usually costs about £16. My complaint is that when Bord Fáilte telephones a guesthouse listed on its computer and makes a booking at £16 per person, it charges the guesthouse 10 per cent — £1.60 — for making the booking. If the guests pay by credit card the guesthouse has to pay a further 3 per cent charge. Therefore, people providing accommodation receive a little over £13 for accommodation for which they charge £16. In most countries that cost is charged to tourists rather than to those providing accommodation. I collected a good few brochures at the holiday fair and some countries charge tourists to leave their country.

The tourism offices do a great job and I have nothing but praise for Bord Fáilte, although some things have gone wrong. Gulliver, the tourist information and reservation system, has totally overshot the runway in terms of cost and, according to a report on tourism presented to the Dáil in 1996, has had very little effect.

We must be very careful with our tourism industry, which is very important to my county and to that of the Minister of State. Cork and Kerry were the two main tourist counties in the past but it is very gratifying to note that every county is now homing in on tourism in the same manner by promoting archaeology, angling and so on. Tourism definitely has a very bright future which I wish I had more time to discuss.

I am pleased to be given another opportunity to debate the various issues relating to tourism and its phenomenal growth in recent years. I have taken note of the points raised by both Senators, which I will convey to the appropriate authorities.

Members will recall I spoke at length to this House on this topic in April and July of last year. In the course of those debates, Senators recognised that tourism development has had a dramatic impact on economic development and employment and that the drive to increase tourism had been very successful. I am very proud to say that the growth in the sector is continuing and 1996 has been another record year. I am happy to be able to appraise Senators of the various developments during last year and our plans for the future.

In the context of the debates in this House last year some Senators expressed certain concerns. One of the main concerns related to the perceived imbalance in the spread of the growth in tourism throughout the regions, which was a point raised by Senators Daly and Fitzgerald. Issues such as the use of EU Structural Funds, the need to extend the season by attracting more people during the off-peak period and the need to continue to improve access and the infrastructure were also raised. I will revert to these at a later stage.

First, I would like to recall briefly our national tourism policy and Government objectives for the sector, which include strategies to deal with many of the concerns I have just mentioned. As Members are aware, the operational programme for tourism sets the parameters for the tourism industry for the period 1994-99. The strategy within the programme focuses on a large expansion in marketing activities; further product development to meet specific market deficiencies; major improvements in the conference, angling and cultural tourism products and an expansion in the range and scale of training to cater for the anticipated employment growth.

A sum of £652 million in overall investment is envisaged during the lifetime of the programme. Of this, £369 million 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, such as the operational programme for agriculture, rural development and forestry, the second Leader programme and the operational programme for local urban and rural development 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 operational programme for tourism recognises the role the sector plays as an instrument of regional policy and, in particular, the role it plays in the economic and social development of the more remote regions. It, therefore, contains an indicative breakdown of expenditure on a regional basis to achieve a balanced distribution of investment throughout the country.

Tourism performance over the past three years has been outstanding. The preliminary results for 1996, announced by the Minister, Deputy Kenny, at the end of December, clearly show that the very strong growth in tourism, which is well above the European average, is continuing. A particularly strong performance in the British and North American markets looks set to boost overseas visitor expenditure by 12 per cent to £1.445 billion in 1996. Overseas visitor numbers are expected to increase by 10 per cent to 4.6 million. Employment in the industry will rise by over 5,000, bringing total employment to 107,000. These are record breaking annual results.

Looking at the 1996 results by market area, current indications are that the number of British visitors exceeded the 2.5 million mark for the first time — an increase of 12 per cent on 1995. Mainland European travel to Ireland is expected to yield high single digit growth on last year's performance of 1.1 million visitors. This is a good result as European outbound travel is estimated to grow by a modest 2 per cent in 1996. Strong consumer demand, stimulated by sustained advertising investment, has increased the number of North American visitors by an estimated 12 per cent to 720,000. This performance compares well with the expected growth of 5 per cent in US travel to Europe this year.

One of the major highlights of 1996 was the worldwide launch of one of the most important developments in the history of tourism marketing, Tourism Brand Ireland, which took place in Dublin in November. Tourism Brand Ireland represents a critical change in focus for the marketing of the island of Ireland over the next five years. For the first time, all Irish tourism will be able to unify behind a single marketing initiative — a tourism brand which will contain the same central message, with variations and modifications which meet the needs and expectations of individual markets and cultures.

The industry led overseas tourism marketing initiative was the single largest investor in marketing Ireland as a holiday destination in 1996. The related press and television campaigns in Britain, the USA, France and Germany cost approximately £6.7 million. The EU management board for marketing committed approximately £7.3 million to 266 marketing projects during 1996. The largest single allocation was £1.7 million towards the development of the Tourism Brand Ireland project.

The year saw further development of air and sea services to Ireland. Aer Lingus commenced new services from Stansted and Chicago, and has recently announced an expanded transatlantic service in 1997 with Newark, New Jersey, as a new gateway. Ryanair launched new routes to Dublin from three British airports and Stena Line introduced the HSS service from Holyhead to Dublin. These developments will help to considerably improve access, which Senators had rightly highlighted during the last debate in this House as an important issue to the further development of the sector throughout the country.

The EU management boards for product development—Bord Fáilte and Shannon areas —approved 75 projects for European Regional Development Fund grants under the Tourism Operational Programme totalling almost £30 million. The momentum for investment within the tourism industry shows no sign of slowing down. The range of grant aided projects include day visitor attractions, heritage towns, cruising facilities, tourism information offices and a variety of environmentally based activity holiday facilities.

A new tourism council was appointed by the Minister for Tourism and Trade in early 1996 to act as a national forum for consultation between the tourism industry, the State tourism agencies and Departments and to act in an advisory capacity on tourism policy. The council has already met on three occasions and is specifically examining ways to address the problem of seasonality in the sector, another issue raised in this House last year.

