Thursday, 15 February 2007
John O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
It is understandable the chief executive of Tourism Ireland would make his concerns known on two very important issues. As Deputy Wall stated, one of these relates to competitiveness and value for money. The other matter relates to the warmth of the Irish welcome. Both factors are of pivotal importance in terms of advancing the cause of the tourism industry.
Ours is a free market economy. We have advised the industry on numerous occasions about the need to remain competitive and to offer value for money. To be fair, there has been a response. For example, the Restaurants Association Of Ireland introduced a value menu and, in general, several outlets offer reasonable bargains to potential visitors to their establishments. We have seen an improvement in the perception of foreign visitors where value for money issues and competitiveness are concerned. There is no question but satisfaction with all-round value for money has improved since 2004. However, I accept it remains below the levels recorded in the early years of the decade and it continues to be the most critically greeted aspect of the Irish holiday experience.
Overall, 14% of holidaymakers in 2006 were dissatisfied with the statement that Ireland offered good all-round value for money, but a much higher percentage, just over two in five people, or 41%, were satisfied with this aspect of their holiday. It appears the message is getting through. The comparatively negative view of good all-round value for money is reflected in how holidaymakers perceive the cost of living in Ireland. Almost half described it as higher than they had expected. The costs that caused most surprise related to eating out and alcohol, although there is also evidence of resistance to other costs such as food in shops and supermarkets, accommodation and car hire.
With regard to the Irish welcome, we announced a substantial fund this morning for human resources training under the new national development plan under the Fáilte Ireland tourism strategy. I anticipate this should result in far greater professionalism among new people in the industry.