The Clerk to the Select Committee wrote to the Department of the Marine inquiring whether any part of the Salmon Management Task Force report has been implemented. I will advise Members on that as soon as a reply is received. I remind Members that our next two meetings are on Tuesday, 7 January 1997 at 2.30 p.m. and the following day at 11.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. The purpose of these meetings is to take evidence on the collapse of the Taylor group of companies and the system of regulation of investment intermediaries generally. A timetable will be issued to Members in due course. Unfortunately, Fidelity cannot make these dates but it will make a written submission. If we think there is any need for its representatives to attend a meeting following the written submission, we shall make that request.
Business of Select Committee.
Will the written submission be circulated in advance of the meeting?
There will be so much documentation on this that this should be put under a separate heading as it is an important document.
We shall endeavour to do that. I have circulated a suggested timetable for today's meeting. It is hoped that the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Tourism and Trade could be finished by 4.30 p.m.
I have a request from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society which wishes to make an oral submission on the Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996. It will write to the Clerk in due course. By the nature of its business, being heavily involved in the dairy industry and in agricultural processing, it should get 15 to 20 minutes of our time.
On the basis of a ruling we received on a previous occasion, it will be necessary for me to arrange to have that item advertised nationally and paid for from our budget. It was decided last year that it would not be appropriate to agree to one organisation making a submission and other organisations with differing views not having the same opportunity to at least apply to be heard. That means we would have to advertise nationally and wait for a reasonable period to allow for other groups to apply to make a submission. I have no problem with that if it is agreed but it would substantially delay the Bill.
Who would have a differing view?
Anyone with an interest. We are not talking about people with an opposite view but an alternative one.
It would be in our interests and advisable that we should get as wide a perspective on the Bill as possible. I support my colleague.
I have no problem with that. However, in view of previous experience, if we were to adopt that approach on all Bills little progress would be made. We had 60 submissions on the Bill and, had we heard all of them orally, we would not have been able to deal with the Bill.
I would not see that situation arising in this case. I have no vested interest in this Bill.
We do not have the money to do it before the end of the year because our budget to cover that type of activity only applies for the new year. Nonetheless, if the decision of the committee is that the organisation should be heard, we shall be obliged to advertise.
Vote 35 — Tourism and Trade
I welcome the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Kenny, and the officials from the Department, Mr. Paul Bates, Assistant Secretary, and Mr. Peter Smyth, higher executive officer. The timetable for the afternoon has been circulated and agreed so I ask the Minister to make his opening statement.
I am grateful to the Chairman and the Members of the committee for agreeing to have this meeting on the Supplmentary Estimate. I will outline the details of the £462,000 from my Department's Vote while staying within the guidelines set down by the Chairman.
I will begin by referring briefly to the current performance of the tourism sector and its contribution to foreign earnings and employment creation. I am delighted to report that for the third successive year foreign exchange earnings from tourism in 1996 are expected to grow by more than 10 per cent. This will bring foreign earnings to a record level of about £1.850 million which, when added to expected domestic tourism receipts, will mean that the industry is now worth close to £2.5 billion. Employment supported by tourism already exceeds 100,000, representing over 8 per cent of total employment, up from a corresponding figure of 5.6 per cent in 1987.
Tourism now accounts for 6.4 per cent of GNP. According to figures supplied by the World Tourism Organisation and Bord Fáilte, Ireland recorded the highest growth rate in terms of tourist arrivals and receipts in the EU in 1995. In short, we can be proud of the recent performance of tourism and its contribution to the economic well being of the country.
The year 1996 has been an eventful one for tourism with major initiatives in the marketing, product development and training areas. The launch of the Tourism Brand Ireland project to which I will refer later together with a number of initiatives to address the seasonality problems in the industry and the continuing work of the overseas tourism marketing initiative, have resulted in a renewed and invigorated marketing drive for new and repeat business. Some 400 capital development projects have now been approved under the current EU operational programme for tourism, representing a commitment of over £150 million in European Regional Development Fund grant aid.
These projects, many of which are already on stream, will result in greater variety and geographical spread in the attractions and facilities available to tourists and are focused on our general objectives of extending the season and attracting higher yield visitors. By the middle of this year, over £30 million from the European Social Fund had been spent under the operational programme on a range of training and human resource development measures covering school leavers, the unemployed and those already in the industry. Moreover, I am pleased to say the industry is now taking concrete steps to address emerging staffing and recruitment difficulties in the sector. Members will be aware from questions raised in the Dáil and elsewhere of the necessity to improve the quality of training and the perception of the tourism industry which reacted after discussions with officials from my Department and me and prompting from others. A very constructive programme to address that perception is under way.
I believe we are putting in place a secure foundation for the sustainable development of tourism in Ireland and I look forward to continued growth in line with the target and objectives which have been set under the operational programme. I know am speaking for the industry as well when I stress that we are not complacent about future growth given the cyclical and sensitive nature of the tourism sector to external and internal developments.
This is the background against which this request for supplementary financing from my Department arises. I would now like to provide some specific information in relation to the individual expenditure items which are set out in the information note for Members which has already been circulated.
I propose to allocate an additional £400,000 to Bord Fáilte under subhead B1 of the Vote to cover a shortfall in the development costs arising from the Tourism Brand Ireland project. Tourism Brand Ireland was formally launched by me in Dublin on 11 November last; the worldwide launch was followed by market launches in London and New York. The brand propositions, "emotional experience" and "live a different life", build on our two key identified tourism assets, the accessible unspoiled pastoral scenery and the interaction with friendly engaging people.
The propositions were developed from extensive consumer research around the world with 17 different consumer focus groups. The development costs of the new brand amount to over £3 million and cover the production of extensive television advertising for all the principal overseas markets, a still photographic bank, promotional and support communication material, the design of the new logo and associated fees. This up to date bank of visual imagery for Ireland can be used with confidence well into the next century and will be available for the next number of years. The new identity also involves the development of a consistent visual look which, over time, should be adopted on all published tourism promotional items. The roll out of the new brand in conjunction with the industry and Northern Ireland interests is expected to take place on a phased basis over the coming year.
I propose to increase the allocation under subhead B2 of the Vote by £400,000. This is intended to facilitate a capital restructuring of the Dublinia visitor heritage tourist attraction located in the former Synod Hall adjoining Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. The centre opened to the public in May 1993 and operates under the aegis of the Medieval Trust which is a company limited by guarantee incorporated for charitable research and education purposes. The structure of the original financing arrangements for the project, together with a slower than anticipated build up of visitor numbers and poorer than expected commercial sponsorship, have left the project in an unsatisfactory financial position. The proposed financial injection through Bord Fáilte will be conditional on agreement being reached with the trustees on a comprehensive viability package for the future of Dublinia, incorporating the implementation of whatever changes may be necessary to improve the marketing and the presentation of the project as a major tourist attraction.
