Now that all the political parties have published their manifestos it is clearer as to where and how tourism policy is featured. Positively tourism is referenced in all party manifestos although some of the initiatives are vague and lacking in detail. The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) has pulled together references to tourism policy within each manifesto and they are set out below in alphabetical order under each party name.
There are some specifics worth noting such as Fianna Fáil’s commitment to increase funding by €25m and 1,000 new apprenticeships, Fine Gael’s plans for a Gathering Mark 2 in 2023, Labour’s desire to create a new “Department of Communities, Arts and Tourism”, Sinn Fein’s intention to explore reuniting Shannon, Cork and Dublin airports, and the Green Party’s wish to split National Parks from Wildlife Service.
As always the Programme for Government, when it is negotiated between parties that coalesce post-election, is a more important document than pre-election manifestos. ITIC will be keeping pressure on all parties pre and post-election to deliver appropriate policies for tourism which we highlighted in our own manifesto last week and can be seen on www.itic.ie
Restrict short-term platforms
AirBnB has helped to open the tourism industry and generate additional revenue for home owners. However globally it is having a negative impact on rent levels as more and more units are shifting into short-term lets rather than secure rental tenures. Fine Gael has not backed up its press release politics with actual resources for Local Authorities to enforce new regulations. We will back up local authorities with specific staff for enforcing new rules. In addition, a standardised approach to enforcement will be rolled out nationally and unit ownership identification strengthened.
- We will allocate €10m to fund some 200 staff to tackle the problem across Ireland.
Boost tourism across the regions
Our remarkable natural heritage and rich cultural life has been a strong tourism product. We need to ensure our success in attracting tourists is replicated throughout the country and sustained into the future.
- Boost funding to Fáilte Ireland & Tourism Ireland by €25m.
- Launch a new advertising campaign emphasizing the regions within this funding.
- Work with airlines to enhance access to our island.
- Introduce a new Tourism industry career programme in conjunction with Solas to attract and retain workers into the sector starting with 1,000 new apprenticeships at a cost of €6.9m.
Fully implement the Greenways Plan and plan for the future development of greenway networks
The series of Greenways built across Ireland have been substantial boosts to local tourism and health living. Fianna Fáil is committed to building on the success of that initiative and will ensure full further funding to fully realise the immense potential of the project.
- We will ensure that all new roads that are being designed must consider the possibility of a railway and/or greenway being later built alongside the road.
Expanding Rural Transport
This government has all but closed rural Ireland. People living outside of the M50 have no public transport options, and it is harming quality of life.
- Provide subsidies to rural hackney drivers to help them meet insurance costs at a capped cost of €6.5m.
Protect Marine Biodiversity and Enhancing Marine Tourism. This includes introducing an ‘Oceans Act’ to protect Ireland’s seas, while working at an EU level to achieve the establishment of ambitious 2030 targets.
As part of Global Ireland, we will greatly increase SFI’s presence overseas, along with Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia, and other agencies, and include it as a pillar of all trade and investment missions, along with EI and the IDA. As part of Project Ireland 2040, we are committed to increasing the number of SFI Research Centres to 20. In doing so, we will for the first time seek to establish a cross-border research centre, to bring together universities and industry north and south.
Expanding tourism opportunities throughout Ireland
Tourism is a vital industry that benefits every part of this country and supports the employment of more than 260,000 people. This has been an industry that Fine Gael has continuously prioritised since 2011, and the increase in employment and visitor numbers since then bears testament to this. We will continue to expand tourism opportunities throughout Ireland by:
- Prioritising the development of the Wild Atlantic Way, to bring further sustainable benefits to communities along theWestern Seaboard, alongside the development of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East.
- Developing the Dublin to Cork Coastal Route, to increase the tourism potential for communities in the East and South-East.
- Investing heavily in new greenways and cycle routes, to achieve an integrated nationwide network.
- Increasing investment in Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland, to improve promote our overall offering as a top quality and value-for-money destination.