The council formed a subcommittee to concentrate on the subject and the result was the launch of the "Celtic Flame" music festival to be staged at four venues—Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork. The lead events will be supported with a series of fringe events to be organised by the regional tourism organisations, with the industry thus spreading the commercial benefits of the festival throughout the regions.

Other sporting highlights of the year included the football game at Croke Part last November involving Notre Dame and Navy American, while the Smurfit Shamrock Classic attracted approximately 15,000 American visitors, the largest movement ever of Americans to Ireland for a single event. In October, the Minister for Tourism and Trade responded positively to the initiative that the Societie Tour de France host the official start of the Tour de France in July 1998. Plans are also proceeding for the staging of the World Equestrian Games in Ireland in 1998 while a bid has been launched to stage the Ryder Cup in 2005.

By the middle of this year, over £30 million from the European Social Fund will have been spent under the tourism operational programme on a range of training and human resource development measures covering school leavers, the unemployed and those already in the industry. Moreover, the industry itself is now taking concrete steps to address emerging staffing and recruitment difficulties in the sector. The recent initiative by the Irish Hotels Federation to introduce a quality code of practice for hotels and guesthouses is a good example.

I want to emphasise the importance of the domestic market in the context of the development of the tourism sector. As Minister of State with responsibility for the domestic tourism market I was successful in securing Government agreement last year for the allocation of up to £500,000 towards the cost of the domestic tourism marketing initiative. I launched the initiative in February 1996 and I established a high level working group comprising representatives of the tourism industry, the relevant State tourism agencies and officials from the Department of Tourism and Trade to develop the initiative on a partnership basis.

The working group has developed an integrated national marketing programme to accelerate growth in home holidays with specific emphasis on the shoulder and off-season periods. Those involved in the tourism industry, many of them national figures in the industry, gave their services free of charge. As yet, nobody has asked for payment, not even for travelling to meetings. This is indicative of the spirit that prevails in the industry at present.

The major question is what the future holds for Irish tourism. The high growth rates in international tourism which were a feature of the early 1990s have been replaced by more modest increases. The coming year is likely to see tourism arrivals in Europe increase by between 1 and 3 per cent. Ireland is expected to continue to gain market share with a forecast of a 9 per cent increase in overseas revenue and a 7 per cent increase in visitor numbers. This will bring the number of visitors to more than five million in 1997.

Tourism growth does not happen by accident and cannot be expected to continue unless well thought out comprehensive strategies are in place. As I have outlined, 1996 saw a number of important initiatives in this regard; these will be continued in 1997. For example, a comprehensive programme for the use or roll out of the tourism brand is being put in place and already the new logo is becoming a familiar feature of tourism promotional material and publications. The overseas tourism marketing initiative has committed its resources behind the deployment of the brand. I am happy to say that another £500,000 has been secured for the domestic tourism marketing initiative for 1997 and I will be launching a nationwide campaign on 10 February next.

The overall strategy in the budget will benefit the development of the tourism sector. Specific measures in the areas of taxation and social welfare will not only help to create and maintain employment but in so doing make the targets set for the sector more readily achievable.

The strategy of reducing employment costs and the burden of taxation will be very important. Reliefs aimed at low paid workers will have an added significance given the numbers of part-time and seasonal workers in the industry. The continuation of the process of reducing the corporation tax rate applicable to the non-manufacturing sector will benefit tourism development and will be acknowledged by the industry as a significant step in the long-term strategy by the Minister for Finance to bring the higher rate of corporation profits tax into line with our overseas competitors. In addition, the positive changes in the budget on increased capital acquisition tax and capital gains tax relief will benefit family run businesses. This is especially relevant in the tourism industry which has a high proportion of such businesses. With the various initiatives in place and the complementary budgetary strategy adopted by the Government, I am confident that the future of tourism is bright and that its contribution to the our economic and social well being will increase beyond 1997.

The Minister of State has addressed many areas of crucial importance. With regard to the investment of money in parts of the country, we need to look at those places which were but are no longer successful. What happened to Achill Island, Bundoran, Tramore and other such places?

The studies taking place are too tightly focused and do not take a long-term view. In Dingle we have learnt from a great mistake in the marketing of tourism: it falls down when individuals, individual hotels or industries in an area attempt to out-manoeuvre others. There was a simple theory in Dingle over the years that everybody should work together to attract visitors and the best business would win. That is how things should be done. It is a philosophy that should be accepted by the tourism industry.

We should get people involved and then ask them to spend money. For example, Ireland is famous for its racing industry. Given this, admission charges to race tracks should be scrapped to get people and families to attend. They will then spend their money on services and entertainment rather than at the gate. This is the way to ensure the viability of a part of Irish culture.

Many tourism areas in Ireland are too tightly focused. Achill Island became focused on one group—those with money. Some places in Ireland become popular and then very expensive and when this happens they become popular with those who have money. They tend to be middle aged or older, will be finicky with their loyalties, visit a place for a couple of years and then tire of it, or die, leaving such areas without a business base.

By contrast, successful locations will attract a mix. Like Dingle, they must be able to attract the backpacker student from east Germany who does not have much money while accommodating the man from Bavaria with his new, top of the range, Mercedes, who seeks expensive meals, the best quality accommodation and so on. We should ensure that mix exists everywhere money is invested. Mix is magic in tourism and places where there is a mix are successful. For example, La Rochelle is important because it mixes yachts with fishing boats and millionaires and billionaires from international high society with people mending nets and trying to make money from fishing. This could apply to places in the west but that mix is missing. There is also a great need to ensure the mix can be accommodated. Backpackers with good memories who come to Ireland and only spend pennies will return in ten years to relive their memories with more money and a love of the place. It is similar to people who go to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish. They may not speak much Irish but when they get older and think back, they want to return. If their memories are happy and they were looked after, they will return for more. It is the boomerang effect.