The purpose of the proposed supplementary allocation under the B3 subhead of the Vote is to provide up to £200,000 to help defray losses incurred by the organisers of the American football game recently held in Croke Park, £100,000 for the tall ships race to be held in Dublin in 1998 and £100,000 for the upgraded St Patrick's Day festival in 1997. The total additional requirement of £400,000 will be reduced to a net £50,000 due to savings of £350,000 in respect of unmatured marketing projects under the EU maritime INTERREG programme.
The Shamrock Classic involved the staging in Croke Park of an American football game between the University of Notre Dame and the United States Naval Academy on 2 November last. The game was organised by a consortium involving the Jefferson Smurfit Group, which underwrote the losses associated with the event which I understand cost in the region of £2.5 million. An estimated 12,000 people travelled from the US to Ireland for the game, the biggest movement ever of Americans to Ireland for a single event, and many more Americans living in Britain and mainland Europe also travelled to Dublin. The Supplementary Estimate of up to £200,000 is intended to compensate the organisers for part of the losses incurred.
Dublin will host the final leg of the world famous Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race in 1998 from 22-25 August. The race in 1998 will run from Vigo in Northern Spain to Dublin, thus making Dublin the city where the prize giving, the parade of sail and the dispersal of the fleet will take place. There is no doubt that the tall ships event will be an exciting spectacle in Dublin and should result in extensive media coverage for Ireland. As was the case with Cork after the 1991 tall ships race, the port of Dublin should benefit in terms of increased visits of cruise liners following the event. While it is difficult to estimate the additional number of visitors to such an event, the tall ships steering committee project that it will attract large numbers of visitors, both domestic and foreign. The Supplementary Estimate of up to £100,000 is intended as a once-off contribution to the fund raising activities of the steering committee to help defray organisational and marketing costs associated with preparations for the event. I understand the balance of this funding will come from commercial sponsorship, private sector sources, etc.
Last year State financial support was provided for an upgraded St. Patrick's Day national festival in Dublin. Reaction to the new style festival organised by a special company, Féilte Dhuibh Linne Teoranta, was very positive. While it was not perfect, it was a vast improvement on what existed previously. Plans are already advanced for an even better and extended festival in March 1997 with increased financial support and sponsorship from the private sector. Because St. Patrick's Day falls on a Monday next year, it is intended to have a three day event beginning on the Friday night and running through to Monday. The festivities receive widespread television and media coverage not only in Ireland but internationally which contributes to our overall tourism marketing effort. This is a good opportunity to market a modern image of Ireland and achieve enhanced tourism earnings in the off-peak season. The £100,000 Supplementary Estimate is designed as pump-priming to assist the steering company in its ongoing efforts to generate sponsorship from business interests in the capital for marketing and other organisational costs associated with the annual event.
I now turn to further adjustments in various subheads which partly offset the increased funds required under the Supplementary Estimate. The adjustment under subhead F — Appropriations-in-Aid — is mainly in respect of a lower than anticipated demand for export credit insurance facilities. The saving of £229,000 under subhead B4 — Currency Exchange Loss on Certain ICC Bank plc Foreign Borrowings for Tourism Development — is due to fluctuations in the projected rate of exchange on which the Estimate was based.
Under subhead B6 — CERT, Grant for General Administration Expenses and Training — there is a saving of £361,000 in respect of projected EU supported community initiatives which will not take place in 1996. There is a saving of £78,000 under subhead B7 in respect of loan subsidies for the small business expansion loan scheme for tourism projects due to a lower than anticipated uptake of loans. There is a saving of £50,000 under subhead D2 — Credit Financing of Certain Goods Exports — due to a lower than expected demand for support.
I am grateful to the Chairman and the committee for giving me the opportunity to outline the reasons for this Supplementary Estimate. Following contributions, I will be happy to answer questions.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Killeen.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The theme of my offering comes under five headings, the brand image and the controversial logo; the conference centre and its future; the imbalance in tourist intake between the west, east and south-west; the effect of litter on the mind of tourists and the ordinary citizen in this country and road infrastructure and the type of highways available to the gnáth daoine and to tourists. I am more concerned with the effect these have on our citizens than on tourists, but on the basis that they have a bad effect on our citizens, one can only speculate what tourists think about them, particularly litter and road infrastructure.
I had the pleasure of being at the function in the Shelbourne Hotel recently where the Minister, his colleagues, and members of Bord Fáilte made a good presentation in connection with the brand image on offer for the immediate future in the context of tourism in this country. Mr. Noel Toolin made a professional presentation. However, I am concerned the configuration of the logo is such that one would need binoculars to see the shamrock in it. Is it intended to have under this logo the word "Ireland" at all times to ensure people know what the logo means because, in the absence of a substantive shamrock, people will be left wondering? I am not criticising that company or the individual who may have conceived this logo. It was not a bad effort but if he or she produces something, we are entitled to be constructively critical in the context of what it is replacing. What it replaces was substantially decent, particularly from the point of view of the north American market.
On the conference centre, will the Minister consider the possibility of an environmental impact study on the Ballsbridge area? Will he examine the ongoing horrendous traffic problems there? The long delays between 8.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. are simply unacceptable in any great city. There will have to be radical and drastic solutions to this problem in addition to Luas.
The third point is the imbalance in the number of tourists coming to the eastern part of the country, and Dublin in particular. I represent a Dublin constituency and I am probably speaking against hoteliers in my area but they are well catered for. This issue must be addressed not just to get people to Dublin but also to continue their journey to other parts of the country. The question of litter is self evident. One only has to step outside the door to see the place is littered. How we react to litter and the law governing litter is nothing short of shameful with discarded cars in some of the most scenic parts of the country and papers all over the place. Black litter bags might be a better symbol of Ireland than the shamrock. This problem has to be tackled in the national interest.
Apart from mentioning the famous Cavan potholes, there may be single issue candidates in the next general election to highlight roads and potholes. There should be highways across the country similar to the lovely highways that bypass our towns. We can build roads but we have to get down to creating connections between Dublin and Galway, Limerick and Galway, Galway and Belfast, etc. Unless we provide these roads as a matter of urgency, we will find ourselves in a dangerous economic situation.
With regard to subhead B1 which deals with the tourism brand initiative, will the Minister indicate whether there is a shortfall in the projected 1996 draw down or in the overall provision for the brand initiative that is involved? How much does the brand image impact on the overseas tourism marketing initiative? How much money which would otherwise go to direct marketing is being taken up promoting the brand initiative? What lead in time is envisaged for the new brand to become sufficiently recognised to play a constructive role in promoting Ireland and Irish tourism?