Improving regional connectivity
We understand the importance of air access to tourism and regional connectivity. In Budget 2020 we increased the funding to the Tourism Ireland Regional Cooperative Marketing Fund €2.5 million per annum. This fund seeks to encourage new access and maximise the potential of existing air and sea services to those areas outside of Dublin. It is supported by contributions from tourism stakeholders (airports and ports) and matched by air and sea carriers. We will increase the annual Exchequer contribution to this fund by €2 million.
We believe the border should not be an impediment to developing tourism opportunities on the island of Ireland. As set out in the recent New Decade, New Approach deal for Northern Ireland, we will complete the Ulster Canal connection from Clones to Upper Lough Erne and actively promote greenways in border areas. We have allocated approximately €40 million to greenways development over 2020 and 2021.
The Year of the Invitation
The Gathering in 2013 caught the imagination of the Irish people, mobilising communities to organise over 5,000 special Gathering events for diaspora and friends. The Gathering boosted the number of overseas visitors to Ireland, generating an estimated €170m in revenue and helping to kick-start the strong revival of our tourism sector. We will make 2023 the Year of the Invitation – a global invitation to visit Ireland on the 10-year anniversary of The Gathering.
Our coastal areas, marine resources and activities are key parts of our overall tourism offering. We will continue to sustainably develop the sector by building on existing partnerships to optimise our assets for the benefit of tourism and broader economic development. We will build on our ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ tourism experience brand to entice even more visitors to coastal communities, as well as working to replicate this success on the southern and eastern seaboards.
The success of the Wild Atlantic Way has demonstrated the potential for marketing Ireland as a clean green holiday destination. We envisage ways of marketing Ireland as an eco-tourism centre.
To make this happen, we will:
- Create an All-Ireland Walkways Development Plan to establish long distance off-road walking and cycling routes as well as promoting sustainable, outdoor/adventure tourism.
Develop food trails to build on our reputation for high quality produce.
- Promote youth and child friendly water sports to encourage activity and awareness of our maritime heritage.
- Develop ‘Liveable Cities’ with traffic-free areas and new parks to benefit residents and tourists. We reiterate our commitment to develop Liveable Cities with a focus on the right to affordable housing in urban areas.
- Separate out the National Parks from the Wildlife Service and provide for a large increase in the areas and resourcing of our national parks.
- Work with Fáilte Ireland to develop and promote Ireland as a long stay tourism destination to spread tourism more evenly across the country and to maximise the economic return and minimise the transport emissions from the tourism sector.
- Connect Rosslare to Larne and Rosslare to Galway as two new tourist rail routes at the same time as we upgrade the lines for commuter and regular rail travel services.
Recognising the role that technology and innovation will play in the future of our artistic and cultural life, seek to form joint ventures between our enterprise and tourism bodies and our artistic and cultural organisations.
Labour will promote Pooled Group Insurance schemes which will ensure significantly cheaper premiums for businesses, voluntary and community groups who could act together to negotiate lower premiums. The Department of Enterprise will be tasked with supporting and facilitating sectors such as childcare operators or tourism businesses who wish to pool together to seek insurance.
Labour will create a new merged Department of Communities, Arts and Tourism (to include Arts, Community Development, Culture, Gaeltacht, Heritage, Rural Development, Sport and Tourism).
Labour will retain passenger charges at Dublin Airport, overturning the proposed 20% reduction, in order to ensure the airport’s continuing viability.
Labour will seek to develop a fully integrated and sustainable marine coastal tourism policy, to enhance both the economic growth and environmental preservation of our coastal communities.
The biggest challenge businesses across this island will face over the coming years is the threat posed by Brexit. InterTradeIreland reported in August of 2019 that the level of SMEs expecting an increase in growth over the next 12 months had fallen to 2009 levels.
The Tory Government in London have no concept of the importance of free-flowing trade across the island of Ireland. It is therefore up to the Irish Government to stand up for the concerns of businesses and workers across Ireland.
