Deputy Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Tourism, has responded to the outlandish claim by Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee, that the special 9% VAT rate is the sole reason for the surge in Ireland’s tourism industry this year.

Deputy Dooley commented: “While the most appropriate reaction to Deputy McEntee’s comments might be to ignore them as simply more of the same PR spin by Fine Gael, they do reflect the dangerous lack of understanding of tourism trends and the role of tourism policy by this government.

“The upsurge in tourism in Ireland this year is based on the quality of tourism experience throughout the country that has been built up over a decade as well as, in the short term, the extremely attractive euro exchange rates.

“While the quality tourism experience offered in Ireland is unrivalled, we cannot rest on our laurels. The absence of a strategic policy vision on the part of the government for future tourism growth is potentially very damaging for the sector.

“Since The Gathering, the government has neglected tourism product development and domestic and overseas marketing. This is reflected in a 17.5% reduction in funding since 2012. While recent trends in tourism are encouraging, there is a risk that a proportion of the increases in visitors’ numbers are due to the euro devaluation against the dollar and sterling.

“The government does not seem to understand that the role of tourism policy is to develop strategic plans for the future, not to simply make PR announcements congratulating themselves.

“One of Fine Gael/Labour’s apparent signature achievements in tourism marketing – The Gathering – was actually thought-out and developed in 2009 under the Fianna Fáil government. Similarly the comprehensive inter-departmental policy strategy ‘A Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015’, which been used as a blueprint by this government, was published in Sept. 2010 by Fianna Fáil. Many of the recommendations contained in this strategy were implemented by the government.

“While the government talks about growing overseas visitors to 10 million per annum by 2025, we believe they should be more ambitious given the wider outlook for tourism in Europe.  With additional resources, we believe Tourism Ireland could be well placed to meet these targets by 2020.

“There government has been short-sighted in not spending on research and marketing budgets to tap into new markets. The Asia-Pacific region will be one of the fastest growing outbound tourism markets over the next 15 years, expanding by 6.5% a year. Visitors from this region are particularly attractive for Ireland: on average, they stay twice as long, spend more, and travel more within the country than visitors from our nearer markets.

“Tourism is a constantly evolving market and we need a government that understands the role of tourism policy. Rather than smugly trumpeting short term gains in tourism figures, the government needs to put in place a strategy for developing new products and capturing new markets.”

Editor’s Note:

· Breakdown of tourism funding allocation – 2012 versus 2015:
2012 – Total tourism allocation: €144m:
• Fáilte Ireland: €96m (tourism product development and domestic marketing).
• Tourism Ireland: €48m (overseas marketing)
2015 – Total tourism allocation: €119m (down 17.5% on 2012):
• Fáilte Ireland: €79m (tourism product development and domestic marketing)
• Tourism Ireland: €40m (overseas marketing)