Last week the Government published its long awaited 10-year National Development Plan which sets out the Government’s commitment to meeting Ireland’s infrastructure and investment needs over the next decade. The National Development Plan sets out a significant level of investment of almost €116 billion, €91 billion of which is exchequer funding with the balance to be delivered by commercial semi-state companies.
There was mixed news for tourism within the 10-year National Development Plan. Tourism has been allocated €300 million between 2018-2027 which is an increase on previous capital plans but the majority of the investment is weighted towards the second half of the Plan. The sum allocated falls far short of the call by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) for €600 million over the next decade to be invested by the state strategically and regionally in new attractors of international appeal and scale. The sum of state investment for new tourism developments, principally to be spent by Fáilte Ireland, pales in comparison with the money being committed by tourism’s private sector which amounts to close to €2 billion in the next 3 years alone with new hotel constructions, new attraction developments, and sea and air carrier investments.
Despite this there are a number of tourism-enabling infrastructure projects, listed within the National Development Plan, across road, rail and cultural institutions which will be for the tourism sector’s benefit and these are welcomed and need to be prioritized.
Project Ireland 2040, which comprised the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and the National Planning Framework, represents an integrated approach to planning for growth and this is welcomed by ITIC as it can provide the business community with a vision of Ireland in 20 years from now and a context in which to make investment decisions.
The challenge will be in delivering on the plan and, if necessary putting it on a legislative footing, to ensure consistency of approach across the whole of government, irrespective of changes in the composition of Government. The National Development Plan foresees a shift to ‘integrated regional investment plans, stronger co-ordination of sectoral strategies and more rigorous selection and appraisal of projects to secure value-for-money.’
The specifics in the Plan on tourism are limited and there is a reference to: ‘almost €108 million has been allocated to Fáilte Ireland for capital investment in Tourism Product Development over the next four years and it is intended that this level of funding will, at a minimum, be maintained over the lifetime of the National Development Plan.’
In addition, tourism will benefit from considerable investment in infrastructure, regional and rural development, and the upgrading of cultural, heritage and sporting facilities. While many of the projects have been announced previously, the expansion of enabling infrastructure is critical for tourism and other economic sectors to grow.
The full plan can be found at the link: National Development Plan 2018-2027 and the following analysis is a synopsis of the NDP as it pertains to tourism.
National Development Plan 2018-2027
The National Development Plan (NDP) sets out the Government’s €116 billion commitment to meeting Ireland’s infrastructure and investment needs over the next ten years. The investment priorities underpin the delivery of the new National Planning Framework (NPF).
A number of innovations are worth noting, including:
- Long-term (10 year) strategic approach to investment.
- Sustained increase in investment share of national income to meet infrastructural needs.
- All Departments’ capital programmes fully funded for 5-year period.
- A new National Regeneration and Development Agency to maximise the potential use of under-utilised land banks in cities and towns.
What does it mean for tourism?
The €108 million capital budget for product development over the period 2018-2021, allocated to Fáilte Ireland, is intended to support:
- Further investment in the existing experience brands, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, and a new brand for the Midlands region.
- Investment in activity based tourism, including greenways, which has been identified as a priority.
- Appropriate investment in the development and enhancement of tourist attractions, including historical and heritage sites.
The NDP specifies that ‘Fáilte Ireland will continue to invest in the priority areas that will deliver sustainable growth in the Irish tourism sector resulting in higher revenue and more jobs.’ Fáilte Ireland will be expected to deliver through two grants schemes (amounts greater than €200,000 and less than €200,000 respectively), strategic partnerships with a range of State bodies, and investment in the development of signature experiences.
A greenway strategy is highlighted, with almost €56 million being made available between 2018 and 2021. The priority will be the completion of the Kildare and Meath sections of the Galway to Dublin Greenway, as well as making funds available on the basis of a competitive bid-based approach for a number of new greenways projects to be delivered over the period of the National Development Plan.
Investment in transport infrastructure
Considerable emphasis is placed on the provision of high quality international and regional connectivity in the NDP.
Projects identified include:
- New parallel runway for Dublin Airport [€320 million for completion by 2021]
- Regional Airports Programme providing financial support towards safety and security
- Investment at Dublin [€230 million] and Cork [€90 million]
- Galway Ring Road
- M20 Cork to Limerick
- N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin
- N8 Dunkettle
- N5 Westport to Turlough
- N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom
- A5 Road Development
- DART expansion & Metro Link programmes in the Greater Dublin area.
Investment in Culture, Heritage & Sport
Investment in planned for a range of National Cultural Institutions, including renovations at the National Library [€12 million by 2021]; a €15 million upgrade for the National History Museum; together with renovations and upgrades at the National Archives; National Concert Hall; Crawford Art Gallery; and National Gallery of Ireland. Funding also will be made available for regional arts and culture facilities and Galway European City of Culture.
Investment in National Heritage is provided for a masterplan for the development of National Parks and Reserves; conservation and preservation of National Monuments; Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund; implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021; and the restoration of Ulster Canal.
Shannon Heritage, in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, is committed to expanding the cultural offering for visitors including up to €10 million redevelopment of Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.
Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund features €42 million in funding for development of the National Sports Campus.
Rural Regeneration and Development
A major focus of the NDP is the revitalisation of rural economies and communities. A new €3 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund is promised, to include a €1 billion fund for rural programmes. Alongside the provision of broadband and an improved roads network, tourism is seen as a driver of sustainability in rural Ireland.
Specific mention is made of airports as key tourism and business gateways for their regions. The Plan indicates that support will be made available for the development of niche markets.
BREXIT and all-island context
The NDP contains a range of projects aimed to ameliorating the impact of Brexit and sustaining an all-island approach and protecting the North-South institutions, including Tourism Ireland. The plan makes reference to the supports the Government continues to make available to SMEs under the auspices of Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia to prepare for Brexit, which regrettably are not available to tourism businesses.
Some specifics include:
- Capital investment in digital infrastructure for all island tourism marketing, although no source or level of funding is identified.
- The facilitation of cross-border sustainable transport, including North-West; Carlingford Lough; and Ulster Canal Greenways.