Under subhead B6 there is saving of £361,000. Under this heading in the 1996 Estimate, only £50,000 was spent. I find it extraordinary that CERT would not have been in a position to spend this money in view of the difficulties which arise in terms of providing an adequate number of qualified staff. What is the background? With regard to domestic tourism and the substantial saving in the EU maritime INTERREG programme, it is worrying that there is a lack of promotion in that area. No initiative is mentioned by the Minister which would encourage more domestic tourism in the off season. He will be aware of a recent suggestion in a certain publication to the effect that staggering school and work holidays might be helpful.
Under the heading of the small business expansion loan scheme, a little less was drawn down than had been anticipated which constitutes a saving on this occasion. When this was last raised in the Dáil the Minister of State indicated the £25 million provided from 1994-96 was likely to be drawn down and there is a saving of £78,000. How does that reflect on the Minister's plans to develop the access to finance scheme which is envisaged as the replacement for the small business expansion scheme? I would be interested in the Minister's comments, particularly on what draw-down there is in the new scheme as opposed to what seems to have been excellent use of the £25 million scheme.
Most if not all the developments here for which extra finance is being provided are in Dublin. Like my colleague, Deputy Andrews, I would be aware of the huge regional imbalances and I have warned of the effect of continuing to use State resources to promote a particular area which is already doing disproportionately well. That is worrying but the Dublinia project is a worthy one and has huge potential. I am disappointed it is running into difficulties and the Minister should attempt to rescue it; he is seeking assurances in that regard.
The other initiatives also appear to relate to Dublin. It is the capital city but it is a pity there are none in Mayo, Clare or other places of interest. The Minister will be aware of the recent publication of a book on tourism policy and performance by Professors Dineen and Deegan of the University of Limerick. One worrying point they make is that there has been no serious attempt to monitor the return on marketing investment. The Minister and his predecessors have been trying to put the maximum amount of money into marketing and we have always assumed it has been done to good effect and has been a key to developing markets. However, it must be worrying that we have not monitored this. Has the Minister any ideas on that? The point has been made that prudent economic management of the State is an important factor in developing tourism.
Then there is environmental protection and seasonality, which needs to be addressed, though perhaps not in a Supplementary Estimate; it should be addressed in the 1997 budget. There is no evidence that it is becoming a big consideration or policy position for the future. There is no reference to theTour de France or a need for extra finance for it; perhaps the Minister could indicate whether there will be. A recent Forfás report indicated that by 2010 there would be 8 million visitors to our country. I have forgotten the exact number of bed nights that provision would have to be made for in relation to that but the existing schemes seem insufficient to encourage hoteliers to provide the apparently necessary extra beds.
The Minister will also have to examine the over-visiting of certain attractions; certain attractions are over-visited, even if it is only for a two or three week period. People in this business are saying that an adverse image of Ireland is being conveyed because of that. I look forward to the Minister having some initiatives in this regard perhaps when considering the 1997 Estimates if not on this occasion.
We have spoken of tourism promotion and development. Areas such as my own, which are not traditionally developed, have potential with coarse, salmon and trout fishing. The Minister has no funding available for tourist accommodation but a bed is most essential for a person moving into an area. Despite all the money being mentioned — the IFI, INTERREG and the Peace and Reconciliation Fund — none of it is provided for basic tourist accommodation. We have been depending on the county enterprise boards for the last few years and they had a very limited amount of money. The Monaghan County Enterprise Board has overspent its budget. About £60,000 has been provided for the Leader Programme for the year. A county task force was set up with money from the Peace and Reconciliation Fund. The Minister should specifically pursue this. Monaghan will get £750,000 under a couple of headings — urban enhancement and renewal, cultural water activity, nature based accommodation and improvement and agri-tourism.
There are many headings in the tourism field. Most county councils have spent their budgets improving footpaths in villages and towns. Every group in Cavan and Monaghan involved in tourism is hoping to unite; the enterprise boards, the Leader group, Northwest Tourism, the county tourism committees and county council tourism committees are all coming together. It is difficult to find common ground at present because each agency is jockeying for position. We intend to resolve this. The Minister should look at areas. such as Cavan and Monaghan because, although the amount of money available to each country is limited, there seems to be a lot of money about. Social inclusion is the phrase used when dispensing these funds but there is nothing about development money for capital works. Bodies which have a specific responsibility, should make sure this money is taken up.
Over the last few years, there has been a problem with the Operational Programme and there was great anticipation of funding for angling tourism. However, there has been a delay. We asked the Minister's predecessor in the summer of 1994 for funding for lakes and river development. Now we are told it will be 1997 before that is dealt with. It is not satisfactory to have such delays on Operational Programme or any other money. It should be made available as soon as possible.
I congratulate the Minister on his speech which covered a wide range of items relating to tourism. Whose idea was it to replace the shamrock logo with the new one being foisted on Bord Fáilte? The shamrock logo was beautiful. There is criticism of the present logo. It seems that it is not giving the true image of Ireland and it cost about £2.5 million to introduce. Would this money not go a long way towards meeting other commitments in the tourism industry?
If we are going to attract tourists we will have to build up our heritage facilities and make them more accessible and attractive. The Mizen Vision project in my constituency of Cork south-west was visited by 47,000 people last year. It is a very good tourist attraction for the south-west. The year before, 44,000 visitors passed through it and over 40,000 people have visited it every year since it opened. There is a great demand for upgrading the facilities in that area. I would like the Minister to consider aiding such tourism ventures which are attracting visitors. We will have to explore all our tourism opportunities and make sure they are upgraded.
Many of our seaside resorts lack toilet facilities. This is unacceptable. Bord Fáilte should be helping the industry to provide such facilities. Deputy Killeen said that much of the money is designated for the east coast but we are forgetting the west coast. We will have to face up to these responsibilities. Tourists expect certain facilities and many of our major tourist centres lack an adequate water supply. We should not be going overboard on once off projects, such as the American football game in Dublin towards which we gave £200,000. Will such ventures benefit the country in the long term? They are short-term events which will have no lasting effect on the industry.
I would like more money to be channelled towards providing facilities, such as upgrading the ferry service to our islands on the west coast. Oilean Chléire is visited by over 100,000 tourists each year. There are substandard facilities available in Baltimore harbour which serves the islands off the south-west coast. If we do not target resources at these facilities we will lose sight of a very valuable industry which has ample scope for development.
I welcome and support the Estimate. The Minister is doing an excellent job and I know he has every intention of developing the industry evenly throughout the country. Admittedly, that has not happened yet. I did not come here to complain but, representing the Border counties, I put down a marker in time for next year and hope that the industry will flourish there. Tourism is the growth industry in this country. At a seminar the Minister said that he expected 5 million people to visit Ireland next year. I hope that the Border region will get its share but we are not doing so at present.
