Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Clare, Rita McInerney, has said there must be a fairer distribution of tourism across the country. Ms. McInerney was commenting as latest Tourism Ireland figures show that overseas visitors to Ireland are up 3.7% in the first half of the year but that the numbers reaching the West of Ireland are declining.

She explained, “The tourism industry in Clare supports around 12,000 jobs and generates an economic output of €288 million every year. As a business owner myself I have found that numbers are significantly down on last year. While the weather has undoubtedly played a role in this decrease it’s the uncertainty of Brexit that is having the greatest impact.

“We know from overall figures that the number of British people travelling abroad has gone flat and with the October 31st deadline fast approaching this trend will continue. The West of Ireland is going to bare the brunt of declining numbers.

“West Clare tourism needs to be protected whatever the outcome of Brexit. The Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland has acknowledged there is an imbalance in the number of tourists reaching the West of Ireland, but I think they need to be more proactive than that. It’s fine to acknowledge the problem but action is needed to fix it.

“80% of all visitors access the country through Dublin airport alone. Shannon Airport is at a significant disadvantage given that it does not receive the support that other airports with less than 3 million passengers per year do.

“The Airport is the gateway to the West but has huge costs that other airports don’t have in terms of operating 24/7 as an emergency airport. In light of declining numbers to the West and the threat posed by Brexit, the Minister should be seeking Government support for funding Shannon’s capital projects. Properly resourcing the airport is a start to enhancing our tourism offering”, she concluded.