We want to work with Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland to improve the uptake rates of existing Brexit supports. The British Irish Chamber of Commerce, IBEC and the Small Firms Association have reported their members’ dissatisfaction with the schemes for being overly bureaucratic, that those most in need are excluded due to unreasonably strict qualifying criteria and that fundamentally the model is not appropriate as most small and micro-businesses do not wish to take on additional debt at a time when business is particularly vulnerable.
Sinn Féin would allocate significant investment for the agri-food sector, vulnerable SMEs (exporting and non-exporting), protecting north-south trade on the island of Ireland and the tourism industry.
Sinn Féin would also expand capital investment, ensure Irish SMEs are in the best possible position to deal with whatever post-Brexit scenario unfolds and would ensure businesses along the border are given additional supports to ensure those most vulnerable to Brexit are given adequate protections.
Ports and airports
In light of Brexit and as an-island nation, our Ports are a crucial part of our connectivity with the wider world.
They require ongoing investment and Sinn Féin would push for maximum use of EU funding streams to make sure all our ports remain viable and add to the national and regional economies.
Our regional airports must be developed as strategically important international gateways to regional areas. Changes in European state aid rules mean that the state is now in a position to make public investments in regional airports with full legal certainty and without prior control by the Commission. It also allows public authorities to cover operating costs of small airports handling up to 200,000 passengers per year. Strategic investment in our regional airports will offer connectivity, and development potential in regional areas.
The option of reuniting Shannon with Dublin and Cork with a company policy aiming for greater regional balance across the three airports must be investigated. Shannon Airport is vital to the MidWest region as a gateway for industry and tourism and to ensure regional development.
Sinn Féin priorities:
- Developing, in conjunction with the authorities in the North, a comprehensive development plan to maximise the growth potential of our regional airports and maximise their potential into the future.
- Encouraging investment in regional airports, which while boosting the connectivity of peripheral regions would also benefit the local economy and tourism of these areas.
Sinn Féin recognise that tourism is an important driver of economic and social development. The sector stimulates economic growth by generating income, employment and investment in Ireland.
It helps to sustain our cultural and natural heritage, provides revenue to fund facilities and infrastructure enjoyed by visitors and residents to and from this island. Sinn Féin believes a holistic all-island wide approach is needed taking into account the multiple impacts of the sector as well as the wide spectrum of stakeholders involved or affected by tourism. Regionally balanced investment in tourism infrastructure is key to unlocking the vast potential of this sector, especially in areas which are not traditionally strong in this regard. Our approach to maintaining and enhancing this important sector will be underpinned by the following principles – sustainability, respect for our natural and built heritage and quality jobs with good pay and decent working conditions. As we approach Brexit, many operators and business owners that rely on our tourism industry are feeling anxious about the possible impacts it may have on visitor numbers and tourist accessibility. Sinn Féin wants to protect the people who rely on consistent visitor numbers to make a living. We want to counteract any impact of Brexit by boosting our abilities of Ireland as a tourist destination abroad in new markets and states while ensuring that those in the sector have the resources to compete in a fast-changing market.
Sinn Féin priorities:
- Increase the capacity of the OPW and Heritage Council to maintain, protect and develop the more than 700 sites and monuments for which they are responsible and expand their operations.
- Pursue increased cooperation between Tourism NI and Fáilte Ireland to cultivate tourism, particularly in border areas, with potential projects including the expansion of Ireland’s Ancient East to include northern areas, for example the Mourne Mountains in Co Down, and the expansion of the Wild Atlantic Way to include coastal counties in the North of Ireland.
- Increase Tourism Ireland’s budget by €6 million in the first year of Government to open new markets and combat challenges which may arise from Brexit.
- Increase festival funding for national and communities’ festivals organised by local Government.
- Build upon successes on the various greenway projects to create new greenways and connections to promote activity-based tourism.