Regarding investment, the Minister saw the submission about the licensing of commercial accommodation from the Irish Hotels Federation, the town and country homes organisation and the Irish Farm Holidays Association. Their points are important in terms of standards in the industry. Achill Island, which was booming in the 1960s and the 1970s, is still one of the most beautiful places in the country but investment in hotels there is required because it reflects many other tourist destinations in Ireland. Local bed and breakfasts can probably provide better quality accommodation in terms of en suite bedrooms and every other level of comfort than hotels because money is not available for hotels. This aspect should be examined and we should attempt to ensure that small hotels become viable. They are no longer viable but they were always an attraction.

An election year is fraught with difficulty in terms of selecting particular parts of Ireland. The Minister had a bad experience in the last fortnight and I did not intend to remind him.

The Senator could not resist.

I realised I said something wrong when I saw the frown on the Minister's face. However, the scheme involving designated areas for capital allowances for tourism development is much too restrictive. I do not have a vested interest in this area but although there may be many good reasons for including Achill and Westport in the scheme, they are already tourism destinations. Will the Minister ask somebody in his Department to explain in layman's terms why Belmullet and the Erris peninsula are omitted? There is no development in those areas and they should be included. They are in the Minister's constituency and he should do the business for them. The areas without development need to be developed.

Ireland is famous for its pubs and they should be deregulated. It is a relic of old times that somebody in Dublin decides what time pubs will open in Dingle. Who decides that a pub should close in Dingle at 10 p.m. or 12 a.m.? Who decided that a person must have a licence to run a pub any more than one should need a licence to fish salmon? The people who colonised this country made such decisions. Pubs should be deregulated and if people want to sell booze at 3 a.m. they should be allowed to do so. It is none of our business and it is no different from selling fish, tea or coffee. We should move away from such restrictions.

The Senator obviously never stood behind a bar at that time.

Regarding pay in the industry, I spoke to people who had been on the picket line at the Royal Dublin Hotel for three months. A young commis chef told me what he earned. I cannot recall the exact amount but it was paltry, perhaps just over £2 an hour. My daughter, a student, was working for the summer directly across the road, filling sandwiches in a shop, and I figured out that she, without any training or background in the industry, was earning more per hour than the young commis chef who was training to make a contribution to the industry and our future. There is something wrong with that and I urge the Minister to consider what such people earn. I will not listen to people on "Morning Ireland" say that they cannot get people to work in the tourism industry. We will get people to work if they are paid and treated properly.

Senator O'Toole must not have spent many hours behind bars serving booze.

The Senator must have had quiet customers.

I learned how to tap a barrel of porter with a mallet which was hard to do. One wrong slip meant there was booze all over ceiling and the floor.

That is why the Senator was fired. The profits left.

On both sides of the bar.

The Senator would be easier to deal with on the tendering rather than the other side of the bar. It was gratifying to hear the Minister state that tourism numbers and revenue have increased again this year and that 1996 was a record year for both in Ireland. This growth must continue.

A number of issues in the industry still need work by the Department, particularly with regard to marketing. I appreciate Bord Fáilte has a new marketing logo which is modern and different and will be positive. However, proper marketing can only be achieved if proper funding is invested in it. The world is a large place and I spent some time in the United States of America. Although there are 40 million Irish Americans, their perception of Ireland is ancient; they do not know about modern Ireland. It would cost a huge amount of money for the Department of Tourism and Trade or a marketing company to change that, but there is much scope for development in the marketing of Ireland throughout the world. The Bord Fáilte logo is modern and will be seen for what it is in time. Mr. Mark Mortell, the recently appointed chairman, is a marketing guru and I wish him every success in Bord Fáilte where such people and expertise are required.

Senator O'Toole mentioned the successful seaside resort scheme. He also made the important point that tourism should be developed in areas which were not noted for it in the past. I repeat my parochial and never ending cry that, unfortunately, County Leitrim is the only county which has no form of urban or rural tax designation. It would be of immense benefit to the county and the entire area if a rural resort scheme was established on the same basis as the seaside resort scheme. I ask the Minister to examine this suggestion and consider providing that type of designation to County Leitrim.

Senator Daly and Senator O'Toole mentioned family run hotels, an area in which I was interested when I was the junior spokesperson on tourism in the other House. At that stage hotels with fewer than 30 bedrooms did not receive any form of financial assistance, such as grant aid, for development. This is an unfortunate aspect. In every small town in Ireland there are a number of small, family-run hotels. With the advent of bed and breakfasts, which provide an excellent service but are more competitive, these hotels are finding it difficult to survive. If something is not done to correct the imbalance, we will see a lot of family-run hotels going to the wall. That would be extremely sad for the tourism industry because they had previously and still have an important role to play.

I am not a great believer in grants and the Department could consider low interest loans. Most people in those family-run businesses want to stay in those businesses and to pass them on but find they do not have the capital to expand or redevelop their hotels. If the Department gave low interest loans it would be much better than grant assistance because people in the establishment would work to develop their business once they knew they had to make repayments. With grant assistance they do not know if they should put the grant assistance into the hotel or not. The Minister of State and the Department could look at that.

Senator Daly spoke of spreading the benefits of tourism all over the country and I fully agree, although with tongue in cheek. When the Shannon stopover was put in place, the chance of a tourist making it to the northwest was extremely small because they stayed in the midwest or the southwest. Those areas have developed dramatically over many years. With the Dublin stopover there is a much better chance of that tourist making his or her way to the northwest, west and east coast. There is also the potential to upgrade Knock Airport as access to the country is extremely important and should be developed.

I compliment the Minister of State on the work he is doing.