I would draw the Minister's attention to the amalgamation under which Cavan-Monaghan is closeted with Sligo and Donegal. These are two totally different products. Sligo and Donegal are seaside resorts which are doing well and I wish them every success. Cavan-Monaghan is principally an angling product. The unspoilt waters of Ireland are in Cavan and Monaghan. I suggest that, in this climate of cross Border trade and co-operation, the Minister should consider a joint venture between Cavan-Monaghan-Leitrim and Fermanagh-South Tyrone. The waters in these areas are unequalled in Europe and would command much support. It could be funded from both sides of the Border and would be very beneficial to cross Border co-operation and the promotion of the Erne catchment area as an angling destination.
I have a brochure which was compiled by the tourism people in that region independent of North-West Tourism. They have marketed this unique region in England and I urge the Minister to co-operate with those in Northern Ireland in this cross Border venture. He should look at this alignment as the present system is not working.
The tourist office in Cavan has been surrounded by hoarding for the last two and a half years. We are trying to sell a product to people coming into the county. Any other business would have gone bankrupt. We are still doing a good job but the image being portrayed by North West Tourism by this office is scandalous. The chief executive Dan O'Neill has given many commitments to improve the situation but this has not happened, and I believe it will not happen as long as we are linked to that organisation. I ask the Minister to give me a commitment to refurbish that office for the coming season.
I agree with Deputy Boylan. I have a family loyalty with Cavan on my wife's side so I would be less than loyal if I did not support him. I am aware of the office and it is tedious to have it closed for so long. It is more a community problem than a political problem.
May I ask the Minister about the Dublinia tourist centre? What is the weakness in that particular project? I visited it and thought it was excellent. As a Dubliner it gave me the feeling that I had roots. I was particularly pleased with it. Is its location one of the problems? Is it a lack of advertising? Is it bad management? If so, and I am not suggesting that is the problem, there is a remedy. There seems to be a series of problems related to it. I note that the Minister's intended payment would be conditional on agreement being reached with the trustees. Who are the trustees? No doubt they are people of reputation and integrity. When we know who they are, we can examine their credentials in relation to their business and administrative acumen.
I have a strong point of view on the appointment of persons to a body. Persons should not be appointed because of their political affiliations but because of their capacity to do the job. When I was a Minister that was always my standard and it always will be my standard. I am sick to the teeth of people being appointed on their political affiliations, although that should not exclude them.
Fianna Fáil are the champions.
The Labour Party is not far behind.
Fianna Fáil are the all-time all-Ireland champions 57 years in a row.
Remarks like that will reduce the public's appreciation of politics.
It is the truth. We have heard much hypocrisy in this House in the past few weeks.
I do not want any interruptions.
It is a tragedy that Deputy Broughan makes these remarks as we try to improve the image of politics. I made a very reasonable point.
The Deputy is making a particular point. I will give Deputy Broughan an opportunity speak when Deputy Andrews is finished.
We will see the party of the higher moral ground make its point in due course.
On the basis that these people were not appointed because of their political affiliations but because of their ability to run the centre, will the Minister tell the committee why it is in such a poor financial condition and why he requires this extra money to give it an additional boost?
I am concerned about CERT which I consider to be precious organisation in the tourist industry. The suggestion is that there is a saving of £361,000 in respect of projected EU supported Community initiatives. What are these Community initiatives? Are they initiatives which do not require money or have they been abandoned to effect the saving? How will this affect this precious organisation, CERT, which does such an excellent job for the tourist industry?
I thoroughly agree with the view of my colleague, Deputy Killeen, on brand image. The tourism brand of Ireland had the advantage of widespread research. The Minister of State in response to my parliamentary question stated that he had the benefit of 17 different research groups from around the world. Who are these research groups? What were their credentials? How did they perform in their own countries? From where do they originate? How will it be an advantage to the tourism brand of Ireland project because it is terribly important for the future of this new tourism image initiative that the committee has answers to these questions in the hope that we do not make mistakes now and in future.
The publicity material authored by Bord Fáilte which emanated from the function in the Shelbourne Hotel in November included a pamphlet on investment in strategic marketing for tourism. Effectively it stated that Ireland earned £2.3 billion from tourism, 102,000 full-time jobs were provided last year and as many as 4.2 million people visited Ireland in 1995. That underlines again the importance of this industry as Deputy Leonard said and as the Minister indicated not only today but on other occasions. It has been projected that there will be twice that number of visitors, that is, 8 million, in future. Can Ireland afford to carry that number of visitors in the future having regard to the quality of expertise which is required in the context of 4.2 million visitors in 1995? How many visitors are anticipated this year? Will the Minister agree that complaints about the services are growing despite the very best efforts of the tourism industry, including hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfast, etc? Could that be because of the number of visitors or that the industry simply cannot handle that number of people?
Unfortunately, certain areas are attracting too many tourists at peak times. Consequently, the tourism infrastructure is being overrun and it is not providing the required services. Does the Minister care to comment on that?
I put down markers in my opening remarks in relation to the proposed conference centre in Ballsbridge, Dublin, for example. Will the Minister consider undertaking an environmental impact study on the proposed location? Will he receive the EU financing of 75 per cent which he anticipates because Fianna Fáil believes it will only amount to 50 per cent? What will be the effect on traffic and on the immediate environment of the densely populated semi-urban community? What impact will it have on the elderly members of that community? All these questions must we asked and I want answers.
Deputy Killeen touched on the imbalance between east and west and the number of people coming to Dublin city and county as against other parts of the country. I would be speaking against my best interests in that there are exceptional hotels and staff my constituency but there is a question of fair play and justice and I do not think the rest of the country is getting the share of tourists to which it is entitled.
While I agree litter is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, nevertheless the tourism industry is affected by it. Is there something in our national psyche which makes Irish people throw empty cigarette packets out the window instead of putting them in a small litter bag in the car? Is that a gesture against the establishment? Is there something psychologically wrong with us which makes us throw litter on the road? Is there something wrong with the education system which does not give us the capacity to think before we throw? These are questions the Minister might answer. I do not intend that he answer all of them because if he could, he might be in a different profession.
On roads infrastructure, the road from Kinnegad to Galway, with a few decent exceptions — that is, the Athlone by-pass, the proposed Loughrea by-pass and other parts of the road which are not too bad — is an example of the type of road to which citizens should not be subjected, and neither should tourists. Such a road infrastructure makes for longer journeys, longer waits, traffic hold ups and seriously affects the tourist industry, apart from the economy generally.
If the Minister cannot give the answers on this occasion, I will be glad to get them from him later.
I remind Members that the entire Estimate is being taken at this stage for questions and comments before I call the Minister to reply. When he does so, that will complete business.
