Speech by Catherine Martin at Fáilte Ireland Tourism Conference/Industry Briefing, Convention Centre Dublin – Gov.ie

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Speech by Catherine Martin at Fáilte Ireland Tourism Conference/Industry Briefing, Convention Centre Dublin – Gov.ie

From Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media 
By: Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media; Catherine Martin
Published on 21 September 2021
Last updated on 21 September 2021
Bail ó Dhia oraibh tráthnóna. Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo don seisiún eolais tionscail seo san Ionad Comhdhála, Baile Átha Cliath.
I am sure you all share my joy that that we can, after all this time, meet in person and send out a loud and clear message that Ireland is once again open for business and in particular for business tourism.
Today’s attendance includes business tourism stakeholders from across the country and also a wider range of businesses from the Dublin tourism sector. I know you are very keen to hear details of Fáilte Ireland’s plans to support tourism recovery which Paul Kelly and his team will outline shortly. Before I hand over to Paul, I want to take a little time to reflect on how Government and the tourism sector have worked together during the last eighteen months to respond to the unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic.
As we all know, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on tourism businesses and employees, as well as on society generally. Addressing the challenges required significant cooperation and sacrifice across the board. The government moved quickly to help support businesses through the crisis, while containing the spread and impact of the virus.
The Tourism Recovery Taskforce presented the Tourism Recovery Plan to me this time last year. Indeed my first meeting as Minister was with the taskforce. At that point few of us imagined how long the pandemic would impact on all of our lives. The Plan made a number of recommendations to help tourism businesses to survive, stabilise and recover and has been a very important input for me and the government in putting in place measures to assist the sector.
In December last year I appointed a Recovery Oversight Group to monitor the implementation of the Plan. This Group has been keeping me informed of progress with regard to both the implementation of the Plan and also how the sector is faring. The Group has just submitted its third report to me and I am currently considering that report ahead of next month’s budget. I am pleased to see the strong progress which has been made on the recommendations set out in the Recovery Plan. Measures taken by government, such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme and sector-specific measures for tourism such as business continuity grants and the lower VAT rate have all been critical in supporting businesses and jobs. As a government, we will carefully consider any additional measures required at this stage.
The past eighteen months has seen businesses respond with great determination and innovation. We have seen a very welcome move to outdoor dining which has been embraced by businesses and consumers alike. In order to assist businesses, in April of this year, I launched the two-strand Outdoor Dining Enhancement Scheme. The first strand enabled individual tourism and hospitality businesses increase their dining and seating capacity in the short-term and the second strand has facilitated a longer term strategy for local authorities to develop appropriate permanent, weatherproof outdoor dining infrastructure. The overall aim is to support jobs and businesses and to transform appropriate outdoor spaces within our cities and towns as welcoming, vibrant places that will help support economic recovery.
Building on these initiatives, just yesterday, I joined Fáilte Ireland in announcing funding for seven locations around the country where urban animation projects of scale will be supported from the pilot €5 million Urban Animation Capital Investment Scheme. Under this scheme exciting urban animation project of scale, involving aspects such as public art, light installations and performance spaces, will be developed in Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Waterford and Dublin.
With specific regard to business tourism and related events, you will soon be getting detailed briefing on Fáilte Ireland’s plans to support the sector and to rebuild a strong pipeline of events. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of industry and the tourism agencies, I understand that 285 important events lined up before the pandemic have now been rescheduled, which is worth in the region of €207 million to the economy. I would like to thank the conference and event organisers for rescheduling these events and we look forward to welcoming you and your colleagues to Ireland. One example of this is the ‘World Library and Information Congress’ which was originally due to welcome 4,000 international delegates in 2020 but will instead be hosted next year and we now look forward to extending a Céad Míle Fáilte to the Congress when it comes to Dublin.
Another exciting event that has been rescheduled is the highly anticipated “Aer Lingus College Football Classic”, originally due to kick-off in Dublin 2020 but which will now take place in 2022 with the first game between North Western University and The University of Nebraska. We know from previous experience that this event will provide a much-needed boost to Irish tourism. I am also pleased to learn that the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence Global Conference has been rescheduled to take place in Dublin in January 2022. This conference with hundreds of delegates from the incentive travel community in attendance, provides a timely and valuable opportunity to showcase our island as a world-class incentive travel destination.
