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Thursday, 7 Nov 2013

Written Answers Nos 229 - 239

Tourism Policy

Ceisteanna (229)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

229. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for the development of Spike Island and Cork Harbour as a tourist attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47459/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

While my Department provides capital funding for investment in tourism product development through Fáilte Ireland, it is not directly involved in the development and promotion of tourist attractions. However, I am informed that the board of Fáilte Ireland recently approved a grant of €2,500,000 to Cork County Council for the development of the Fortress Spike Island experience. The Fortress Spike Island project is to be developed around three principal themes – military heritage, penal heritage, and stories of enforced transportation. These themes will allow visitors to get a real sense of the place of Spike Island in Irish history and indeed the wider history of the British Empire and the world. These are also areas in which there is strong interest, both in Ireland and overseas, especially Great Britain. It also resonates with the "decade of centenaries" which we have now entered on the island of Ireland. I am informed that the Council presented a detailed market assessment which indicates that the proposed development on Spike Island will have a broad appeal across many international tourism market segments.

I also understand that Cork County Council placed its application for funding in the context of the Interpretive Framework for Cork City and Harbour, which was commissioned by Fáilte Ireland to guide the tourism development of the area. This will place Spike Island as part of the wider effort to maximise the tourism potential of Cork and its harbour in coming years, which the tourism agencies will continue to support directly and indirectly. I look forward to the completion of the Fortress Spike Island experience which will play a key part in the development of tourism in the Cork city and harbour area in the coming years.

Sports Capital Programme Administration

Ceisteanna (230, 258)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

230. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to invite applications for the next round of the sports capital programme; if there will be changes to the terms and conditions of the programme and the application process from the last round; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47461/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

258. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to be in a position to announce or receive applications for major or minor capital sporting grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47605/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 258 together. Departmental officials are currently working on the details of the new Programme, including any changes to the terms and conditions, and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement before the end of the year. My Department has developed a new portal on the Department's website which must be used by organisations to register, to apply for funding (when the Programme is open for applications) and to manage the drawdown of any new grants allocated after 2013. Any interested organisation should register on www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie.

Tourism Capital Investment Programme

Ceisteanna (231)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

231. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide further details on the additional funds for tourism capital provided in budget 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47462/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I was pleased to welcome the announcement in Budget 2014 of an additional €8 million in capital investment for the Wild Atlantic Way. The Wild Atlantic Way is set to be Ireland's first long-distance touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork. It is planned to develop it into an attraction of international scale, on a par with the Garden Route in South Africa or the Great Ocean Road in Australia, that will achieve greater visibility for the west coast of Ireland in overseas tourist markets. It will be a central feature of our overseas promotion efforts through Tourism Ireland in 2014, as we bring Ireland's magnificent scenery to the world, and I understand the overseas tourist trade has already given the product a strong endorsement.

I am informed that this funding will ensure the completion of route signage, provide for the development and enhancement of discovery points on the route as well as other infrastructural improvements. While my Department provides the capital funding for investment in tourism product such as the Wild Atlantic Way, it is not directly involved in developing or managing such product. The development of the Wild Atlantic Way is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland and I have referred the Deputy's question to the agency for further information in relation to its future development. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (232, 255)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

232. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the response of the airline industry to the abolition of the travel tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47463/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

255. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which it is expected that air travel routes and options will improve as a result of the abolition of travel tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47602/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 and 255 together.

The zero rate travel tax initiative is part of a process aimed at generating new airline routes into Ireland and will come into effect from April 2014. There has been a positive response to the initiative from airlines so far with Ryanair and Aer Lingus Regional both announcing details of new routes and increased services from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock. Ryanair has said it will grow its traffic at Irish airports by at least one million passengers per annum from April 2014 in response to this initiative. To date it has announced new routes and additional services at Shannon and Knock. These account for around 380,000 of the projected one million increase and are estimated to support in the region of 380 jobs.

Aer Lingus Regional has also announced a 10% increase its flights from Cork and Dublin. I would like to see further announcements of this kind from those and other airlines to the various Irish airports. More flights into Ireland at more locations will mean more visitors from overseas, and a bigger tourism dividend. The Irish airports and Tourism Ireland have attractive incentive and marketing programmes available which will help support new services and build on the success of The Gathering in the months ahead.

VAT Rate Reductions

Ceisteanna (233)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

233. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the continuation of the 9% VAT rate for the tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47464/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I strongly supported the continuation of the 9% VAT rate on the basis that the initiative had proved to be a major success, improving the competitiveness of the tourism industry, helping to create thousands of new jobs and contributing to the growth in overseas visitors and revenue. The continuation of the reduced rate is recognition by the Government of the importance of the tourism industry to the economy. Together with other Budget initiatives such as the reduction in the travel tax to zero, the raising of the VAT threshold for small businesses, the capital investment in the Wild Atlantic Way and continuing measures such as the diesel rebate for coach operators, it will build on the success of the Gathering and support the increased number of jobs already in place in the sector and assist in the creation of new jobs. I thank my colleague Minister for Finance for maintaining the rate and urge tourism businesses to fully utilise the reduced rate while it remains in place to maintain value for money and support growth and job creation.

