Speech at the launch of Tourism Policy Statement ‘People Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025’

23rd March, 2015

Taoiseach, Ladies and Gentlemen


It gives me great pleasure to be here this afternoon at the launch of ‘People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025’.


I am reliably informed that the German geographer and travel writer,  Johann Georg Kohl, visited Kilkenny in 1842 and said of the Butler family who once resided here;


“They have a beautiful old castle, with a park, adjacent to the town: it stands in the same relative position to Kilkenny as Windsor Castle does to the town of that name.  Kilkenny Castle, amongst its other attractions, possesses a fine picture-gallery, which is arranged in a splendid hall of gigantic size.”


We are here today in this same splendid hall that so impressed Johann Georg Kohl and I would like to thank the Office of Public Works and the staff here at Kilkenny Castle for accommodating us.



Like the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to Ireland from all over the globe, Ireland’s tourism sector has itself travelled a long road.


It is now a critical component of our overall economy but recent years show how much it can be damaged by a combination of downturns in our key markets and the absence of a strong supportive policy framework at home.


The turmoil of the 2008-2010 period, which saw overseas visits to Ireland fall dramatically, necessitated urgent Government action.  The Taoiseach has described the measures we took to support Irish tourism, which were necessary to halt the slide.


The subsequent recovery from 2011 onwards shows that the measures we took were the right ones.  The key issue was to ensure that tourism continues to grow in a manner that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.


The Government recognised the need to establish a set of core policy principles that would guide support for tourism in the longer term.


I’d like at this point to acknowledge the role of my immediate predecessor as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD, who took the initial steps in establishing the review of tourism policy in 2013.  On my appointment as Minister, I was delighted to bring this work to the next stage and set out a policy that would bring together the strongest aspects of Irish tourism.


I also want to thank Minister of State, Michael Ring TD, who has been a fantastic ambassador for Ireland’s tourism sector and has worked extremely hard over the last few years to champion the industry and promote Ireland at home and abroad.


‘People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025’ represents a clear statement, of what we want to achieve for Irish tourism in the coming decade.  It sets out ambitious targets for growth in overseas visits and associated revenue, and increased tourism employment.



The Taoiseach has spoken about the three headline targets, to be achieved by 2025;


overseas tourism revenue of €5 billion per year;

250,000 people employed in tourism;

underpinned by ten million overseas visits to Ireland per year.


‘People, Place and Policy’ focuses on our two principal tourism strengths – namely, the welcoming qualities of Ireland’s people and the unique and spectacular place that visitors experience when they come here.


We have looked at Irish tourism through the lens of People and Place, and devised a Policy that builds on our innate strengths as a tourism destination, while preparing ourselves for the challenges that the future will bring.


Within this framework of ‘People, Place and Policy’, the focused objectives will assist in the efforts of my own Department, the tourism agencies, other Government departments and public agencies, the tourism industry, Local Authorities, and the wider community, to work more effectively together in the development of Irish tourism.



I would like at this point to bring you through a few important aspects of the new Tourism Policy Statement.


In the people strand of the ‘People, Place and Policy’ framework, we focus both on those who work in the tourism sector, and also on the means by which the quality of the visitor experience can be maximised through interaction with communities generally


The people who work in tourism are a particularly important asset to Ireland.  A chapter of the Policy Statement looks closely at the area of skills in the tourism sector, and my Department has worked closely with the Department of Education and Skills, Fáilte Ireland, and SOLAS on this.  All of the bodies concerned are committed to ensuring the training and skills development measures are in place to effectively meet the needs of visitors into the future.


The document also acknowledges the key role played by a wide range of festivals and events in encouraging tourism to Ireland, and in enhancing the experience of visitors during their stay.  The range of events includes national and regional festivals, visiting and native sporting fixtures, and business conferences.


These will continue to be a key asset in facilitating contact between overseas visitors and local communities, both urban and rural.  Fáilte Ireland has for some years provided financial assistance to tourism-focused events, specifically to support marketing efforts.


A new policy objective in this area is that support for events will be weighted towards those that offset the seasonal nature of tourism and a focus on events that can generate additional overseas bednights rather than those with simply a high media exposure.


The Government will also look closely at a repeat of the Gathering and the scope for other themed years, and this will be pursued further when drawing up the Tourism Action Plan to follow.  At the same time, we recognise that the many commemorations of critical events in our history over the coming years are not primarily focused on tourism but are rather occasions to mark, to remember and to look forward to the continuing story of our people.



Creating a desire to experience Ireland as a place, and thus inspiring people to visit, is at the core of our overseas tourism marketing.  The Tourism Policy explains how a brand architecture and consumer segmentation model has been developed by the tourism agencies and the tourism industry, to identify and focus resources on the most promising sub-sectors.  This evidence-based approach is now fully endorsed as a policy objective.


In ‘People, Place and Policy’ there is an expectation that the tourism industry in Dublin, given its scale and concentration, will contribute financially to overseas tourism marketing expenditure to promote the city in the future.