I also compliment the Minister of State on his performance in office and the clear statement of his position in his speech. We all recognise the importance of tourism to the economy of the country and it is a very pleasant way to earn money. Some years ago I was stranded in Jordan and people were very hospitable. I was taken to the ancient city of Jerash and was extremely impressed by the way in which they had excavated, cleaned up and reinstated some of the great Corinthian pillars of that remarkable Roman society. I said to the guide: "It is remarkable what you have done" and he replied: "We do not care for these buildings. They are not Arab but Greek or Roman." I asked why they had done it and he said: "Jordan is a poor country with no oil, steel and coal but they are dirty things. We do not care for these buildings but one must dig up oil, steel and coal. One must smelt them and they leave dirt before they run out and there is no more money. We polish and clean the old buildings and have tourist guides. They continue to make money and make no dirt." I thought that was a classic argument in favour of tourism and cultural tourism in particular.

I am glad the Minister of State mentioned cultural tourism and that Matt McNulty and others of his calibre in Bord Fáilte have always recognised the significance of this element in the tourist industry in Ireland. I am also grateful to the Ministers for Finance and Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht for giving a grant of £100,000 to the James Joyce Cultural Centre in North Great George's Street. We have had visitors from over 100 countries and a number of them indicated to us that the reason they chose Dublin and Ireland over the United Kingdom, France or Sweden was because of their interest in Joyce and the existence of the James Joyce Cultural Centre in the heart of Dublin. That is very important because writers like Joyce, Yeats, Wilde and O'Casey have given a brand identification to this country which money would not buy.

The Minister of State has referred to a marketing strategy and that is vital. However good the product, if one does not get out into the marketplace and get potential customers aware that one has this outstanding product, one is wasting one's time. We in this country start with an enormous initial advantage because our writers in particular have placed Ireland firmly on the map and given people a good impression of this country so that they will want to come and see it, even when the impression is realistic and harsh rather than the synthetically happy and well-groomed appearance. Films like The Van show a section of life a lot of people would find unappealling but it is so richly comic, full of vitality and the beauty of places on the northside of Dublin like Bull Island that, seen all over the world, it will inevitably bring further tourists.

We have the music industry where people identify with U2, Sinead O'Connor and Enya. People look down their noses at the Eurovision Song Contest and some even groaned when we won it three times in a row, but look at the immense potential for showing small video clips of the beautiful scenery of the country. Again, this is marketing which we could not afford to pay for.

We are extremely lucky. We have a remarkable product in terms of associations with literature and music. We have a clean environment and classic identification. Various Governments have put money into tourism, sometimes in ways which do not please me. There are enough golf courses in this country already. Bord Fáilte should get away from the exclusively golf course-orientated marketing. They are very expensive and cater largely for an elite, but places like the Strokestown Museum manages to merge two traditions. It pays tribute to the sufferings of the Irish people during the Famine and also pays tribute to the remarkable beauty of a vanished way of life. I was there for the official opening. I went upstairs and an old lady was trying on Olive Pakenham Mahon's shoes, which she had found under the bed. I opened the door and she saw a fellow conspirator in me. She said: "Isn't it great? We are in here and they are gone to hell out of it." It was a slightly narrow point of view but made me laugh. At least we were incorporating all these elements in a mature way into the product we are selling.

I hope more will be done for the great houses of Ireland like Castletown and Westport House where the family clings on by the skin of its teeth. These people should be helped and I do not say that sentimentally. We should pay tribute to the efforts of people like Jeremy Altamont. I know the American tourism market well and they love to press the flesh. Nothing sells a great house better than the subliminal snobbery of knowing that a real family with historic connections to the house survives there and that one may bump into them by accident. It is also very important that great collections of furniture are retained and again I pay tribute to the work of people like Matt McNulty with Newbridge House in Donabate, where he secured a deal for the house to come into the possession of the State and, more importantly, a lot of the collection of furniture, which has greater significance in the context of the house for which the furniture was designed. The family were permitted to live on in apartments in the house. Interiors should be listed. There was a recent theft of fireplaces from a house in North Great Georges Street. This must be stamped out. There are people stealing these valuable artefacts more or less to order.

We should develop an integrated approach with the airlines. Aer Lingus is a great asset. It is a friendly airline and the attitude of the staff is exemplary. We should also develop the air networks. For example, why do we not have a regular, scheduled, even twice weekly flight between Dublin and Tel Aviv? There is a huge outward market with pilgrimages and there is an immense market there that would come to Ireland if they could fly directly.

There are an enormous number of tourists coming from America to London. A very high proportion of them have Irish roots, but the vast majority do not come here. We must use the airlines, as well as a marketing approach, in order to ensure that as much as possible of the tourist potential comes here.

I would like to raise the malign influence of Dublin vocational education committee. They have a number of historic buildings which they have systematically abused. No. 20, North Great Georges Street, which was the home of Sir Samuel Ferguson, who wrote "The Lark in the Clear Air" and with a drawing room where W.B. Yeats attended his first literary salon, is now in the possession of the vocational education committee. They have flattened the eighteenth century garden and turned it into a car park. The fireplaces were illicitly removed from the building, but it still has stunning eighteenth century ceilings. They do good work in educating people from deprived areas. However, it does not need to be done under ceilings by Francini or West or Michael Stapleton or Charles Thorpe. Why not get the vocational education committee out of the building and turn it into part of a complex involving the Joyce centre, the Writers' Museum, the writers' centre and the Municipal Gallery and put into it a museum of eighteenth century costume, furniture and musical instruments?

Places like Strokestown House, Carriglass Manor and the King House in Boyle have become places of huge interest. Tourists can build their holidays around these. Our famous writers draw tourists as well.

We are living in an age of marketing where you have to sell your wares at the fair. Good marketing is important, something we have learned much about in recent years. There is no doubt that the Minister and his Department are marketing Ireland.

The county tourism committees were a very welcome development. They do not need much funding but some on an ongoing basis is necessary. Most of the members of county tourism committees give up their time at their own expense. Many of them are in the tourist industry. It is important that that structure is encouraged. I know that the Minister has been generous in the past.

In the midlands, especially in the Shannon region, tourism is based on fishing, especially coarse fishing. I welcome the various projects that have been funded. I experienced one project in Lanesborough and the support received from the Department was excellent. I compliment the staff and the Minister on that project. It underlined how a local community with State and EU funding can come together to improve facilities.

