Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ceisteanna (224, 225, 226, 227, 228)

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which he has had discussions with the tourism sector with a view to identifying particular difficulties likely to be faced in the context of economic recovery; the actions planned in response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23354/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is satisfied that tourism bookings in the current year to date are sufficient to generate adequate activity in the context of economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23355/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent of any discussions he has had and continues to have with the hotel and catering sectors with a view to addressing any issues needing attention with particular reference to viability throughout the sector and its ability to contribute to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23357/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which the total number of hotel accommodation units have been utilised throughout the country in the present year to date; if he intends to introduce any measures to address any issues arising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23359/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229, 230, 232 and 234 together.

I am in regular contact with stakeholders in the tourism sector and in recent weeks I have addressed the Irish Hotels Federation, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Last year's Jobs Initiative and the Government's Action Plan for Jobs 2013 recognise the vital contribution of tourism to employment, economic activity and foreign revenue earnings. The VAT reduction on a range of tourism services from 13.5% to 9% enhances the competitiveness of our tourism product. The Visa Waiver Scheme is encouraging visitors from emerging markets to add Ireland to a trip to the UK and the halving of employers' PRSI for those on modest wages will significantly reduce the cost of employing people.

During discussions with operators, many identified an urgent requirement for certainty regarding the extension of the lower VAT rate into 2013. Following discussions with the Minister for Finance, the lower rate of VAT will be maintained during 2013. This will allow businesses, tour operators and customers to plan for the 2013 season. In addition, "The Gathering 2013" will take place next year — a major tourism initiative with the target of bringing an extra 325,000 visitors here.

2011 saw a welcome recovery in overseas visitor numbers with year-on-year growth of 6%. According to preliminary results from the Fáilte Ireland Hotel Survey, for the first nine months of 2011, hotel room occupancy rates improved compared to 2009 and 2010, up to 61% from 58%. Furthermore, according to Hotels.com, Ireland continues to have the most competitively priced hotel beds in Western Europe.

While there was a marginal decrease in overseas visits in the first three months of this year, I understand that industry and trade partners are positive about prospects for the year, with reports of advance bookings and inquiries being up on this time last year. Industry representative groups are hopeful we can achieve our target of a 4.5% increase in visitor numbers for the year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he has had discussions with the tourism and sporting sectors with a view to availing of maximum opportunities arising from major sporting events here and in adjoining jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23356/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Programme for Government includes a commitment that event tourism will be prioritised in order to continue to bring major events to Ireland. The hosting of major sports events can provide a great showcase for Ireland, drive international visitor numbers and the media coverage of sports tourism events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination.

Fáilte Ireland continues to support the sports tourism sector and in 2012 the Volvo Ocean Race will return to Ireland with its finale in Galway, Dún Laoghaire will host the ISAF Youth World Sailing Championship, the Tall Ships and the Bavaria Motor Racing Exhibition event will be on in Dublin as well as the Navy-Notre Dame American Football game in the Aviva Stadium.

I am supportive of the efforts of the State Tourism Agencies and the National Governing Bodies of Sport to attract international events, subject, of course, to an assessment of the costs/benefits involved in any State financial support.

The tourism and sports agencies are represented on the London 2012 Coordinating Group which I am chairing and which is looking at opportunities for Ireland from the proximity of this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. As part of this, Tourism Ireland has been rolling out a busy programme of promotional activity to target a wide range of potential visitors in the run-up to and during the 2012 Games. On the sporting side, athletes from thirteen countries will train at the National Aquatic Centre and a number of other Olympic related events are also taking place in Ireland before the Games.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 229.