Written answers

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Tourism Industry

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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241. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she and her Department continue to monitor the tourism sector with a view to ensuring that customers do not get overcharged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32775/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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The Recovery Oversight Group, which has provided valuable inputs to the Government on the measures required to assist the tourism sector, reports to me on a regular basis with updates on the implementation of the recommendations set out in the Tourism Recovery Plan 2020 – 2023 and on the recovery of the sector more generally.

My officials have engaged with stakeholders such as the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, the Irish Hotels Federation and the Car Rental Council of Ireland in order to further understand the underlying issues giving rise to current challenges facing the sector and to emphasise the importance of maintaining a strong value proposition at the core of tourism. They are also working with the tourism agencies to identify potential remedial actions to ensure that promotional activity is optimally aligned with supply across the year.

As we enter the peak summer months and the tourism industry recovers, there is inevitably additional pressure on hotel capacity and pricing.  The initial recovery phase has been unpredictable and the speed and pace of the return of tourism has brought issues for all tourism businesses,  many of which are repeated in other markets around the world. Hotel supply in Dublin in particular has been challenged and affected by a range of factors, some of them short-term. These include deferred business from the last two years and increased demand.

Businesses are facing significant cost pressures due to inflation and other economic factors but it is important that Ireland maintains its reputation as a value for money destination.

The Tánaiste and I co-chair the Tourism and Hospitality Forum; this grouping is due to meet next week and this will offer another opportunity to discuss and address these issues.

However, neither my Department nor Fáilte Ireland have control over prices set by service providers within the tourism industry.  Each operator decides on their level of charges having regard to their costs and the requirement to make an adequate return on their investment.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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242. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which hotel bed spaces continue to remain sufficiently available throughout Dublin city and greater areas with a view to ensuring that tourists and those seeking hotel accommodation are not pressured into paying exorbitant prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32776/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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The distorting effect of the pandemic makes it difficult to definitively assess the long-term supply and demand equation within tourist accommodation but there does seem to be a clear need for more short-term accommodation supply specifically in Dublin. The hotel occupancy rate in Dublin is now one of the highest in Europe, driven by a range of factors.  

There are just over 22,300 registered hotel rooms in Dublin. Another 3,500 are expected to come on stream over the next two years. It will be important that Dublin is a capital city that can cater for all types of visitors with quality and value choices to suit different budgets.  For the past number of years Fáilte Ireland has been working to encourage both the development of, and positive conditions for, the development of hotels in Dublin through sharing their evidence-based analysis and through their role as a prescribed body in the planning process.

Neither my Department nor Fáilte Ireland have control over prices set by service providers within the tourism industry. Each operator decides on their level of charges having regard to their costs and the requirement to make an adequate return on their investment.

We all want to see the return of a sustainable and vibrant tourism sector and I stress that it is important that businesses maintain a long term perspective on competitiveness and value for money. 

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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243. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she remains satisfied that adequate and sufficiently trained personnel remain available to the hotel industry to ensure that the sector is adequately catered for in terms of accommodation throughout summer and winter months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32777/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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Prior to Covid, the tourism sector had registered consistent increases in the numbers employed in Ireland’s regions and was an important driver of greater regional balance and dispersed economic activity.

Today, however, the sector faces a range of challenges, in common with the wider economy, such as sizable increases in the costs of key inputs and difficulty in recruiting and retaining key skills. These challenges are not unique to Ireland; indeed, they are shared by many countries around the world.

The wider tourism and hospitality sector is a shared concern for both my Department and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE). This shared mission is reflected in the Hospitality and Tourism Forum, which was established during the pandemic and is co-chaired by the Tánaiste and myself. The Forum is a valuable opportunity for both sectors to communicate their priorities and the Forum will meet again shortly. At official level, my Department engages regularly with our counterparts in DETE on issues such as work permits and other matters impacting tourism and hospitality.

My Department is also represented on the Tourism and Hospitality Careers Oversight Group, which brings together industry representatives, state agencies, Government Departments and the education sector. The Group has pivoted to focus on supporting the industry to address some of its immediate recruitment challenges in the months ahead. 

The Department and Fáilte Ireland are working with industry and across Government Departments to ensure a co-ordinated approach to addressing the labour and skills shortages.

My Department also continues to engage with the Department of Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science regarding the Tourism Recovery Taskforce’s Recommendations on enhancing sustainable employment.

As part of the drive to promote tourism as an attractive sector within which to work, Fáilte Ireland is developing a new “Excellent Employer” programme to help all participating businesses to improve their employer practices and build their reputation as excellent employers.  It has also launched a Transition Year Work Placement Programme and a major recruitment awareness campaign called “Works For Me”.

When we look at the wider economy and the particular set of challenges facing the tourism industry it is clear that a collective and concerted multi-stakeholder approach to tackling these challenges is required and that is the approach that my Department and I will continue to pursue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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244. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she and her Department have monitored the number of hotels that have closed down permanently or otherwise in the Dublin area over the past three years; if sufficient steps are being taken to ensure that hotel accommodation is not lost to the market by virtue of being replaced by other investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32778/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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With regard to the closure of hotels in Dublin over the past three years , no specific audit has been carried out; however, according to the Central Statistic Office's recent publication -Business signs of Life series Two: Business Survival 2020 to 2021- one in ten (10.4%) of enterprises trading prior to Covid-19 were at risk of closing at the end of 2021. Fáilte Ireland advises that there are more hotels on their register in 2022 than in 2021. 

There are currently just over 22,300 registered hotel rooms in Dublin with another 3,500 expected to come on stream over the next two years.  

It will be important that Dublin, as a capital city, can cater for all types of visitors with quality and value choices to suit different budgets.  

For the past number of years Fáilte Ireland has been trying to encourage both the development of, and positive conditions for the development of, hotels in Dublin through sharing their evidenced based analysis and through their role as a prescribed body in the planning process.

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