The inland areas, especially along the Shannon, and towns like Lanesborough, Clondra and Ballyleague may become special designated areas. Some of the coastal areas which received help were traditional tourist centres which had lost out for one reason or another and it was a good idea to bring life back to them. We are asking for similar treatment for the Shannon region. Traditionally, the midlands has been by-passed by tours. However, this is rapidly changing. The effort and initiative is present in local communities if they get support.

I welcome the outstanding tourist figures the country has enjoyed over the past number of years and the efforts being made to sell Ireland nationally. Hopefully this progress will continue.

I also pay tribute to CERT. They have done a fantastic job over the years. Jim Nugent and his staff are turning out people who can take their place in the catering and tourism industries.

I welcome Deputy O'Sullivan to the House. All of us agree that tourism growth has been phenomenal over the last number of years. The implementation of the first operational programme for tourism from 1989-94 and the second one from 1994-9 has obviously created the required impact that its planners hoped it would. However, there are serious regional imbalances regarding the inward flow of people. There is great concern over the explosion of hotel accommodation in Dublin and the east coast. This is welcome in one way because, as a result of the urban renewal scheme, it has created an entire new inner city in many parts of Dublin, as similar schemes have done in other cities that were derelict.

I wish to focus on Dublin and the location of hotels there. Hotel analysts indicate that the number of hotels in Dublin has not yet reached saturation point; there is potential for a 20 per cent increase in hotel accommodation before reaching that point. One of the sad aspects of the explosion in the number of hotels in Dublin is the fact that we have yet to encourage one of the major hotel chains to locate here. I am aware of the planning controversy that surrounded the siting of the Hilton Hotel in College Green and I understand it has gone through the planning process. This will be the first major international hotel chain to locate in Ireland. That is the upside. The downside is that when this country has finally attracted a hotel of such stature to our capital it should locate in the heart of Dublin and take over what is effectively a listed building and part of our architectural heritage. No Government can dictate where entrepreneurs will locate their businesses but I had a great deal of sympathy with those who opposed the location of the Hilton Hotel on Westmoreland Street, College Green. It could have been located elsewhere and would still have done good business. There must be inadequacy in our policies that we are unable to attract the Sheratons, Hyatt Regencies and other major hotel chains which operate across the world. If Dublin is to be a truly international city it must look at that issue.

I opened my remarks by mentioning the imbalance in the tourism industry. Government will have to recognise that in areas with low population and low investment capital but high scenic beauty there is a need to provide some form of subsidy to involve people in the tourism industry. The operational programme militated against those who wished to get involved in the industry at the lower level. If one wished to build a hotel it had to contain at least 18 rooms and, even if one were eligible for funding, one received only 20p in the pound.

There are counties in the north-west of Ireland, such as County Leitrim, which cannot boast of having even one major hotel. There are hotels in County Leitrim, and I cast no reflection on their service, ability or attractiveness; but it does not have a major hotel, even though the county relies almost exclusively on the tourism industry. Only south Kerry and parts of west Cork have a similar dependence. Whenever one meets people who have an interest in tourism one hears the same cry: "We do not have the money or the venture capital to invest in tourism, we do not have the tax incentives that are available in large urban centres, so how are we to provide the necessary support services?". One can have all the scenic beauty in the world and one can even improve the infrastructure, as has thankfully happened over the last two years, but without incentives one will not attract potential investors from outside the region into what are perceived to be relatively poor economic areas, and there are many such areas all over Ireland.

Somebody once told me that if he had sufficient money to build a hotel he would look to a line south of Dublin to Galway because of lower population and less attractive returns north of that line. The only way to develop essential tourist infrastructure is to help the indigenous population and those who are prepared to put their own finances into the industry but who do not have sufficient capital. In the mid-term review of the operational programme, and certainly if Regional and Structural Funds continue after 1999, there must be a change in that regard. There should be a serious look at the lack of investment opportunities in regions which badly need tourist infrastructure.

I am talking about tax incentives and I make no apologies for seeking Government hand-outs in that regard. They are necessary in a situation such as County Leitrim's which does not have the wherewithal or the financial clout to compete for industrial projects but does have the raw material for the tourism industry—lakes, rivers, mountains and the essential ingredient of a friendly welcoming people. It is and should be the social obligation of a compassionate and caring Government to try and slice the cake as evenly as possible within its ability to do so.

My colleague, Senator Fitzgerald, referred to illegal bed and breakfast operators. This is a scandal of national proportions that has been benignly ignored by successive Governments and by the Revenue Commissioners. Surely it is unfair that somebody who invests their money in the bed and breakfast market, approaches Bord Fáilte to be included in its brochure and pays the registration fee of, in the north-west, £150 per year in order to put the shamrock sign outside their door must compete with people who are also bed and breakfast operators but who do not register and— although nobody can prove it—perhaps do not even declare their income from that operation. I have raised this issue continuously since I was elected to the Seanad. I do so, not to drive to the wall people who allegedly might not be paying the few pounds in tax that is due to the Exchequer, but to point out the inequities in the system.

In County Leitrim there is an operator who by dint of his own endeavours has built a number of Irish cottage style houses which are operating very successfully. His market is mainly European. This year the operator will not take part in Bord Fáilte promotions and will not register. He will carry out his own promotional activities to fill the houses because the operator believes Bord Fáilte has done nothing for him. If such a major operator, which he is in the context of County Leitrim, takes such action, there is a need to look at the effectiveness of Bord Fáilte in marketing Ireland. The board has had problems. The Gulliver system, for example, was touted as the most wonderful thing that ever happened but it has not provided the returns that were expected. The small to medium sized tourism providers at the lower level in the regions of Ireland—the big hotel chains can afford to do their own marketing promotion—require as much support as they can get. There is a need to examine the relationship between Bord Fáilte at regional level and those operators to see how it can be strengthened and improved.

