Thursday, 16 February 2012
Question 7: To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the efforts he has made with the relevant agencies to maximise the tourism potential for Ireland of the London Olympics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8596/12]
The tourism agencies are represented on the London 2012 co-ordinating group which I chair and which is looking at opportunities for Ireland from the proximity of this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. Tourism Ireland has been rolling out a busy programme of promotional activity to target a wide range of potential visitors around the world in the run-up to and during the 2012 games. The programme includes working with a number of the official agencies and official sponsors of the games to bring incentive and corporate meetings to Ireland during the games. The 2012 games have recently featured on the Tourism Ireland media room website in order to attract accredited and non-accredited media to Ireland before, during and after the London games.
In order to secure additional business for Ireland, both as a result of displacement and additional long-haul opportunities, Tourism Ireland is working closely with tour operators in overseas tourism markets. The visa waiver scheme presents additional opportunities which are being explored in emerging markets. The organisation is also working with official games tour operators in a number of markets to assist them in offering package extensions to Ireland.
Tourism Ireland in London is working on an extensive consumer marketing campaign to target displaced Londoners and those wanting to escape the games. The organisation is also targeting opportunities to capture displaced conferences. There is a specific opportunity around golf as this will be introduced as an Olympic sport in 2016 and Ireland is currently the home of major champions. A campaign around this theme is currently being developed.
I am glad to hear the Minister of State is proactively dealing with this matter with Tourism Ireland. It is very important because there is huge potential. Ireland is only a plane ride from London. We should be in a position to offer facilities, such as hotels, hostels and other accommodation.
The Minister of State mentioned the aquatic centre might be available for certain activities, such as training purposes, in the lead up to and during the Olympics. He mentioned the Olympic torch would be carried to Ireland and London, and we would have a ceremony to celebrate that. I do not know whether that has advanced further. It would be great to see people lining the streets and greeting the torch bearers. It will be a magnificent event.
The Olympic torch is a matter for the Olympic Council of Ireland. There have been some announcements about what is happening in Dublin. Enterprise Ireland has informed me there are €200 million to €500 million worth of projects from Irish companies, such as building the stadium in London. Sometimes we forget about that. The media looks at the negativity about what is happening and who is coming to the country. Tourism Ireland is doing an excellent job, it is working very hard and the visa situation will help us. We are trying to get both the accredited and non-accredited media to come here and we are trying to get people coming to Britain to travel on to Ireland. We have a wonderful opportunity as well with so many people displaced from London and others who would usually go to London who might instead come to Ireland. We are working on a number of festivals and cultural events that will be announced in the next few weeks to encourage as many people as possible to come to Ireland.
The Deputy is right about the National Aquatic Centre. We have already had the British and Hungarian water-polo teams, the USA synchronised swimming team and the British Paralympic swimming team visiting. Where the facilities exist, they have been used. The previous Government gave people the impression we have wonderful facilities. The facilities we have are being used. We do not have other facilities to bring teams in but where we have them, they are being used.
I congratulate the Minister of State on his work in this area and emphasise the importance of focusing on golf, given that it is going to be an Olympic sport in 2016. We can gain a huge amount from that. The displacement of Londoners and the needs of those attending conferences at the time offer us an opportunity too, given the new convention centre and what we can offer those who would normally have gone to London but might now come to Dublin instead.
Deputy Murphy is right; golf is very important. That is why Tourism Ireland will promote Ireland as a golfing capital. We should build on the records of the world champions we have produced. For a small country, the number of internationally renowned golfers we have is a credit to the country. There is no doubt that with golf being included in the 2016 Olympics, it will be a very important sport for Ireland. We have the courses available at reasonable prices. If people want to go to top or middle ranking courses, they are available here. We must get out now and sell those courses and make sure we can get people into the country to see these facilities.