Tourism Industry

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 228.

Ceisteanna (234)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

234. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an overview of tourism performance in the year to date and his expectations for 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47465/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Tourism performance for the year to date has been very positive. The most recent published figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, show that there were over 5.4 million overseas visits to Ireland in the nine month period between January and September 2013 representing a 6.4% increase on the corresponding period of 2012. All of our main target overseas markets show growth levels with the number of visits from Mainland Europe up 5.1% for the first nine months of 2013; the number of visits from Britain was up by 3.5%; the number of visits from North America was up by 14.6% for the first nine months while there was a 13.7% increase in the number of visits from other long-haul markets.

The overall target for the year of The Gathering was to increase the number of overseas visits by 325,000 and the data suggests we are well on target to achieve this. The general response to The Gathering at home and abroad has been overwhelmingly positive. Gatherings took place throughout the country and according to Failte Ireland, all tourism stakeholders including accommodation providers, carriers, restaurants and attractions are reporting positive results from the initiative.

In terms of next year, overall sentiment for travel to Ireland remains good. Tourism Ireland is currently finalising its Business Plan for next year and I will be launching their 2014 Marketing Plans  in early December. Furthermore, I am confident that measures such as the retention of the lower vat rate for tourism services, the reduction of the air travel tax to zero and the increased air access to Ireland will ensure that Irish tourism continues to grow in 2014.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 228.

Tourism Policy

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 11.

Ceisteanna (236)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

236. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the tourism policy review; the number of submissions received to date; the key issues emerging and when he expects to announce same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47467/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Tourism Policy Review was formally launched by Minister Ring and me on 11 September in Dublin Castle. Over 90 individuals from representative bodies, key stakeholders and academia attended the event which marked the publication of a consultation document, raising a series of questions regarding policy priorities for Irish tourism and inviting everybody with an interest in Irish tourism to respond. The responses to this consultation exercise will then feed into the final policy review and statement. The document has been circulated widely to tourism stakeholders and all Government Departments and is available to download on my Department’s website (www.dttas.ie). The closing date for submissions has been extended to 22 November 2013.

In terms of the responses to date, as of 05/11/2013, a total of 100 submissions have been received from a wide variety of interested parties. The consultation process is also being progressed by means of a series of workshops which are ongoing. This will allow consideration of the views raised and other relevant evidence and analysis before commencing drafting of the new policy in the New Year with a view to finalising it by Easter 2014.

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 11.

Ports Development

Ceisteanna (238)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

238. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects to bring forward legislation to give effect to the measures outlined in the ports policy document published earlier this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47469/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

One of the principal recommendations of National Ports Policy which will require legislative amendments is the proposed transfer of control of the Ports of Regional Significance to local authority control. In August my Department published a Regulatory Impact Analysis type consultation document regarding these proposed amendments to the Harbours Acts. The consultation period has now concluded and my officials are considering the submissions received and have commenced preliminary work on the Heads of the Bill, which will form the basis for a round of bilateral discussions between the Department and relevant companies and local authorities in November and December.

The new Bill will also seek to legislate for some of the new initiatives introduced in the area of corporate governance since the Government assumed office - such as the appearance of Chairmen designate before the Oireachtas committee, a stated requirement of certain board level skillsets and the establishment of a public expressions of interest system to apply for board membership. I hope to progress the drafting of the Bills as quickly as possible and will of course, subsequent to Government approval, present the Heads to the Oireachtas committee for their opinion in due course.

Public Bike Schemes

Ceisteanna (239)

Jerry Buttimer

Ceist:

239. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the extension of city bikes schemes to other cities outside of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47470/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Work is well advanced within the National Transport Authority on finalising proposals for the roll out of public bikes in regional cities (Limerick, Cork and Galway). Significant progress has been made in relation to the award of the contract for the supply, installation, operation and maintenance of the bike schemes. It is hoped that this contract can be awarded early in 2014 with construction to commence shortly thereafter. Funding to meet the capital investment costs of public bikes in other cities has been identified within the five-year capital allocation for Smarter Travel and Carbon Reduction Measures announced in 2012.

The delivery of the Regional Cities Bike Scheme was also dependant on a separate process to explore the potential for a sponsorship contract to defray some of the costs associated with the introduction of the Scheme. This process has been completed and I was delighted when it was announced recently that Coca Cola emerged as the successful sponsor for the Scheme. The vision behind the Scheme is to develop an environmentally friendly means of public transport that is healthy, relatively inexpensive and will ensure an improved quality of life in each of the city’s natural and built environment.

Public bike schemes have the potential to enhance the city centres and provide a significant boost to the development of a cycling culture. It has been four years since Dublin bikes launched in Dublin city. It has been a resounding success with over 5 million rentals since its launch and 35,000 long term subscribers. I hope to hear similar exciting results from the regional cities over the next few years.

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