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Tourism Promotion

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 11 November 2015

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Ceisteanna (1)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

1. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will give a commitment to engaging with the Web Summit with a view to retaining the event here for 2016 and for future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39534/15]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (12 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

In light of the decision of the promoters of the Web Summit to move the event from Ireland to Portugal, can the Minister indicate what efforts he and the Government have made since that announcement became public to try to retain that event in Dublin next year? What other contacts has either the Minister had or might other Ministers have had with the promoters of that event?

It is disappointing that the Web Summit has decided to move to Lisbon for the next three years, particularly as it has been such a great success in Dublin and grew so impressively over that time. I am open to engaging with the organisers of the Web Summit with a view to the summit staying in Dublin in the future and they have indicated this is something they wish to consider.  However, the organisers were clear about their intention to leave and that it was a commercial matter for the organisers to consider and upon which to decide.  I wish them the best of luck in the future and of course would be delighted were this event to return to Ireland in the future. In considering how that might happen, my Department will play any role it can to facilitate such a return. It should be noted, however, that Fáilte Ireland continues to work with the international conferencing sector to win events and many other events continue to choose Dublin and Ireland as their host destination. Fáilte Ireland has been directly involved in winning 188 international events to take place here over the next four years. This represents €151 million of confirmed business with more than 110,000 international business tourists. Additionally, Fáilte Ireland currently is competing for more than €150 million of other conferencing business for Dublin alone within the same period.

International sporting events also are targeted by Fáilte Ireland to bring larger numbers of visitors to Ireland. During 2015, some €10 million of sporting business was confirmed and the current pipeline is strong with an estimated value of up to €70 million against confirmed and potential events for Ireland to 2020. This includes the College Football Classic, Boston College versus Georgia Tech, in September, which will bring with it an estimated 15,000 US visitors. We can also look forward to hosting the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2017, as well as staging part of the UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championships.

I thank the Minister and while I do not mean for my comments to be taken personally, I am deeply disappointed by the approach taken by various Ministers in response to what can only be described as a tremendous loss to the State. This represents a €100 million loss to the economy next year with the loss of 40,000 people visiting the city, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and spending their money. The only response from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance along the way has been that another conference will be found to fill the slot. This fails to understand and recognise the importance of this event and what it does to the technology sector, to small and medium-sized enterprises trying to get a start and to attracting foreign investment to support such companies. Moreover, to state on behalf of the Government it now is "open to engaging" is somewhat akin to telling somebody one is open to the idea of closing the door after the horse has bolted. The first thing the Government must do is to engage proactively with the promoters but nowhere do I get any sense of urgency from the Government. As for explaining it away by stating it is a commercial matter, it is not a commercial matter. Mr. Cosgrave and others have been clear there are infrastructural and organisational issues which, were they addressed, could have retained the event here.

The Minister mentioned Fáilte Ireland but the Government's failure to retain this event has put a monkey on the back of that agency. While Fáilte Ireland is out doing good work in selling to people who do not know much about Ireland as a conference destination, our competitor countries now will be pointing out to those people what happened with one of Ireland's own events. It was one of the most successful and largest conferences in Europe and the world this year-----

I will come back to the Deputy.

-----which Ireland lost.

A really proactive approach from the Government is needed. I accept the transport, tourism and sport Department for which the Minister is responsible is not the key Ministry but I believe that were he to take a leap of faith, the Minister could have a meaningful impact on the long-term outcome with regard to bringing it back.

I would never take the Deputy's comments personally and he is making fair and important points. I agree with the Deputy the loss of the event to Dublin is a significant business loss and I always have acknowledged that. Alongside this, however, I will make two points to the Deputy, the first being that one might consider the degree of support the Government and State agencies have provided to this event in recent years. When the event first began in 2010, it had just over 400 attendees whereas last year, more than 22,000 people attended the event. When Government agencies and various Departments were actively involved in supporting this growth, this support was never acknowledged; nor should it be because the Government was supporting an Irish company here that was doing excellent work and employing people. However, I am confident that strong plans were available in respect of all the matters raised by the organisers of the Web Summit regarding transport and the availability of hotel rooms.

I simply respect the fact that the organisers made a commercial decision about the growth of the event and the ability of Dublin to support it in the future. We will be aiming to win that business back.

We will all have a different view about how we got to the position we are in but we need to park that. I do not get the sense from Government that there is a real structured approach to finding a solution. The Web Summit is just over. Yes, the organisers have made a decision but could this decision be changed? There is an offer and they seem to have begun the work with Lisbon but is it too late to convince them that Dublin is the right venue for next year? I do not get the sense from Government that anybody has even sought to ask Mr. Cosgrave or the promoters generally whether there is still an opportunity at the 11th hour to keep the event here. Like many other events, once it goes for one year, the chances are that it will be gone for quite a few.

A structured approach is in place in respect of winning and supporting these events. This is the very structure that has delivered the kind of success I outlined to the Deputy a moment ago. A total of 188 international events will take place in Dublin over the next four years. The National Convention Centre is exceptionally busy, as are other venues throughout the country, with the kind of structures for which the Deputy is calling and which are working in winning business to our country and supporting those events when they arrive here.

The Deputy asked me about next year. Given all the water that has flowed under this particular bridge, I would be surprised if there was to be any change in respect of the location of the event next year. All the relevant Ministers and I, along with our agencies, will work to see if there are other events of a similar nature that could be attracted to Dublin over the coming years. We will then work with the organisers of the Dublin Web Summit to see if there are other activities or events they are organising that could be supported in Dublin while putting a proposition to them to see if the larger event can be won back to our capital city.

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