Wednesday, 31 May 2017
I welcome the Minister. I am aware of his passion in terms of tourism and compliment him on his interview yesterday. I holiday in Achill every year so I was very moved to hear his interview. He described it very well in terms of looking out at the beautiful scenery, and I compliment him on that.
Tourism is something that is vibrant and exciting, certainly in terms of Ireland and especially the hospitality sector. It is the biggest employer in Ireland and more jobs have been created in recent years. There is 11% total employment in the tourism industry.
I am the education spokesperson for Fine Gael and an area I have been keeping an eye on is the different courses being offered in tourism in training centres. I compliment the education and training boards, which are tailoring courses to suit the needs of the employer. That is most important. The Minister for Education and Skills is increasing funding towards apprenticeships and skills, but for us to grow the sector it is important that that would happen alongside the promotion of the tourism industry.
Not only have we 11% employment in tourism, it is also one of the biggest industries in the world. Since 2011, 13,000 jobs have been created in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Two initiatives have contributed to that, namely, the travel tax and the 9% VAT rate, which the Minister alluded to in his contribution. It is important that they are retained in terms of growing our sector.
Many of my colleagues spoke about regional balance. It is an issue about which I have spoken to the Minister previously and of which he is very aware. For a long time Tourism Ireland promoted the Dublin region, but there is a greater balance now. The Minister referred to the fact that Germans make up the largest number of visitors from Europe. Fáilte Ireland launched a six-week campaign to promote Ireland in Germany. I compliment it on that, which is very welcome, but could we look at attracting visitors from other countries across Europe in terms of areas they may be interested in?The figures show that most German tourists will go on three or four holidays a year with at least one or two of those holidays being outside their own country. It is important that we target the German tourist. It is estimated that German visitors spent up to €600 million in Ireland last year. Fáilte Ireland also gives business support, marketing and publicity, along with destination and sector development to businesses. This is most important.
The Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East have been spoken of here, and I have asked the Minister of State to include Limerick city in the Wild Atlantic Way, which he since has. It is most important that he has taken this on board. Using Limerick, my home town, as an example, we are older than the city of London, the amount of sports tourism in Limerick is up and it is very hard to get a hotel bed in Limerick now in many places. This must be transferred down to the smaller towns and villages for regional dispersion. It means the airports must promote themselves to show they are tourism destinations because everything does not always start and finish in Dublin.
Ireland is 26th overall in the world rankings out of 133 countries in holding conventions and conferences. This is important because we have so much to offer in Ireland. Not only do we have the whole business side of it, we also have our history, our unique tourism attractions and so on.