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Decisive action needed to help tourism sector

IVAN Yates is absolutely right when he calls for the appointment of a “tourism tsar” (Irish Examiner, Feb 4).

Tourism is now our largest indigenous industry creating revenues of €5.2bn in 2009 of which €1.2bn directly benefits the exchequer as taxation. Tourism in Ireland must be developed and supported in a far more cohesive way in order to capitalise on the huge potential that it offers the country to recover from the recession and to generate much needed spending especially at a regional level.

Government invests in excess of €500m every year in the national agencies including Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and through arts and sports funding. However, we have huge potential to grow our visitor numbers to in excess of 10 million per annum, and as such to literally drive much needed revenues into our country (€3.9bn in 2009). The decline in overseas visitors of nearly 12% is alarming and needs to be addressed.

It is amazing that we have a Department of Defence, yet we are a neutral country, we have a standalone Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and yet tourism is effectively relegated to “division three” in the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. Fáilte Ireland or a high-profile individual must be given sole responsibility for driving through and implementing the recommendations. I propose that government should consider creating a separate Department of Tourism, with Arts, Sport, Community and Rural Affairs as subsections of that department. Irish tourism is one of the few industries that is well placed to grow rapidly, when the upturn comes.

As an independent tourism consultant, I can see the absolute need for urgent and decisive government action to take full advantage of what tourism can offer both to the economy and to the social fabric of this country.

Weldon Mather

WM Consultancy Ltd

Mill Lane House

Naas

Co Kildare


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