Wednesday, 11 November 2015
10. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he and his Department have identified the various potential growth areas in the tourism sector, with particular reference to the need to facilitate and encourage further expansion, growth and employment in the future and thereby capitalise on the economy's recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39194/15]
I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, to comment on the extent to which he and his Department have identified potential growth areas for tourism, in order to capitalise to the maximum extent on the employment potential in this sector, and to set out how he proposes to proceed in this regard.
I thank Deputy Durkan for raising this question. Tourism continues to contribute significantly to Ireland's economic recovery. CSO figures for the first nine months of 2015 show that there were over 6.64 million overseas visits to Ireland, which represents an increase of 12.5% on the same nine-month period of 2014. This growth in overseas visits has been accompanied by strong growth in overseas tourism revenue from all the main markets. The most recent CSO quarterly tourism and travel publication shows that spending in Ireland by overseas visitors, excluding air fares or ferry charges, for the first half of 2015 increased by 16.2% compared to the same six-month period in 2014. There was 8.4% growth in revenue from Great Britain, 33.7% growth in revenue from North America and 14.9% growth in revenue from mainland Europe. Other long-haul markets recorded 2.6% growth in revenue.
The Government's tourism policy statement, People, Place and Policy - Growing Tourism to 2025, was launched in March of this year. It acknowledges that generating increased levels of overseas revenue is a key part of the future of Irish tourism. The main targets contained in the tourism policy statement to be achieved by 2025 are to increase overseas tourism revenue to €5 billion net of inflation, compared to €3.5 billion in 2014; to increase overseas visits to Ireland to 10 million, compared to 7.6 million in 2014; and to have 250,000 people employed in the tourism sector, compared to 205,000 at present. Earlier this year, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and I appointed a tourism leadership group to put in place a tourism action plan that will set out the actions required in the period to 2018 to achieve the overall objectives in People, Place and Policy - Growing Tourism to 2025 and to ensure the strong growth experienced in recent years continues. We intend to publish the tourism action plan in the first quarter of 2016.
I compliment the Minister, the Minister of State and everyone involved in the tourism sector on their remarkable performance over the course of the year, even though we did not have the hottest summer we ever had. It proves the point that every avenue should be utilised and assessed. Does the Minister of State feel there are other areas for expansion, such as the area of conference and business tourism? People who visit this country for one purpose might well come back for a different tourism purpose at a later stage. The Minister of State might indicate the extent to which he has had discussions with the tourism services sector with a view to identifying pressure points throughout that sector.
I thank the Deputy for his comments on tourism. There is no doubt that by the end of the year, 2015 could be not just the best year since the recession or the best year in the past ten years, but indeed the best year ever for tourism in this country. Those involved in every aspect of tourism in every corner of this country will say that this has been a brilliant year. All of the propositions, including the Dublin proposition, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East, have helped to bring people into this country. The Deputy asked what we are doing to try to target further growth in the tourism sector. We set up the tourism leadership group because we are looking at ways and means of increasing the tourism sector. It is brilliant that we have over 200,000 people employed in tourism. We want to increase that to 250,000. I see no reason we cannot do so. One of the good things about tourism is that it can be in every corner of the country. When multinational companies are coming to Ireland, they want to specify where they want to be located. Tourism can be in every corner of the country. Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and those involved in the trade are looking for business. We sometimes fail to give credit to the trade.
We do not give enough credit to the operators who are out there on trade missions all over the world. They are out there sourcing business at every opportunity. They go to travel fairs, as individuals and in groups, with the support of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.
The one area that we must look at is Dublin, because there is a lack of capacity in the city centre. We do not have that problem in rural Ireland but we certainly have it in Dublin. It is something that we must look at, target and deal with. We can see problems coming down the track with regard to Dublin, and if we want to see further growth, particularly in terms of conferences and events in Dublin city, then we must find ways to increase capacity.