We can be proud of how the tourism industry has performed in the past two or three years. Hopefully, it will continue to improve and contribute to our economy. Like the previous speaker, I wish to refer to the inherent imbalances in the system with regard to the regions. It is important that people who are endeavouring to develop tourism in areas which are not natural tourist destinations should be assisted. County Limerick is not regarded as a traditional tourist destination but as a corridor to Kerry, Clare or the west. The view was that one should travel between the west and Kerry via the Tarbert ferry rather than come through County Limerick. Over a number of years the county has been endeavouring to offer itself as a tourism product. These efforts should be recognised as they will create more jobs and bring additional revenue into the area.

When one thinks of Limerick one thinks of Adare, which is a fantastic tourism product. It has been assisted locally by the local authority and nationally by various Governments. The results are there to be seen: between 100,000 and 200,000 people visit Adare every year. Anyone coming to the region will visit the village which has some of the most excellent hotels in Ireland, in particular, Adare Manor, which is one of the top four hotels in the country.

However, Adare is not the only tourism product in Limerick. Over the past four years the various enterprises connected by the N69 coast road have come together to market themselves as a product. I would like to draw the Government's attention to the work which has been done. For a number of years we have tried to interest various Governments in the state of the roads in Limerick. That is not the issue for discussion today but I would ask the Government to seriously look at assisting the N69 tourism group.

Many excellent products can be further developed to make County Limerick a product on a par with anywhere else in Ireland. Celtic Park and Gardens contains 12 authentic, recreated features from Ireland's past, including a dolmen, ancient burial tomb and ring fort.

There is a great opportunity to develop fishing in the Dromore lake in Pallaskenry. The amenity is totally underdeveloped and is kept going by a local group which is trying to attract small grants.

Askeaton is a mediaeval town with a Geraldine castle and 14th century Franciscan friary. Much restoration work has been done but further work is needed. The jewel in the area is the Foynes Flying Boat Museum which recalls Foynes as the first landing point for flights from the USA in the 1940s. There has been considerable assistance given to this venture by Shannon Development and others and it is now marketed very successfully throughout the USA. However, a visit to the museum only takes a few hours and by extending the product to include other amenities one would see visitors staying in the area for a day or two.

The Boyce Gardens in Mountrenchard overlooking the Shannon have received national awards. It contains a fantastic array of flowers and herbs, a greenhouse, rosebeds and so on. Glin Castle, built in 1790, is the home of the Knight of Glin and has a unique collection of 18th century furniture.

These products are there to be developed but they need assistance to collectively market themselves. They can create a tourism product which will hold people in the area and I ask the Government and the Department of Tourism and Trade to seriously consider their development.

On the other side of the county is the Ballyhoura Country Farm Trail which consists of dairy and deer visitor farms. Deer can also be seen grazing freely at the Springfield Deer Farm in Dromcollogher.

Kilmallock is a historic, walled, Geraldine town with large sections of the old wall and one of the town gates remaining. This could also be developed. The Knockfierna Famine Commemoration Park in Ballingarry is an authentic famine site with a number of restored pre-famine buildings. The Plunkett Heritage Centre in Dromcollogher was commented on very favourably by President Robinson during her recent visit.

We support the Kerrys, Galways, Connemaras and West Corks. However, people in places like County Limerick are endeavouring to develop tourism products and they should be recognised and assisted.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I would like to comment on registered and unregistered tourist accommodation. People go to considerable trouble to be registered, conditions are imposed and that is as it should be. However, these people are then asked to compete on a non-equal footing with those who are not registered.

I was approached by a constituent regarding a book of tourist accommodation. This was quite a glossy publication and I was asked why it was not available through tourist offices. I wrote to Departments and regional tourism organisations and the answer was that this book could not be distributed through these agencies because the accommodation included was unregistered. I saw two very glossy pictures of two Ministers—the type of thing we are accustomed to getting from Departments—with introductions and forwards to these publications. I found it curious that, although it was not possible for these publications to be distributed through official sources, they have the endorsement of two Ministers. That is something into which we need to look. Why can Ministers endorse publications for tourist accommodation which I was told was not registered?

It has been suggested that guesthouses can register with Bord Fáilte and put up the Bord Fáilte sign when vetted. However, after one year they can deregister and nothing is done to take the sign down. We are creating an illusion. The tourist assumes that when they see the Bord Fáilte sign there is a basic level of accommodation which is being monitored by Bord Fáilte. I was told that people are leaving signs up and nothing is being done to take them down and that people visit such accommodation expecting it to be Bord Fáilte accommodation, but it is not.

An aspect of tourism about which I know a little about is angling. We have a huge natural resource, as the Minister of State knows. He was down on Lough Mask earlier this year and I am sure from his trips around the country he knows the value of the resource. The World Cup Angling Competition took place in Lough Mask in August. Several hundred anglers took part in four days of heats and a final bringing an enormous amount of tourism revenue into the area— some from abroad, some from the island of Ireland and quite a number from Northern Ireland.

What have we done to protect the resource creating that type of economic activity? We began with the River Shannon. I remember fishing from Banagher to Meelick Weir in clear water but Bord na Móna activities brought silt and peat in suspension down the river which is causing a problem at the top of Lough Derg and has damaged the quality of angling and the watercourse. We know what happened in Lough Derg earlier this year. Phosphates from a sewerage system got into Lough Ennell, one of our premier trout lakes, and it become green, something to which I can testify. It took years to recover. Lough Sheelin was almost destroyed by people who had the same regard for the way they dealt with animal slurry as with animal growth promoters. Quite cynically, they almost destroyed the lake which is, thankfully, beginning to recover. It was regarded in all the angling literature as one of the premier trout lakes in Europe.

