Kerry has a higher dependency on tourism than any other county in the State, according to a newly-released report.

The industry is “the key driver” of economic activity in the county with 14,000 employed in tourism and over €400m generated by visitors annually.

The Kerry Economic and Community Plan 2016-2021 noted “at least one in every five jobs and businesses in the county depend on tourism”. The plan, a county council initiative, will be placed on public display.

Agriculture is also a key industry, employing more than 5,600 people.

“Despite numerous difficulties, economic polarisation, and topographical challenges, Kerry’s natural features continue to make it an attractive agricultural prospect,” the report said.

The uniqueness of Kerry and its attractiveness for green industry, tourism and food needed to be promoted more in ‘brand Kerry’, the council’s director of planning Michael Scannell said. Among the opportunities for growth were eco-tourism, adventure tourism and the food industry.

He also pointed to population shifts from town centres to outlying suburbs. Restoring life into the town centres was one of the big challenges, he said.

Independent councillor Michael Cahill called for the imtroduction of tax incentive schemes to encourage property owners to provide accommodation in existing buildings in the county’s towns and villages.

“Some of the most successful business people in the world are Kerry people and we should bring them on board,” said Mr Cahill.

Roads and internet connectivity were also among the major challenges. Issues of inadequate broadband had been raised by almost all communities while the “lack of motorways” into Kerry was a real impediment to growth.

Kerry was highlighted as one of the most sparsely populated counties in the State and despite reaching its highest population since 1926, the growth rate lagged behind other counties.

The “population stagnancy” had resulted in worrying demographics, the report said, noting a disproportionate high concentration of people aged over 49, and a low youth population.

Over a quarter of Kerry people had third level qualification, with teacher training, nursing and caring the most popular careers.

Labour councillor Graham Spring called for a concerted effort to ensure greenways progressed, with Independent Alliance councillor Michael Gleeson saying individuals delaying an amenity along an old railway track in south Kerry should be taken to Mayo to see the benefits of the proposal.

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