Thursday, 20 January 2022
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
84. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps she is taking to ensure a rapid regrowth in international tourism to Ireland in 2022; the extra supports she intends giving to the sector due to the spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19 to ensure this vital sector survives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1360/22]
As the Deputy is aware, the tourism sector has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so I was therefore pleased to secure a record level of funding for tourism in Budget 2022: €288.5 million in total, an increase of €67.5 million over the 2021 allocation. The allocation includes €50 million for business continuity supports and a €35 million increase to the Tourism Marketing Fund to support the delivery of a marketing strategy to help restore inbound tourism to Ireland.
As part of its marketing strategy, Tourism Ireland has established a recovery framework which will be underpinned by an extensive programme of promotional activity throughout 2022. Tourism Ireland will continue to work with airlines and ferry companies through a programme of jointly funded marketing initiatives to support the restoration of air and sea access routes which are so vital for tourism’s return to growth.
Fáilte Ireland recently announced indicative details of how the €50 million funding provided in Budget 2022 for the Tourism Business Continuity Programme will be allocated to assist strategic tourism businesses to recover in 2022. Fáilte Ireland has designed the programme to support those still experiencing the most difficulty as a result of the pandemic. The phasing of the programme has been set out to make sure that support is provided quickly to the businesses that need it most urgently and taking into account other Government funding that has already been received.
The Government recently agreed a number of changes to the major economy-wide support schemes available to businesses affected by the latest public health restrictions. Changes were made to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) and the tax debt warehousing scheme to expand the supports available to businesses affected.
It is important that future tourism growth must be sustainable as well as being consistent with our sectoral climate change targets and commitments. In that regard, I know that Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland are also working towards the longer term goal of ensuring that we are successfully marketed as a sustainable tourism destination. As we rebuild our tourism sector we will seek to realise Ireland’s ambition to be amongst the world leaders in sustainable tourism practices and to set out a path for a green transition of the tourism industry and our destinations to become leading sustainable tourism destinations.
85. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if her Department is considering hosting niche events in Ireland in 2022 and the years that follow to entice more persons to visit Ireland. [2435/22]
Largescale sporting and cultural events play an important role in attracting tourism and other activity to Ireland and, as we work to rebuild the tourism sector, there is clear value in attracting other smaller-scale events to Ireland. Such events can occur in a range of sectors such as business conferencing, culture and sport.
Business tourism, including conference tourism, has been an area of growth in recent years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, have operational responsibility for the development and promotion of this sector. Fáilte Ireland is responsible for developing business tourism strategy and, internationally, it works with Tourism Ireland under the "Meet in Ireland" brand to support the positioning of Ireland as a world-class conference destination. The "Meet in Ireland" team works collaboratively with key stakeholders and aims to secure high profile conferences for Ireland.
The holding of international sports events can provide a positive showcase for Ireland and help attract additional international visitors. In addition, the media coverage of sports events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination and can contribute to developing a positive international profile. I am very supportive of the on-going efforts of the tourism agencies and the national governing bodies (NGBs) of sport to attract international events. Tourism funding and other supports are available through Fáilte Ireland to assist with the bid stage of strategically important events. As regards sports funding, as part of the normal annual funding process NGBs can apply to Sport Ireland for funding to assist in meeting the costs involved in hosting major competitions and events.
Looking at 2022 and beyond, I understand that the pipeline of events is looking very positive in terms of events confirmed, events currently being bid for and other events in business development. With specific regard to those events due to be hosted in Ireland in 2022 and for which Fáilte Ireland funding has been confirmed, I understand that 18 such events, each due to attract over 1,000 international delegates, are to take place this year. These include the World Library and Information Conference in Dublin which is due to attract an estimated 3,000 international delegates; an Airline Economics association conference in May 2022 with an estimated 3,500 international delegates; the 11th World Potato Congress from 30 May to 2 June 2022 at the RDS, with potentially up to 1,900 international delegates; and the 2022 World Lacrosse Men's under-21 World Championship due to take place at the University of Limerick from 10-20 August 2022.
My Department, in conjunction with the NGBs, Sport Ireland and other key stakeholders, also supports the hosting of major international sporting events in Ireland, recognising the contribution of such events not just to sport but also to trade, tourism, business, community pride, and community engagement.
86. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if further consideration will be given to the development of monastic trails as part of the tourism infrastructure both within this State and on a cross-Border basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2639/22]
148. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she has had recent discussions with her counterpart in the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to the further development of tourism infrastructure on a cross-Border basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2640/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 148 together.
At the outset, I should clarify that, while my Department provides funding to Fáilte Ireland to invest in tourism attractions and experiences nationwide, the development and promotion of tourism product experiences are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland.
I am aware, however, that Fáilte Ireland’s strategy is to have a portfolio of walking and cycling trails ranging from multi-day long distance trails to shorter looped walks that can be enjoyed by visitors to a destination.
Where interpretation is incorporated into trail development, visitors will be introduced to a range of things to do and see either along or adjacent to the trail. Sites of historical interest will also be incorporated on trail head map boards. It is not Fáilte Ireland’s intention, however, to specifically develop monastic trails as standalone tourism products.
With specific regard to cross-border initiatives, as the Deputy is aware, the designation of Tourism as an area for cooperation on an all-island and cross-border basis under the framework of the Good Friday Agreement provides the structures to develop North/South tourism cooperation, primarily through the work of the North South Ministerial Council. Unfortunately, it was not possible for the Council to meet to discuss tourism issues during 2021, but I look forward to resuming these discussions through the NSMC in the near future. At our most recent meeting on 25 November 2020, we agreed to review the work programme of the NSMC Tourism sector to ensure that we are taking full advantage of the opportunities that cooperation in the sector offers.
My officials are continuing to liaise on tourism matters with their counterparts in the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland - through monthly meetings and also quarterly operational meetings with both the Department for the Economy and Tourism Ireland.
Later this afternoon, I will be taking part in the latest in a series of Shared Island Dialogue events hosted by the Department of An Taoiseach. This afternoon's dialogue will focus on all-island tourism - looking back on the last 20 years of north-south tourism co-operation before then considering the challenges and opportunities of the next 20 years. I am very excited by the speakers and panels that will be taking part in the Tourism Dialogue, and am very encouraged by the range and number of delegates and observers who will be attending.
My Department and its tourism agencies will continue to foster north-south co-operation to enhance an all-island tourism offering and grow international visitor numbers.