Moving to the west, sea trout were brought to the point of destruction. There is high quality angling in this area and people contribute large sums of money to the local economy. I recounted the following story in the House before and I will do so again. When I began fishing on Lough Corrib people came to Oughterard from America. They flew to Shannon Airport, hired a car, stayed in the area for one month and hired a gillie every day. They contributed huge amounts to the economy of the area. Such people can readily go to Russia, the Falkland Islands, Alaska, New Zealand or to wherever the sport is and they have the money to do so. They are the type of tourist we need, that is, the high quality tourist.

What has happened to Lough Corrib, Lough Mask and Lough Gara? Predator control has been lost. The old Inland Fisheries Trust did an excellent job in predator control. There is a huge controversy between pike and trout anglers. I have had representations from the people in Ballinrobe who organised the world cup and from others on what is being done to the western lakes. The Western Regional Fisheries Board has a development plan for the lakes. To me, these lakes are primarily salmonoid waters, trout and salmon, and pike fishing is secondary. There are plenty of other waters in the country to which pike can be brought or encouraged. The two can be treated separately.

What happened to Lough Conn where there is algae growth? It was impossible to fish the mayfly on Lough Arrow. Let us not deceive ourselves; we are whistling past the graveyard if we are promoting angling tourism in Ireland. One only has to pick up the angling press—Trout and Salmon is a classic example and an English publication— to read what it has to say about Irish tourism. If we want to promote Irish tourism, we had better protect the resource on which tourism is based otherwise we will have nothing.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Before I call Senator Maloney, I understand the Minister of State wishes to clarify a point on the registration of bed and breakfast establishments.

I would like to clarify a point on the registration of bed and breakfast establishments. There seems to be some confusion in this regard. If an establishment pays its taxes and complies with planning, health and safety regulations, one cannot put it out of business. We should encourage those outside the fold to register. I would prefer to coax rather than coerce. They are not doing anything illegal, although there is a perception that they are violating the law. I am aware of the publication because it was posted to me. These people are not in breach of the law.

As regards Ballinrobe, the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine, Deputy Gilmore, has agreed to meet the people from Ballinrobe following a meeting with the Western Fisheries Board, to discuss the problem with the western lakes.

I did not wish to suggest that people were operating illegally but that they were not registered which is not the same.

I was responding to an earlier comment, not to one made by Senator Dardis.

I congratulate the Minister of State and the Minister on the work they are doing. The tourism industry employs 107,000 people. Foreign earning from tourism last year amounted to £1.850 million. The domestic market contributed £700 million. The way we market this country is important. The problem has been that we did not go out of our way to do so. It was only in the past number of years that we began to look at the situation in terms of proper staff training and providing proper facilities, including leisure and heritage centres, for those visiting this country. The number of people visiting Glenveagh in County Donegal has been phenomenal. It all comes down to marketing. The funny thing about Glenveagh is that the majority of visitors come from Northern Ireland which is, without doubt, the main market for County Donegal. The British market is probably our biggest; I saw figures indicating that 2.5 million visitors came from Britain.

Bed and breakfast establishments were mentioned tonight. Roads into County Donegal are not welcoming for people coming from Great Britain because there are signs by groups like Saoirse and Sinn Féin saying that the British must leave Ireland and that prisoners must be released. People are being asked to pay £40 to register a sign yet these groups are putting up disgraceful signs and the local authority does not have the gumption to have them removed. They are doing a lot of damage to the tourism trade and to life in general.

The European Social Fund has generated massive funds for tourism not only for training but for initiatives of which most counties have taken advantage. Over the years Bord Fáilte has sent those arriving in Dublin to Counties Wexford, Cork and Kerry. County Donegal never received its fair share of visitors because Bord Fáilte, although it is doing excellent work, militated against people visiting the North.

If one examines a year such as 1995, when we had peace, visitor numbers to Northern Ireland increased by 65 per cent. The following year, when the ceasefire ended, the figures dropped dramatically, probably by the same figure. Many people liked to visit not just Northern Ireland with attractions such as the Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede bridge but also Donegal and made a north-south holiday out of it. There should be more co-operation between the northern Irish and southern Irish tourist boards. Efforts were made during peacetime to bring the two groups together and this was effective. We should not stop now that peace has broken down but continue to work at it strongly.

The Government is to be congratulated on the initiative it showed in the budget in improving the tax situation which makes it easier to employ people in hotels and B&Bs. Until now, there was a massive black economy in that area and people were taking advantage of the situation. With the changes taking place, it is important that we encourage entrepreneurs to create as many hotel and bed and breakfast places as possible.

I congratulate people, especially in my county, who go to Scotland and organise busloads of people to come to the county. It will be found in Donegal that hotels in places such as Letterkenny and Bundoran are packed out most weekends. Good business people have gone to Great Britain and sold their packages well. This is good for the economy and for work in those areas.

Another excellent initiative last year was the injection by the Minister's Department of some £100,000 into the Dublin parade. If we were to market the weekend better this year and take real advantage of it, perhaps there could be other weekends we could sell which would bring decent money into the country. Our approach and marketing ideas are good but we must maintain and develop them.

Donegal has a serious problem with access, whether by land, air or sea. It is important that the road network in the county be upgraded. It only has a regional airport which is in the far west of the county. It is 70 miles from where I live and it is nearly as handy for me to go to Dublin. There is no sea service as such. I ask the Minister to impress upon Bord Fáilte the need to prioritise Donegal. It is close to Northern Ireland and Great Britain and has a great product. I ask that it be kept in mind when any initiatives are considered.

I welcome the Minister to this worthwhile discussion. As he comes from the same area as I, he will be well aware what tourism means to our region and to Ireland by the revenue it generates. It is an important industry which will continue growing for many years to come. We must prepare for the future and continue to develop and improve our facilities. We cannot sit back and say that we have a lovely green country with a nice environment. Tourists do not come just for that and there are many ways by which they can be enticed to visit. Senator Dardis mentioned angling as one. There are many others, such as walking and watersports, which can develop our tourism industry.