I agree with Deputy Andrews' comments on the current designation of the conference centre. It seems that the best site is on O'Connell Street which would offer tremendous possibilities for regeneration of the north inner city and the premier street in our capital city. If it is not too late, this proposal should be given some consideration. It would work well with the development of hotels in the area. I would like the Minister to look at this again.
I thank the Minister for the initiatives he has taken over the last years in his successful tenure. It is fair to say that Dublin was the Cinderella of the tourism industry until recent times. It was ignored; it was not sold as a tourist destination. It was not included in the image of the country sold abroad. Thankfully, that dismal situation perpetrated by incompetent Governments over 60 to 70 years has now improved and Dublin, or Cinderella, is at long last going to the ball of the tourism industry. Some of the welcome effects can be seen in terms of employment in the city. However, I still ask why Dublin Tourism, of which I have been critical in the past, does not place advertisements in English and European papers encouraging tourists to come on a city break to Dublin. The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, is sometimes marketed with other regions of the country. I cannot see why Dublin cannot be marketed in conjunction with some regions here, such as the north-east, the mid-west, etc. That approach could be adopted because there is a future in city tourism.
I congratulate the Minister for his support for the Dublinia project which brilliantly sets out our Viking and early Gaelic heritage and history. I can understand why the centre in Christchurch Cathedral could not be maintained. Eventually a worthy group of Dublin citizens took it over and developed it. It deserves our best wishes and support and I know the Minister will continue to support it.
I congratulate him for putting funding into the American football game. Bringing in 12,000 American tourists is a brilliant idea and the initiative was very successful. Many of the Notre Dame fans want to return to Dublin. As for the funding, what was the benefit for Dublin and surrounding counties?
I also thank the Minister for the funding he is providing for the tall ships' race and for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Last year he revamped the parade. There were some teething problems but, in general, it was a vast improvement on previous years. It was much more proactive and involved the audience. I would like to see that continuing. I know it is intended to make it a weekend festival and I wonder if it could be extended to a longer St. Patrick's festival to launch the tourism season.
Could the Minister encourage the development of a professional football team in Dublin? There are strong rumours that the Premier League football team, Wimbledon FC, may move to Dublin which I would welcome. Over a football league season, either British or European, a professional football team located in Dublin would be a shot in the arm ultimately for the west of Dublin where the team may be based. I would like the Minister to encourage that development if he can. It is certainly something which merits the best support the Government can give.
Like other people, I was slightly taken aback by the new brand image. However, it has grown on me and perhaps on others as well. I can see the rationale of the brand people which is to emphasise the key things which make us Irish and a different people and why foreigners want to be here and spend time among us.
I congratulate the Minister on his outstandingly successful tenure and wish him well with the Estimate.
I wish to be associated with Deputy Broughan's comments on the fine job the Minister is doing. I am glad to see the west getting its fair share of the national and European cake. For too long this was not happening.
There are two issues I wish to raise with the Minister and I would like his Department to do something about them. One is air fares. I met a man at a function on Sunday night in Westport who came back for the American football game. He booked his flight with Aer Lingus which cost him $800; his son flew with British Airways to London for $350. He was then brought from London to Dublin by Aer Lingus. That is a joke. Aer Lingus should be out there competing. Over many years one of the major cries of emigrants coming back to Ireland is the manner in which the national airline crucifies them with air fares at Christmas and in the summer. It is something which must be taken on board by Bord Fáilte. It is wrong to rob people who are flown in. Every person who arrived at that football game brought a present home with them which left money in Dublin and other places. Some of them visited relatives and friends in other parts of the country. We should try to make it easier for people to come to this country, even if it means subsidising Aer Lingus or visiting tourists. This expenditure would be more than offset by the revenue spent by the tourists.
The second matter which annoys me is sign-posting and I have raised this at county council level and in the Dáil. People come to this country and get lost because we are afraid to put up signs. Government after government has talked and talked about it but no one will take responsibility. People who come here should be able to go from A to B. Why can we not put up proper signs as is done in other EU countries? It is not because people do not travel enough. Public officials in Mayo are great travellers and are familiar with signage across the world. It is time sign-posting in this country was examined and something done about it once and for all.
My daughter is coming home for Christmas and it is costing three times more than it did a few months ago.
What will happen when the proposed duty free changes are made in 1999? What effort is the Minister making because this service is of enormous benefit to such companies as Aer Rianta and to the trade generally in terms of small goods and alcoholic beverages.
Another cause for concern is the long delay in getting a straight answer for the people of Youghal on the development of a leisure centre. Much has been heard about leisure centres. Youghal is a well known town in the south-east, and probably one of the finest hospitality towns in Ireland. Many visitors travel to the area. This is a textile as well as a hospitality town. People have came together and there are now significant amounts of money available for investment.
We have been told the leisure centre will be delayed because of delay in drawing down Structural Funds. I do not understand how such a delay can interfere with giving the go-ahead for the development. All they need is a letter saying they will get approval. The draw down will come at a later stage. Is it a delaying tactic or is it an excuse? It is not good enough to keep these people on hold, and this has been going on since 1992.
As regards the ICC and the business expansion scheme for tourism, will the Minister outline why there has not been a substantial up take in this scheme which I would consider attractive to the taxpayer? The record of repayment has been good. Why is the scheme not more attractive to taxpayers? I am not always in agreement with Deputy Ring but air fares, particularly internal fares, are outrageous. There is a considerable difference in fares between some private airlines and the national airline. Corrective action needs to be taken. There is no air service from Dublin, Cork or Shannon to the Far East which is important for tourism. Many technological industries coming to this country come from that area. Will the Minister address those queries?
I support Deputy Ring's comment on proper sign-posting. If tourism is to become a major industry, we should get simple things right so that people do not become annoyed. Bed and breakfast accommodation and our small hotels are excellent. I hear great praise from those who stay in them about the way they have been treated. Sign-posting is important. While is not possible to have tourist offices in every town and village — I will not highlight Cavan again because I know the Minister will put it right — we have post offices in such locations and even at the occasional cross road. Bord Fáilte and An Post should get together so that visitors could get information, brochures and maps in rural post offices and be told where to visit. That would also provide extra business for rural post offices because visitors might purchase souvenirs, etc. That is something the Minister should take on board. I compliment him on the excellent job he is doing.
A number of months ago a task force was set up on the Border region under the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Carey. Has the Minister's Department an input? Recently there was an announcement about the provision of £1 million. Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo and Leitrim, the poorest Border counties North and South, will receive a total of 4.75 per cent of this allocation from co-operation North. National bodies in Dublin with links to the North will collect 22 per cent of this £1 million. I would like the Department to be involved in that committee to ensure the development of tourism in this region. I agree with the previous speaker about sign-posting, which is very important. Despite the money spent on it, we are still behind in terms of meeting people's needs.
