Tuesday, 30 May 2006
Question 66: To ask the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources with regard to the €1,000 which has been allocated to tourism angling in the Revised Estimates for 2006, the reason such a small amount has been allocated considering that an indicative budget of over €30 million of Exchequer funding was identified for the tourism and recreational angling measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006; as state aids clearance for the launch of this measure was received from the European Commission in March 2002, the reason no funding been allocated to the scheme since 2003; the location the €30 million, which was due to be spent under TRAM, has been re-directed to; his views on the economic depression that the downturn in the tourism angling industry is having on many parts of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20961/06]
Originally, indicative funding of €30.476 million was allocated to the tourism and recreational angling measure, TRAM, over the period of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. However, as the Deputy is aware, the launch of the measure was delayed until 2002 pending clearance from the European Commission on the issue of state aids. Unfortunately, economic conditions changed and a reduced financial allocation of €1.775 million was agreed by the Department of Finance for 2002-03. This reflected the Department of Finance and Estimate review committee adjustment of public expenditure in light of the changed economic climate and global national budgetary priorities.
The mid-term review of the NDP by the ESRI concluded that the external environment with regard to the tourism sector had deteriorated to the extent that the likely return to further investment in the sector was unlikely to have high returns. As a result, funding for TRAM was diverted to higher priority tourism projects.
The report of the tourism policy review group to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in September 2003 observes a decline in activity holidays that is not confined to angling but includes cycling and hill walking. Fáilte Ireland is carrying out research among tour operators involved in promoting special activity holidays and special activity holidaymakers. Problems identified include rising costs and access to activities. Fáilte Ireland has also identified angling among main areas of activity for which detailed marketing plans have been agreed, targeting the markets offering the best short-term return.
The Marine Institute is separately drafting a strategy for the development of marine tourism, including angling tourism, into the future, which will be agreed with Fáilte Ireland in the context of the new national development plan.
The Deputy is aware of the Government's policy for the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector. Discussions are ongoing between the Department and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism with a view to specifying the role of the inland fisheries sector in support of the areas of angling tourism and leisure development. I am confident this particular element of the reform decided by Government is necessary to ensure our tourism and recreational angling sector thrives and reaches its full potential. This reform will allow for the development of a more coherent policy and strategy for tourism and recreational angling which will retain all that is best in the sector while at the same time making the role of the State in delivering on its objectives in this area more focused and effective.
Will the Minister of State explain the higher priority tourism issues given that a reduced financial allocation of €1 million was agreed at the Estimates meeting last week? He indicated clearly that was in line with the Farrell Grant Sparks report on inland fisheries. In 1999, 54,000 anglers came to Ireland while the number has now reduced to 20,000. The State can allocate only €1 million to tourism angling for 2006-07 yet €30 million which was ring-fenced for the BMW region was diverted to higher priority tourism projects. What could be more important than tourism angling?
I was in Roscommon recently where I launched a few good tourism projects. I was surprised the Deputy did not turn up although his colleague, the Senator, turned up and got into all the photographs.
Obviously the priority was for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, and the money went into that area. I am sure that a substantial amount of the money allocated by the Minister went to the west. There is not much point in looking back at this stage. I remind the Deputy that €38 million has been allocated this year to the central and regional fisheries boards which are involved in a certain amount of tourism promotion. I intend to have discussions with the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, in the next few weeks as we prepare the national development plan 2007-13. Tourism angling cannot be treated in isolation of all the other tourist products but should be treated on a regional basis. The money was taken back three or four years ago for a genuine reason. I certainly hope we can find a mechanism to develop tourism angling into the future. I agree with Deputy Perry that it is an important sector of the tourism industry.
In recent weeks I attended various tourism angling projects throughout the country, a few of which were in my own county, which were developed by local hoteliers and business people, in conjunction with anglers from England, Wales and other parts of Europe, without State aid. There is a need for State aid but there is also a need for private investment in this area and I think that will be forthcoming.
With respect, the Minister of State said €38 million was allocated but I note from the Estimate that €28 million was allocated to marine and natural resources for inland fisheries. I appreciate the Minister of State is new to the portfolio although he held the portfolio previously but was the money diverted to other Fáilte Ireland activities and a notional payment of €1 million allocated for 2006-07? In light of the Farrell Grant Sparks report on inland fisheries CEOs and staff do not know where they are going. Will the Minister of State agree that when it comes to tourism angling we are dead in the water on this issue?
I accept I said €38 million was allocated, but I should have said €28 million was allocated. I do not accept that tourism angling is dead in the water.
It is being developed around the country. We are preparing the national development plan 2007-13. It is intended to have discussions with the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donoghue, because of the need for an inter-linking between the two Departments if tourism is to be developed into the future. Tourism angling cannot be developed in isolation of other tourist products. I hope to develop a proper tourism angling——
The Minister of State talks the talk but when it comes to walking the walk he has diverted the money. Will he agree that to develop tourism angling, money is needed? To put €1 million into the Estimate for 2006-07 is an insult to the whole industry.
If one adds up the amount of money that has been spent — Deputy Naughten mentioned it earlier — by the regional fisheries boards on the promotion of tourism angling one will find it is far greater than €1 million.