On the other hand, there are many faults in the tourism industry as well. My colleague from Donegal mentioned the infrastructure within counties. The accommodation in this country is good compared to others I have visited. Guest houses and other accommodation are registered and subject to control. A person who is dissatisfied with the level of service they receive can make a complaint to the registration authority. Unregistered people seem to provide whatever facilities they want and that interferes with the genuine registered people.

The Minister should also examine the grading of guest houses similar to that of hotels. Today, there are different grades of guest houses in some areas and between different counties. Tourists are entitled to a list showing the quality of guest houses, because they might stay in a reasonable guest house in Donegal, pay the same price to stay in a massive new development in Galway and then stay in an unregistered poor quality guest house in the south-west with poor facilities. Such people leave the country with a wrong image.

The first task for everyone who enters the tourism industry, especially the guest house area, is to get the shamrock symbol because Americans and Europeans are told not to stay in a B&B unless there is a shamrock symbol outside. Successful applicants sometimes think that once they have the symbol, Bord Fáilte will send them droves of people. Everyone in the business knows that this does not happen and that one must generate business. After a year or two, some leave and do not pay their registration fee. I can see various reasons why they do that. For example, a person pays anything up to £300 to be a recognised guest house included in Bord Fáilte's listings. When a booking comes from the tourist office in the high season—it will not come in the low season—it will charge the guest house a booking fee of £3 which will be charged on all subsequent bookings. The guest house ends up with perhaps only £13 out of £16. Bord Fáilte charges a fee of £3 after already charging a registration fee. Why would one be involved with it in the first place? It would be better not to bother paying the £300 registration fee or the booking fee and instead to ring up the registered people and ask them to send on the overflow. That is what is wrong with the business, but it is the way it is going. One feels sorry for those in it who are legitimate and pay taxes, fees, guest house water charges, which were not abolished, and all other charges. They are the ones who need the help.

Dublin is crowded with tourists. Anyone who visits Ireland wants to see Dublin and that is a known fact. After that, they will select a few places they want to visit such as Donegal, Mayo or Killarney. The infrastructure is not there for them to go to these places. The Minister should examine this with the Minister for the Environment. There are 2,573 miles of road in my county and people's impression of them is that they are in a scandalous state. I do not mind about small narrow winding roads. They are an attraction in themselves, like the Ring of Kerry, which is a lovely drive. However, they are lovely providing the roads have a good surface and are not full of potholes so deep one could drown in them or break a spring on the car. That is also what is wrong with the business.

Local county groups must be commended for the work they do to promote tourism in their areas. They have invested money in heritage centres, etc., to attract people to their counties. There are at least 50 different types of hotels in County Kerry, for example, which try to promote their hotels abroad.

A proper marketing service must be provided. I compliment Bord Fáilte for spending approximately £6.5 million on its promotion drive last year. Although EU money is available, it is not being spent to market the industry. Many countries, such as Japan, are not being targetted as well as they should. Our facilities for wind sports, walking, fishing and shooting are the best in the world. We also have beautiful scenery and a clean environment. Farm pollution grants must be paid so that farmers can keep the environment clean. It is pointless trying to protect our environment if we do not have the proper finances.

We must plan for the future. Anyone involved in tourism knows there is not enough accommodation during August but there is no shortage during October or November. We must lengthen the tourist season by providing alternative sports facilities which do not depend on the weather. People do not come to Ireland for the weather but for the facilities we offer. Developments in aviation mean that people can travel to and from this country in a few hours. We must provide sufficient accommodation and recreational facilities to attract these visitors to Ireland.

I am one Member of the House who should be speaking in whispers because County Monaghan is the lowest tourism earner in the country. Occasionally I travel to Kerry where I meet many tourists. However, the situation is different in Monaghan, although there are good angling facilities in the county. Many people work hard to attract visitors to the area but it is difficult because we do not have a coastline which is a great attraction. We keep talking about the Bragan mountain but every county has a mountain. It is largely undeveloped because people do not come to the area in large numbers. I hope the developments at Lough Muckno in Castleblayney will continue and that people will visit it.

One project which could make a difference to County Monaghan is the development of the Ulster Canal. This canal was built in the last century but it fell into ruin. It runs from Clones to Monaghan across the Border and up to Lough Neagh. If it was developed and accommodation provided, we would be able to attract families. It would serve as a good tourism base.

The standard of hotels in Monaghan is incredible for a county with such a small tourism base. One of the Minister's colleagues was in Monaghan a few nights ago and he was amazed at the standard of the hotel in which he was staying. He was also surprised to learn that one person was working full time trying to attract visitors from the continent to Monaghan town. The hotel has been included in fly drive holidays and it is being extended as a result.

I appeal to the Minister to invest money in County Monaghan because, even since I came to Monaghan 30 years ago, we have been propping up tourism. The Ulster Canal is an essential development which will pay huge dividends into the next century. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the Ulster Canal is reopened because this would allow the county to make money from tourism. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht should do a feasibility study on this project.

A small town beside Carrickmacross called Shercock is not included on any tourist map, although it has three or four great fishing lakes. That is a disgrace. I hope the Minister rectifies that omission.

I congratulate the Government and the Minister on the record number of visitors coming here. Dublin and many other locations are benefiting greatly as a result and I am sure there will be enormous growth in this area over the next few years.

I have little to say after Senator Neville's tour around County Limerick. However, he did not mention Newcastlewest which is one of the main towns in the mid-west and is well worth a visit. If we want to develop our tourism industry, we must pay attention to details. Every road must be well signposted and we must pay attention to languages. Each bank and restaurant in the major towns must employ someone who can speak French and German. There must also be ATM machines in every bank so that visitors can access their money. Our restaurants, shops and tourist offices must be open to suit the customer, not the person serving behind the counter. I hope the Minister continues the good work.

Unfortunately, we are out of time, but as chairman of Meath Tourism I would have loved to make a contribution.

I would also have liked to contribute but perhaps we will get a chance at an early date.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.