Wednesday, 31 May 2017
I welcome the Minister of State. In his remarks, he talked about our capacity to sustain growth and that it will depend, among other things, on Ireland maintaining its competitiveness, on effective marketing, and on the continued development of iconic holiday experiences. On marketing, I would like to focus on, and ask the Minister of State, whether we are fully marketing an accessible product. I refer to people with disabilities, reduced mobility or different capacities - these people can be named in different ways. On both shoulders of this island, in North America and in western Europe, we have developed economies where there are many people with good incomes - retired people - looking for a good experience. They are more and more likely to be people with restricted mobility or conditions of one kind or another. Our country gives huge diversity and huge opportunities, but we must be a product that is fully accessible.We still have a way to go there although it has improved. There is what I describe as a hard and a soft element to having an accessible product. The hard element relates to our transport infrastructure being accessible - and we have a way to go there - along with our buildings and our street scapes and also the whole area of communication for people who are blind or deaf or whatever. The soft infrastructure I am happier about. To me that relates to the people who work in the tourism industry in Ireland and the people of Ireland. I see good standards and people wanting to be helpful everyday. That is a great asset and it is important not to take it for granted.
We also have our own folk in Ireland. People are living longer now. People with disabilities and families with a family member with a disability want to be able to go and experience Ireland in an easy way. In the past there were obvious anchor places in Ireland, like anchor tenants, counties obviously branded with tourism. It is lovely to see many more places developing in Ireland now, getting their own mojo in terms of tourism and developing greater pride in the product, in the raw material that they have and are developing. The midlands were already mentioned in this respect. This is the opportunity and the challenge that I want to put to the Minister of State. The populations to the east and west of us amount to half a billion people from developed economies, many of whom will want to come to a place like Ireland. We need to attract them.
We have heard of the beautiful glens of Antrim and Kerry and the east and the west. Farewell to Tipperary said the Galtee mountain boy a long time ago. I want to welcome everyone to Tipperary and particularly to my beautiful Glen of Aherlow.