Thursday, 17 February 2005
Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism
One of my key objectives in 2005 is to see continued progress in the implementation of the actions recommended in the report of the tourism policy review group, New Horizons for Irish Tourism. The implementation group set up to drive forward the New Horizons agenda, in its first progress report of September last, identified ten priority actions which it considered vital to sustaining future growth. Of these, the restoration of Ireland's competitive edge remains the most important and the most challenging. Another priority identified in the report, and a particular priority for myself and the Government, is the provision of a national conference centre in Dublin. As set out in replies to separate questions on this issue, I expect to see continued progress on this project in 2005.
Bolstered by an unprecedented level of Exchequer investment in tourism services of over €123 million, representing an 8% increase on 2004, both Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, for their part, have developed a comprehensive set of plans and programmes aimed at assisting the industry to respond to the key challenges ahead and at ensuring its continued development in 2005.
One of Tourism Ireland's main priorities for 2005 will be to reinforce Ireland's marketing position in the British market. Without volume growth from Britain, the ambitious targets set in the New Horizons report will be difficult to achieve. Another key challenge for tourism, the growing disparity in the performance of the regions, will be addressed by both Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland with a number of innovative approaches to heighten the regional impact of Ireland's marketing activities, both internationally and at home.
New air services, including from the United States and into Shannon from Europe, will be promoted in order to optimise their inbound tourism potential. Strategic investment in capital projects in under-performing areas through the tourism product development scheme will continue in an effort to match the quality of the product available on the ground with more demanding consumer expectations. In order to further encourage the development of new projects under the scheme, I requested Fáilte Ireland last year to invite further investment proposals for financial assistance under the scheme's special interest pursuits category. With an indicative grant fund of €12 million to be allocated between the Border midlands and western, BMW, and southern and eastern regions, I look forward to seeing increased investment in pursuits such as equestrian, cycling, walking, gardens, specialist outdoor activities, water-based tourism and health tourism.
At enterprise level, a range of new initiatives has been developed to address competitiveness including a new on-line facility to help individual enterprises benchmark their financial performance against similar enterprises and to highlight areas for improvement.