I thoroughly agree with the views expressed on air fares. There has been a huge problem over the years. Could this committee write to the airlines asking them to explain their summer and winter air fare structures or invite them to meet us? Could the Minister call these people in to explain themselves and then report to the committee? This is a good committee and it would give it added significance if such organisations could be asked to explain themselves in the national interest. As the Chairman said, his daughter must pay three times more now than she did a couple of months ago. This injustice should be explained. We could pick one of the three proposals which suits our case.
The Deputy made a valid point which I am sure the Minister will consider. Perhaps he will ask the airlines to explain the situation or will communicate with the committee secretariat to see what way we could handle this. I agree with my colleagues from the Border region on the problems of tourism. There was an improvement in tourism in the Border region, North and South, during the peace process. The Border area needs a permanent peace both North and South. Only then will we be able to develop the tourism industry in that region.
Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny): I thank Members for their contributions on this Supplementary Estimate. As they will be aware, this is only part of the overall Vote for the Department of Tourism and Trade. In that sense the debate should be confined to the Supplementary Estimate, but Members have concerns about various matters and they like to raise questions. In so far as I can, I will answer them or supply supplementary information later.
Deputy Andrews made points on the brands, the conference centre, eastv. west, litter and the road infrastructure, including highways and so on. The new logo for the presentation of Tourism Brand Ireland was introduced after professional analysis at 17 different locations around the world. People were not just asked if they liked it, a well known professional marketing technique was used. Rather than asking the professionals, we asked consumers what they liked. The statistics from and the results of that analysis are very interesting. Some people knew nothing about Ireland. They did not know if we had hotels or whether we were fighting, something perceived from television. In order to draw a common denominator or a thread through these things, a professional decision was taken not to lose the shamrock and to draw on the emotional experience based on our culture, traditions, music and people and the unspoiled, pristine environment we have compared to many other countries. Ultimately one can never know whether one is right in this business. The shamrock is being retained by Bord Fáilte as its corporate logo. The new logo depicts two people dancing with one handing the other a shamrock as a sign of welcome. People might ask what the logo represents. When the video presentation of the translation is seen, it is easy to understand. So far as the main markets Bord Fáilte pursue are concerned, it has been well received. This logo was the result of professional marketing and expertise. It will be rolled out over the next weeks and months and will grow on people. There was a great deal of concern expressed that the shamrock was going to vanish completely. Tourism and perceptions change but this is something that is retained at the centre of a modern, professional and sophisticated marketing element and I hope it will pay dividends.
Ireland will be mentioned on each occasion. Ireland is being marketed as Ireland and not as Irlandia, Hibernia or Éire. The brand image is used in the North and South. The visitor numbers to Northern Ireland increased by 56 per cent during the 18 months of the ceasefire. The work carried out between Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the public appearances I have made deliberately with the economic Minister for Northern Ireland in order to hammer home that this is an all island marketing venture, leads one to believe the full weight and authority of NITB and Bord Fáilte together with the investment through the overseas tourism marketing initiative North and South, will make this logo a success.
The conference centre is not strictly relevant to this Estimate but following an exhaustive examination of these matters by consultants and Bord Fáilte, the case has been presented to Europe for funding. We await a decision from the European Commission on this matter. If, and when, a decision is given in favour of the conference centre, planning permission is required and it is a matter for the planning authorities what requirements they lay down in that regard. The general traffic problem in Dublin is being examined through the Department of the Environment and other initiatives. I am aware of the difficulties that exist in Ballsbridge but most conference centre traffic is generated by coach. At conferences abroad people are generally coached to and from the conference centre.
We should be ashamed of the litter problem. It is a matter of personal pride more so than supervision or on the spot fines. I have just returned from the World Trade Organisation Conference in Singapore involving 127 countries. This island is 20 miles by 15 miles with three million people. Chewing gum is prohibited, graffiti can carry a three year jail sentence with caning or heavy fines and it has a different society structure; it is "overstructured" by our terms. There are no visible signs of litter. We are a long way from that but the new initiatives taken under the tidy towns competition, business awareness schemes, adopt a lane scheme, adopt a school scheme, the work done by the scout associations, Foróige, youth clubs, community councils and organisations, will hopefully lead to a situation over a period where, starting with young people, we will have an understanding of what a clean environment is and how important it is to us. One can only lead by example. I pass through many towns late at night and early in the morning and the amount of litter is simply a disgrace, and it is not all thrown by foreign visitors. We have a great deal to learn in this regard. I hope efforts will continue, that people will not become despondent or disappointed and that it will lead to a cleaner country.
With regard to roads, the Department of the Environment has a programme for major highways. The Government is committed to the ongoing programme begun two years ago with £20 million followed by £40 million for the main and county roads system so that the gnáth daoine have access to their houses. From experience travelling the road to the west for the past 21 years, I know it has improved dramatically. What used to be a four hour journey now takes two. We hope programmes adopted by county councils and local authorities will prove beneficial in the times ahead.
The Estimate for CERT in 1996 was £3.537 million. The 1996 provisional outturn was £3.176 million which gives a saving of £361,000. This represents money that was available as matching funding for various EU Community initiatives and which will not be required in 1996. For example, £103,000 was provided in the Estimate for the peace programme which was reallocated to another Department for training under that programme. The maritime INTERREG initiative had £51,000 allocated to it with another £207,000 allocated to other human resource initiatives. None of this money was required because no suitable projects were submitted under these programmes. It is not a case of money being sent back for the sake of it.
Under subhead B7, the Estimate for 1996 was for £725,000. The provisional outturn was £647,000 and the saving was £78,000. The small business expansion loan scheme, SBELS, was introduced in the 1994 budget and made £100 million in loans available to small businesses in the manufacturing, tourism and international trade sectors. A Government interest subsidy of 3 per cent applies to loans under this scheme with a subsidy in the tourism tranche of £25 million paid by this Department. The scheme was administered by the ICC Bank and provided low fixed interest at 6.75 per cent on loans of between £40,000 and £500,000 to eligible businesses employing fewer than 50 people. It is estimated the cost to the Department will be approximately £4.6 million. All funds were drawn down by April 1996.
A total of 124 tourism projects or borrowers were assisted and 1,000 jobs maintained or planned. More than 75 per cent of the loans went to the hotel and accommodation sector. Loans were approved also for a wide range of tourism products, including boat and cruiser hire, equestrian centres, coach services, visitor attractions, etc. The saving involved was due to the slower than anticipated launch of the scheme in 1994 and the rate of draw down of the loans, some of which were for less than the originally assumed ten years resulting, therefore, in earlier repayment of principal.