Those of you from the Dublin trade will no-doubt also be aware of the Dublin Destination Recovery Taskforce established last year by Fáilte Ireland, in collaboration with local authorities, public bodies and industry representatives and partners. Over the last year, this group have looked to identify opportunities to work collaboratively to support the Dublin tourism sector by driving footfall, bed-nights and spend. One of the key areas the groups identified was to develop and support the idea of a “Winter in Dublin”. The inaugural “Winter in Dublin” programme will launch in October and will be a mix of “occasions” (for example Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Festival and a brand-new festival for Dublin in February) creating compelling reasons to visit the city. Today is the first briefing on this concept to the wider Dublin industry and during the course of today Paul and his team will outline more details of the programme and provide information on how all businesses can get involved.
As I mentioned, next February, as the concluding “occasion” of this programme, Fáilte Ireland, in partnership with Dublin City Council, will launch a new festival for Dublin which will run from January 28th through to February 14th, 2022. This innovative festival will showcase works by Irish artists and digital designers using amazing Light spectacles and interactive installations which will wow audiences and provide a unique immersive, fun experience. The aim of the festival is to attract locals and visitors into the city centre to boost footfall, hotel occupancy and the night-time economy in support of business recovery in the capital.
Getting inbound overseas tourism back to where it was is a key challenge for everyone involved in tourism here. I very much welcome the fact that Tourism Ireland is starting to roll out its Green Button campaign this month in our key overseas markets. I was delighted to meet with some inbound operators in London recently to hear their views and I’m pleased to say they remain very well disposed to Ireland as a tourism destination. This week I will visit the US and meet with a number of travel trade, airline and media interests to help kickstart our Restart efforts in that market, which is critical for our tourism sector and not least for Dublin. The United States is the second-largest source market for tourism to the island of Ireland. In 2019, we welcomed almost 1.7 million American visitors to Ireland. And the US is our most important market in terms of revenue, responsible for 29% of all tourist revenue. We want to land a clear message: Ireland is open again; come and join us, and there is more to see and experience than ever before. In this context, yesterday’s news that the US will allow vaccinated passengers into the country is welcome. Whilst this of course relates to travel into the States, it should act to stimulate connectivity between our countries which is hugely important for the tourism sector here.
The sectors under my department’s remit have been some of hardest hit by the pandemic. I am confident that by working collaboratively the tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media sectors can make a strong recovery. In recent days I launched the report of the night-time economy taskforce and of course this past weekend has seen a range of events taking place as part of Culture Night. These are good examples of how these sectors are intertwined and are already working together on the road to recovery.
Before I hand you over to Paul Kelly and his team, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the industry – including each and every one of you – for your important contribution to the national effort and in sustaining our vital tourism sector. Tourism faces many challenges as we move from survival to recovery. However we know from previous crises that the sector has the capacity and flexibility to recover strongly. The government remains committed to supporting that recovery and for my part, as Minister with responsibility for tourism, I will continue to seek that the necessary supports are in place to support and give impetus to the recovery.
In this regard the details of Budget 2022 will be finalised in the coming weeks. I am working with my officials to push for a strong budget package for tourism to support the survival and recovery of this key sector. I am working to ensure that Budget 2022 addresses key priorities for business survival such as continued business continuity supports and measures to address staffing and skills difficulties. With Ireland facing strong competition for other destinations I am also making a strong case to government colleagues for a budget package for the sector addressing key needs of business survival and growth. And these targets will be informed by the latest report from the Recovery Oversight Group about tourism recovery, which I will bring to Cabinet in the coming weeks and share with my colleagues.
Cuideoidh na pleananna a gcloisfidh sibh fúthu inniu, in éineacht le tacaíochtaí eile, le ceangal a dhéanamh idir an bhliain 2021 agus an bhliain 2022 agus blianta eile ina dhiaidh sin. Táim ag tnúth leis na deiseanna eile ar fad a bheidh ann casadh libh go pearsanta agus muid ag súil le todhchaí níos fearr agus inbhuanaithe don turasóireacht.
Go raibh maith agaibh!
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