The Grow Dublin Tourism Alliance, which I launched late last year, is working on mechanisms that can ensure such contributions are effectively harnessed along with the public supports.


The Alliance is also developing a strong and compelling brand for Dublin as a destination and a gateway to the rest of Ireland.


The importance of maintaining and enhancing, the quality of place that visitors experience during their stay, through the protection of natural and cultural assets, is clearly set out.  Within the wider context of sustainable development we will seek to balance that with appropriate development to adapt to changing visitor needs.


There is a commitment to supporting capital investment in tourism for the purpose of improving the visitor experience, where such investment is necessary but not feasible on a purely commercial basis.  The key difference in the new Policy is that the supports will be weighted towards investment that is complementary to the brand propositions, such as the Wild Atlantic Way, or the new South and East Proposition.


I wish to state that new support for tourism capital investment will form part of the next Medium Term Exchequer Framework for Infrastructure and Capital Investment.

As such, the level of funding will be contingent on the overall exchequer position and the competing demands for funding.  However, the Government recognises and will prioritise investment in tourism where there is a clear benefit in terms of the quality of the visitor experience.


Combining People and Place:

Having outlined the People and Place aspects of the new Tourism Policy, I’d like to focus on the point in the document at which these converge.


The Policy devotes a chapter to what is perhaps our greatest potential tourism offering; namely where the aspects of People and Place converge at the level of the local community – as already mobilised for the Gathering 2013 and the Wild Atlantic Way.


It will provide a foundation for communities to develop quality tourism experiences that meet and, preferably, exceed the needs and expectations of visitors.  Local Authorities will have a key role in supporting communities in tourism, as they have done in many cases, but this is now recognised at policy level.


This complements the strong core role that this Government has set out generally for Local Authorities in enabling and supporting the economic development of their areas.  Further, tourism will be a significant element in many of the forthcoming Regional Action Plans for Jobs.


Local Authorities will continue to act as primary developers of a range of public tourism infrastructure, including outdoor tourism infrastructure and urban and rural heritage.



The final aspect of the ‘People, Place and Policy’ framework concerns the direct role of Government policies in supporting tourism.


The key issue here is that Government policies to support tourism fall within the scope of numerous Government Departments, and that a whole-of-Government approach must and will be taken. I think the presence of the Taoiseach here today demonstrates our intent in this regard.


‘People, Place and Policy’ emphasises the importance of maintaining and improving competitiveness in tourism.


There is a clear message that the maintenance of the special 9% VAT rate in the tourism sector is conditional on continued moderation in prices.  At the same time, the Policy notes the importance of value and innovation in tourism competitiveness, and the value of research in understanding visitor needs.


A tourism research forum, involving key public bodies and academic institutions, will be established to identify and prioritise tourism-focused research.


One area in which public policy has a very direct bearing on tourism activity concerns the regulation and classification of visitor accommodation.  Ireland’s visitor accommodation sector is of a very high quality, and the foundation for this quality is the regulatory and classification structure that has been developed over many decades.


The Policy will ensure the continued quality of the Irish tourism sector’s offering, particularly in the most formally regulated area of accommodation, while also allowing for innovation and the ability to adapt to changing visitor needs and emerging technologies and distribution channels.


The Policy Statement also reiterates the continuing importance of the kinds of policy measures that have been used before to support tourism and which have been effective.


These include fiscal policy, support for enterprise, access, and transport – all of which help to develop a competitive and sustainable tourism sector, and which are of benefit to enterprise generally.


The Taoiseach has spoken about the value of cross-border co-operation in tourism, which is most visibly reflected in Tourism Ireland, the North South body that markets the island of Ireland overseas.


The positive contribution that tourism has made towards cross-border co-operation is highlighted in ‘People Place and Policy’, and our goal is that tourism will continue to serve as a platform for understanding and respect between all the people on the island of Ireland.


The new Policy includes a commitment to continued tourism co-operation with Northern Ireland, as exemplified by the recent decision to jointly support a bid by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.  Clearly the IRFU faces strong competition with rival bids from strong rugby nations.


I have every confidence however that the IRFU, supported by the Government and the Northern Ireland executive, can land this great prize.


A Policy is only useful if it can be implemented effectively.  To this end, I plan to form a Tourism Leadership Group, which will oversee the creation of an initial three-year Tourism Action Plan for 2015-2018, which will set out the actions necessary to achieve the policy priorities in the Tourism Policy Statement.

Subsequent three year action plans will be put in place for the period up to 2025.

The many submissions received during the formulation of ‘People Place and Policy’ will again be examined during the Action Plan stage, but I welcome any further suggestions for specific actions that tourism stakeholders wish to make.

We have an email address for this purpose, which is tourismpolicy@dttas.ie – it is shown in the statement which you should all have received with your copy of the Policy Statement.



Taoiseach, ladies and gentlemen, the targets we have set are ambitious but I have no doubt that by working together we can achieve them.

Thank you.