In relation to the follow-up of marketing funding, this is very carefully structured through the overseas tourism marketing initiative. All of these funds are carefully monitored and tracked as far as possible to ensure the very best value. There is no money required in this Supplementary Estimate for theTour de France.I recently met with the organisers and we put up £2 million following a request for that amount. There are some difficulties on the shipping end and these are being worked on by the organisers with the shipping links. I have written on their behalf to back them up and I hope their endeavours will prove fruitful.
In relation to the regional imbalance, I have answered Deputy Killeen in the Dáil on this. All regions have seen very good average annual overseas growth rates over 1989 to 1995. Higher growth rates in the east are not a new phenomenon and were already visible from 1981 to 1988. It is not necessarily that business is being stretched from west to east but rather that business in the east has grown at a higher rate. Many European countries would be happy with the lowest regional growth rate. The west of Ireland had 4.6 per cent in overseas revenue in the period 1990 to 1995. The corollary to this, which is a contradiction in one sense, is that Deputies say areas like the Dingle peninsula, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher are overrun.
I visited the Aran Islands late in summer and found that it was not overrun to the extent I assumed from reading some newspaper reports. Locals are very concerned about the proper presentation of the cultural aspect of what they have to offer. There are difficulties with infrastructure, such as the provision of water. On Inis Meain, water supplies were restricted to two hours a day three days a week. This meant bringing out huge quantities of bottled water from Galway. That imposes severe restrictions on those involved in bed and breakfast or guest accommodation.
Deputy Leonard raised the question of coarse and trout angling. I have answered this question for the Deputy on several occasions in the Dáil. Maybe I should put together a compilation of what exists by way of assistance for the Border regions and what has been paid out over recent years for the Deputy. Then the spend and what has been contributed north and south of the Border can be seen.
I take the point that it took a long time to get approval, even in my own western region fishing area, for the £1 million surveys on Loughs Corrib and Mask and to have the work initiated. We worked very closely with the Department of the Marine on that section of the operational programme for tourism under their Vote. The central and regional fisheries boards were also involved. There may be some blockage there but I will investigate that. The Chairman is a keen angler and all will agree that angling is particularly important in those regions. The west has 13 of the 15 remaining wild brown trout fisheries in Europe. Coarse and trout fishing is very important and I will follow that up.
In relation to Deputy Sheehan's typically lively contribution, it did not dawn on someone to remove the shamrock. It is not gone but what is there is enhanced. We are building on the new image of Ireland as the perception of Ireland is based on music, dance, personality and cultural activity, especially on the part of young people in Europe. That is being incorporated into the logo, which shows two people embracing in a dance at an attractive location. The shamrock is being handed on from Irish person to international person. It is not disappearing; it is at the very centre of what this is about. It might be said that it is not as big as it used to be but a person who never saw a shamrock would not know that. For Irish people and those with Irish links, it is a very strong bond but we are reaching out to new people who have never seen us. They will not base coming here on the shamrock but on how attractive our facilities and our people are. In that sense, the Deputy's comments on Mizen Vision are to be taken seriously. Mizen Vision is one of a number of projects that is and will receive serious consideration by the independent board.
The A.D. Little review of Bord Fáilte recommended that the Minister of the day should not have the allocation of all these funds, nor should Bord Fáilte. That is why the independent boards are set up. I am bound under the operational programme to carry out a mid-term review of how the spend has gone under the programme. That is practically completed and should be in by the end of the year. The consultant will make a recommendation to be looked at by the National Monitoring Committee and will go back to the European Commission as to the sectors that will be continue to be funded from the next tranche.
Questions may be asked on whether there has been an overspend on building leisure complex centres, whether enough has been spent on adventure centres or on heritage centres. The spend to date is being looked at and we will see an evaluation of it. It would be foolish of me as Minister for Tourism to say " Here is a letter saying I approve your project" when the European Commission might decide that the sector involved might not be worthy of the amount of funds we might decide were necessary. I am bound by that. This is being evaluated and when the evaluation is completed, we will look at the Mizen Vision project. I have seen elements of it and believe it to be very good. The area, which Deputy Sheehan knows intimately, is a very strong seller in its own right and the committee will examine this on its merits. We are no longer in the business of providing money for projects that will not be viable.
A number of Members mentioned the Shamrock Classic and the £200,000 provided for that. This classic brought in over 12,000 visitors for that weekend. What was the spend here? The organisers carried out an analysis based on 20,000 largely A-B socio-economic travellers for an average of four to five days. They said the impact of the Shamrock Classic on the Irish economy was significant by any measure. It is difficult to be definitive but a return in the region of £30 to £40 million appears to be realistic. This was the biggest movement of American spenders ever to Ireland for a single event and that may not be the end of it following the recognition of this unique event by the Government. The event could be repeated on a bigger scale. The organisers go on to make the point that the principle of business community and Government is well established and expanding in both the US and Europe. To attract the Notre Dame and Navy game, the Shamrock Classic had to outbid San Antonio, Texas and Jacksonville, Florida. Arising out of this, their chief executive has been approached by a consortium from Germany backed by regional government who are interested in promoting a similar event in Germany. Others see the benefit of this as well. In that sense the spend could be of the order of £30 to £40 million, which is very big by any standards.
A number of Members mentioned the Dublinia project. This was a facility ahead of its time and was under-financed from the start. It requires further upgrading of its marketing ability and if the conditions can be met by the trustees we will supply them with marketing facilities and assistance from Bord Fáilte because the project needs to be looked at again.
I have been asked who are the trustees of the project. They are John Bradley, Dr. Howard B. Clarke, Kevin Duffy, Michael McCarthy, Craig McKinney (Chairman), Eileen O'Mara Walsh and Dr. Anngret Simms. Dublinia's registered number is 192093 and is a project of the Medieval Trust. I hope that this £400,000 will bring about a situation where conditions can be agreed with the Dublinia trustees to sort this out once and for all. It has had only 43,000 visitors which was an increase on previous numbers but given its Dublin city centre location and the number of visitors who come to the city, it should be capable of doing better. I hope the financial and marketing restructuring will pay dividends.
I have discussed the Cavan tourist office with Deputy Boylan before. I will visit the office and have discussions with Bord Fáilte who will, in turn, speak to the relevant people in North West Tourism. I agree that a tourist office in a major location such as Cavan should not be hoarded up. It should be in a prime location and condition.
Can we put a timeframe on it?
In this business one never puts a timeframe on anything. I will do so at the earliest convenience and then have my office contact the Deputy. The facilities exist to do a better job at marketing Cavan-Monaghan-Leitrim than is being done at the moment. All the headings referred to by Deputy Leonard, Interreg, the peace and reconciliation fund and the IFI, are available for that proposition. I am not sure that it is a case of getting the different county tourism organisations together. We will look at this and I will speak to those involved when I visit the area.
