Securing the recovery; the potential of tourism to spread regional jobs to all towns and villages in Ireland: Address by Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to the Fine Gael National Conference, February 21st 2015

21st February, 2015

Good morning everyone.

The last few years have been incredibly difficult for the people of our country.


Debt, unemployment and emigration have touched families in every county in Ireland. That difficulty has been particularly felt in disadvantaged communities, like some in my own constituency on the northside of Dublin. It has also been felt in rural communities like those here in County Mayo.


I am glad to say that we are now in recovery mode, although it is certainly true that many people have yet to feel the benefits of economic recovery in their daily lives. That recovery did not happen by accident but through the sacrifices of you, the Irish people, and the pursuit of the right policies by Government.


The challenge now is to secure that recovery and build upon it. The number one priority of the Government in which I serve is to create jobs; and investment in tourism is a crucial part of our plan to create at least 40,000 new jobs throughout our economy this year.


When this Government took office we knew we had been charged, not just with driving economic recovery but also with driving economic reform. Crucial to that reform agenda was the need to ensure that we never again become reliant on too few industries or income streams to fund the social services we all rely on.


That is Fianna Fáil’s way and we know, to our cost, how badly that failed. That is why this Government takes tourism, and the huge benefits it can bring to communities in every part of our country, so seriously. Tourism is at the very heart of this Government’s economic plans and has been central to our job creation strategy since coming to Office.



By taking tourism seriously, we have seen visitor numbers to this country grow from just over six million in 2010 to a staggering 7.6 million[1] last year; an increase of over 25 per cent since we took Office and an increase of 9 per cent last year alone.


In fact, last year was the best year ever for visitors from North America, Germany, France and Spain.


That success happened because we took the policy decisions necessary to make it happen.


It was this Government that cut the travel tax, introduced by Fianna Fáil, to zero per cent. That has led directly to new flights into Ireland and increased capacity on existing routes. 1.7 million additional passengers flew through Irish airports last year as a result of this tax reduction.


It was this Government that cut the VAT rate on tourism products and services to 9 per cent.  That has led to hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourism service providers being able to take on extra staff, resulting in around 30,000 new jobs being created in the 9% VAT sectors of our tourism industry.


It is this Government that has supported Irish tourism through initiatives like the Gathering and the Wild Atlantic Way.


We were able to implement these policies because this is a strong Government: And it is only a strong Government, not a rag-bag of independents, Marxists and economic learner drivers that can make the policy decisions needed to ensure our country’s safety for the future.


From travelling throughout the country and meeting with people involved in the tourism sector, I am struck by the impact these policies are having. I am particularly struck by the renewed confidence in the tourism sector. At the end of 2010, only 28 per cent of tourism businesses were positive about the season and the year ahead. That number now stands at 75 per cent.



Ireland is a great country in which to live and a great place to visit. To generate as much tourism as we can we need to make the most of all our country has to offer. This is why the development of greenways throughout Ireland offers a real chance for us to attract foreign and domestic tourists to parts of our country that tourists have perhaps never even considered, thereby spreading the benefits of a booming tourism industry to everyone.


This is why late last year I set up the Grow Dublin Tourism Alliance to establish a unified brand for the capital, which our whole tourism sector can get behind.


This is why we are supporting the Wild Atlantic Way and a new concept to promote the south and east of our country.


That is the power of tourism to reach parts of the country at risk of being left behind as our economy recovers from the devastation unleashed upon it by Fianna Fáil.



Fine Gael is deeply ambitious for this country. For us this is not about completing a term in Office, it’s about laying the foundations for a better future. Having rescued the economy, we now have the potential to build a vibrant, fair and balanced economy and society, infused with an enthusiasm for new industries, in which tourism plays a central part.


We have a long-term economic plan to secure the recovery, end boom-and-bust cycles, cut taxes on working families and get this country working again.


As part of that plan, in the coming weeks I will be publishing  our new tourism strategy that will set out ambitious targets and a roadmap to help us meet those targets. It will outline our ambition, not just for increased visitor numbers but for increased spending by visitors and an increase in employment of those working in the sector up and down the country.


I am proud to tell you this morning that this Party and this Government will aim to increase visitor numbers to 10 million by 2025 – an increase of one third on the current total.


That will lead to an increase in tourism spending to €5billion and, most importantly of all, an extra 50,000 new jobs in the tourism sector; jobs that will be created in B&Bs, hotels and restaurants in every county in the country.


That is our ambition for the tourism sector and it is only stable Government, offered by Fine Gael and our partners in the Labour Party, that can deliver it. We have had huge success in recent years in the tourism area. Now would be exactly the wrong time to sit back and take that success for granted or to put that success at risk.


By working hard, we can create tourism jobs, boost visitor numbers and spread wealth around the country. That is exactly what this Government intends to do.


Thank you.