Tourism Potential of this Country Must be Fully Harnessed
Posted October 9th, 2011 in Blog
During the years of the so-called Celtic Tiger, as a nation we were content on creating an economy dependant on house prices and on selling property to each other. The folly of that has now been truly and painfully exposed and the fall-out of such policy errors is still felt today.
Now, as we all set about trying to rebuild this country – bit by bit and step by step – we must look at the range of sectors and industries available to create a sustainable economy. In these discussions, debates and policy considerations, the importance of the tourism sector cannot be overstated.
Last week in the Dáil I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion on tourism and to listen to many colleagues for a variety of backgrounds and locations outline the many positive developments happening in tourism and come up with many suggestions to help promote tourism.
Nationally, there have been a number of good steps and initiatives to assist tourism in Ireland over the last few months. For example, the reduction of VAT by more than 4% for a number of businesses involved in tourism such as restaurants has shown the Government’s determination to do all it can to help tourism-related industry. Creating a new Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has also been a logical step. There is clearly a link between transport infrastructure, air travel, etc and tourism and, likewise, utilising sport for the benefit of branding Ireland abroad is a sensible and practical thing to do.
The Olympic Games in less than a year’s time also pose a huge opportunity for this country to attract tourists to our shores. I am pleased that the Government has seized this opportunity with both hands – agreement with the UK on short-term holiday visas being recognised between our two countries for the duration of the Games will enable people attending the Olympics to visit Ireland. In a really important and exciting development, it has now also been agreed that the Olympic torch will travel to our country – this provides another great opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful country on the international stage.
As a TD from the “Garden of Ireland”, County Wicklow, I very much welcome new strategies in Fáilte Ireland to promote other regions of the country. County Wicklow is now recognised as a tourism region alongside County Kildare. The development of these new strategies focusing on additional locations in Ireland is really important if we are to ensure that the tourism potential of Ireland is being fully utilised.
All of these developments are welcome, positive and helpful in ensuring that tourism numbers increase in this country, that businesses involved in tourism are supported and that we set about building a sustainable economy. But, of course, there is more to do and this is an area in which we can never get complacent.
In my contribution in the Dáil on tourism legislation, I called for Irish Embassies to be instructed to prioritise promoting Ireland abroad as a tourism destination. The Irish taxpayer spends a significant amount of public money on these embassies. It is essential that we put them to use for the benefit of the Irish economy. Secondly, I believe we need to look to the world of sport for “tourism ambassadors” for this country. When it comes to so many sports, Ireland has leading and internationally recognised stars. We need to utilise the appeal of these sports stars and the sporting success of this country to the international tourism market. These are just two simple suggestions that I believe are worth considering and that could play a part in helping increase the number of visitors we welcome to this country.
The role of communities in local tourism is also an issue that needs to be examined in the context of reforming local government. We must empower every community and every county to play its part and give them the necessary tools and resources to do so.
This is a great country with a people renowned for their “cead mile fáilte”. It is time to renew our efforts to showcase Ireland to the world and everyone has an important role to play in this challenge.