Deputy Andrews referred to the exceptional hotels in the Dublin area and I agree.
I normally make a point that when a Deputy has left that the question remains unanswered. I am anxious to give Deputy Crawford a couple of minutes.
Deputy Crawford is an honoured Member of the House and deserves to be heard as much as anyone else.
Regarding the advertisements by Dublin Tourism in European and British newspapers, I cannot answer that question except to say that I was at the second biggest travel trade show in the world in Earl's Court recently and many of the tour operators and hoteliers present are marketing Dublin. It may be a calculation that Dublin is being marketed by those who are providing the facilities; the hotel groups, specialist holiday operators, golf and leisure activity promoters, etc. All the carriers and travel operators I met marketed Dublin.
I cannot comment on the outcome of ongoing discussions between departmental officials and promoters of a professional football team for Dublin. I had initial discussions with some of these promoters but I am not sure of what will be the outcome.
As a member of a local authority, Deputy Ring will be aware that the Department of the Environment and the local authorities have responsibility for signposts. Bord Fáilte works in conjunction with the local authorities in the provision of tourist facility signs and we provide the money in the Estimates. The location and content of signs can be worked out with the engineering section.
We are not going to sort out the matter of air fares in this Supplementary Estimate. It is not a matter for my Department but it impacts on us. I understand the point the Chairman has made about his daughter coming back, I hope she has a pleasant journey. Last year at the US economic conference convened by President Clinton and again at the Pittsburgh conference this year we made efforts to discuss with airlines further scheduled flights into Ireland. Air fares are brought down by increasing competition. This has happened on the London-Dublin route which is now the busiest in the world.
While Aer Lingus has expanded its operation into Chicago, it operates to a commercial mandate. It is fair to say that US airlines now find it more commercially viable to fly into Ireland but they have not yet made a decision to lay on scheduled flights. We have concluded a major deal with Virgin Airways from November 1996 to March 1997 to fly people from the far west of America — Dallas, San Antonio, San Diego or San Francisco to London, who return to Belfast or Dublin by British Midland for the same cost. This will deal with the seasonality issue and bring in high spending American visitors.
I would like to see lower air fares. Airlines operate on commercial grounds and make their own judgments. Competition is the spice of life. I am in discussions with the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications to see that this might happen, particularly on the transatlantic route. We have also had correspondence with another airline to bring in extra visitors from Europe where air fares are also quite high. This would be conditional on certain responses and discussions are ongoing. I hope that fares will come down but that is a matter for the airlines.
The Minister for Finance is considering the issue of duty free goods. He raised this matter at the European Council meeting but I do not know the outcome.
It was our privilege to include Youghal as a seaside location with specialist tax benefits and incentives. The leisure centre has had a chequered history. The application is caught up in the mid-term review but I am confident it will receive proper consideration. I visited Youghal during the summer and it is doing very well. I noticed quite an improvement.
I asked the Minister why we have no air service to the Far East as we are getting tourists from there.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to visit Cavan. I hope he will also visit Monaghan where he would be very welcome. The main issue I want to raise relates to family run hotels. Will the Minister and the Department adopt a more favourable attitude towards small family run hotels because they find it difficult to get aid toward refurbishment. The Minister mentioned that he has been able to finance sports facilities, etc., and that he will examine whether there were too many such places. Clones, County Monaghan, for example, was hardest hit by the Border troubles for 25 years. There was only one road into the town and there were three small family run hotels. Despite all the money which seems to be available through the peace and reconciliation fund and INTERREG, for example, these hoteliers must approach the tourism bodies and they are limited to those funds whereas other businesses in the town seem to be able to avail of a higher level of funding. I want these small family run businesses, which have been an integral part of the town's structures, to get their fair share. Is this part of the reason that some of the subsidised funding has not been utilised?
In the extreme north of County Monaghan where there are no bed and breakfast establishments it would seem rather difficult to get such accommodation off the ground unless the area is specially recognised and they receive more than the 25 per cent level of funding which would otherwise be available. The Minister has been able to be very generous to areas in County Cork, County Galway and County Mayo but the Border region has been extremely badly hit. In north County Monaghan, the Bragan Mountain has tremendous potential and there is much cross-Border co-operation. Families see their colleagues across the Border get much better funding and it is hard for them to understand why they cannot receive it too.
The Minister replied to that question. He indicated that he will supply a package on what is available and how it operates and I am sure those of us living in Border areas will be very interested in it.
On what Deputy Crawford said in respect of the refurbishment of small hotels, I met a great number of these hoteliers and they said they did not want grants; they wanted cheap money. That is why the small business expansion loan scheme was put in place and all that money has been drawn down, as I stated in reply to Deputy Killeen. A once-off sum of £7 million was made available for small hotels under the first part of the operational programme and it was extended to medium and larger hotels. This was designed for the bigger more sustainable operations. The small business expansion loan scheme was brought in specifically to give cheap money at low interest with which they could get on and do their business and it was at their request.
That might work out nationally but it is much more difficult in areas which have been hit harder.
We will put together details of what has been spent under the various headings in Border areas for Deputies as a matter of interest. This is central to what the Chairman said, that is, if the peace process is restored and there is a permanent ceasefire, people will travel north and south fluidly and Border areas, North and South, can progress as we would wish them to do.
Deputy O'Keeffe asked about air services from the Far East. The simple answer is that the business is not there for us. It is possible to get to London from any point on the globe and in that sense we operate a common air fare rating from places such as Japan and Australia. If people come to London or Europe it is very easy to get to Ireland. We tell tourists that if they come to Europe or London, they should leave aside a day to come to Ireland and sample its different personality. That strategy is working to an extent but we are not big enough to compete on that scale. For example, the Chinese programme for development over the next 20 years is to build 500 airports. We are a very small player in this sense but we are making huge strides on a proportional scale. I am happy to lead that charge.
Report of Select Committee.
I propose the following draft report:
The Select Committee has considered the Supplementary Estimate for the Public Services for the services for the year ending 31 December 1996 in respect of Vote 35 — Tourism and Trade. The Supplementary Estimate is hereby reported to Dáil Éireann. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Report agreed to.
Ordered to report to the Dáil accordingly.
As this is the committee's last session of the year, I take this opportunity to thank the convenors and colleagues from all parties who contributed throughout the year. This committee dealt with a record number of Bills and Estimates. We met more than 40 times, sometimes twice and three times in one week. I am sure the committee's work is appreciated by the Government. In that connection, I thank the Clerk of the Committee and her colleagues who have worked hard behind the scenes.
I thank the Minister and his officials for attending. I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.
The Select Committee adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on 7 January 1997.