Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
265. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has assessed the impact of the tourism crisis on town centres and the problems they will face in the short and medium-term. [30806/21]
The pandemic has had a particularly disruptive impact on city and town centres. It has also triggered discussions around re-imagining our cities and towns as better places to live, work and visit and bodies across Government and local government have been responding to this promptly and thoroughly. It is clear that appropriate artistic, cultural, public realm animation and tourism/hospitality interventions have a key role to play in reinvigorating city and town centres and attracting people back into urban areas. Officials of my Department have participated in collaborative, cross-organisational consideration of the challenges faced and steps being taken in relation to cities and urban areas in the period ahead arising from the COVID pandemic.
With specific regard to tourism capital supports, Fáilte Ireland has launched two schemes in particular aimed at supporting and enhancing the tourism experience in cities and towns. One is the Urban Animation Capital Investment Scheme - a pilot Capital Grants Scheme for Local Authorities aimed at supporting sustainable tourism development through public realm and urban animation projects that have the potential to transform and re-imagine urban centres for visitors and communities. The other is the Outdoor Dining Enhancement Scheme, which comprises two parts being delivered in partnership between Fáilte Ireland and Local Authorities across the country. The Scheme provides capital funding to individual tourism and hospitality businesses to help them develop or increase their own outdoor seating capacity and is being administered and evaluated directly by each Local Authority. Under the other part of the Scheme, funding is allocated directly to local authorities to enable them to develop permanent outdoor public dining spaces in towns and urban centres, similar to?those that exist in various European cities.
On the Arts and Culture side, my Department is also making funding available to local authorities to improve public spaces for cultural and events activity under the Outdoor Public Space Scheme, which I launched on 11 February 2021. The scheme provides up to €250,000 for each of the 31 local authorities to adapt, equip or otherwise improve public spaces for cultural and events activities, taking account of public health guidelines and the needs of local arts and entertainment communities. The intention is to support flexible, innovative proposals that facilitate year-round use of public spaces in a way that supports the recovery of the creative, cultural, entertainment and events sectors and is future-proofed from a health and safety perspective. Projects should aim to deliver speedy results or actions with added benefits for tourism and the hospitality sector and should also demonstrate how they will support the Night-Time Economy. I have also made €5 million in funding available to local authorities for live performances in summer 2021 to animate town centres, should public health considerations permit.
My Department also has a number of advisory groups in place to inform development of policy and initiatives, including the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce, Night-time Economy Taskforce and Tourism Recovery Taskforce.
As we collectively pave the way for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic on life, society and the economy, there is now cause for optimism as the roll-out of vaccinations gathers pace. My Department will play its part in bringing life and vibrancy back to city and town centres.