Overview of the Tourism Industry
Tourism is an important driver of economic activity for Ireland. As well as being our longest-standing source of service export earnings, it also directly and indirectly supports employment across the country for a range of skill levels – often in areas where the scope to develop other export-focused sectors is constrained. The tourism and hospitality industry employs approximately 180,000 people and generates an estimated €5 billion a year in revenue from home and abroad – equivalent to over 3% of GDP or almost 4% of GNP [at constant (2009) prices]. Tourism also shapes Ireland’s image and attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest.
The number of overseas visits to Ireland increased in 2011 for the first time since 2007 and growth was recorded in all main market areas. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), visits for the year as a whole increased by 6% overall compared to 2010, reaching over 6.5 million and exceeding targets. Given the uncertain economic situation worldwide, this can be regarded as a creditable performance by the industry. Although CSO statistics on domestic tourism are not yet available for 2011, Fáilte Ireland estimates that there were approximately 8 million domestic trips last year (up over 3% on 2010).
Ireland’s tourism industry also improved its competitiveness and value-for-money ratings in 2011 and we gained market share in many of our key source markets, in particular Britain. This positive performance was supported by Government actions under the Jobs Initiative, including reducing VAT on certain tourism services to 9%, introducing the Visa Waiver Programme and halving employers’ PRSI for those on modest wages.
Role of Department (Tourism Division), Tourism Agencies and Others
The Department's Tourism Division sets national tourism policy, providing the strategic direction required to support the growth of a competitive and sustainable tourism industry, through the development, implementation and influencing of a range of policy actions and programmes by the Department, its Agencies and other Government Departments, in consultation with industry partners. The tourism agencies, operating under the aegis of the Department, have been established to deal with the administration of that policy.
Fáilte Ireland was established under the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, following the amalgamation of Bord Fáilte Éireann and CERT, to encourage, promote and support tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy. Tourism Ireland was formally incorporated on 11 December 2000 following the designation of tourism as an area for cooperation under the Good Friday Agreement (1998), to carry out the overseas promotion of tourism to the island of Ireland. Tourism Ireland is accountable to the North South Ministerial Council, with funding being provided by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland.
Shannon Development has responsibility for the promotion and development of tourism in Ireland’s mid-West region. In May 2012 the Government decided that Shannon Development’s tourism functions should transfer to Fáilte Ireland. Planning and preparations for this transfer are ongoing.
Fáilte Ireland's principal functions are the development of quality tourism product, domestic tourism marketing, tourism standards, enterprise support, capability building and human resource development for the tourism industry. Tourism Ireland's primary remit is to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination in overseas markets.
There is a wide range of other bodies, some with direct roles in developing tourism facilities and some whose role, while not specifically focused on tourism, is critical to the quality of the tourist experience in Ireland. These include:
- National and local bodies involved in planning, providing and managing environmental and transport infrastructure;
- National and local heritage organisations, who are responsible for key attractions;
- Locally-based tourism groups and LEADER companies, and their parent or funding bodies, who are directly involved in supporting small-scale developments
- The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and Garda National Immigration Bureau; and
- Public and private transport operators – from airlines to local bus operators.
Tourism Strategy: Programme for Government, Jobs Initiative 2011 and Action Plan for Jobs 2012
Recognising the multiple issues across public policy that impact on tourism, rather than pursue separate stand-alone strategies for the sector, the Government has integrated tourism into the broader economic strategic framework. Tourism is central to the Government’s economic recovery programme.
This overall strategic approach is complemented by the work of the tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, assisted by the work of the industry-led Tourism Recovery Taskforce (which includes both tourism agencies). Key commitments in the 2011 Programme for Government were reflected in the Government’s subsequent Jobs Initiative, with immediate priority actions set out in the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs.
The Government has already delivered on several measures under the Jobs Initiative to reduce costs, for tourists and for tourism businesses, therefore enhancing Ireland’s competitiveness – e.g. reducing VAT on certain tourism services to 9%; the Visa Waiver Programme; and halving employers’ PRSI for those on modest wages.
Tourism also contributes to the Government’s Internship and Work Placement programmes and benefits from the significant investment in non-national roads and other transport infrastructure, as part of the Jobs Initiative.
Following on from the Government’s Jobs Initiative, the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs sets out key policy actions to ensure tourism’s contribution to economic recovery, building further on the Programme for Government. These include:
- Supporting the competitiveness of Irish tourism, through minimising the costs of doing business and ensuring the quality of the product is maintained;
- Targeting capital investment in public tourism product and infrastructure;
- Using the Tourism Marketing Fund to support international marketing and advertising programmes.
Another focus of the Action Plan is on developing tourism products where Ireland can gain comparative advantage (such as food, culture, activity breaks, events and festivals). Traditionally, the major attractions of Ireland have been the Irish people and beautiful scenery. More recently visitors have availed of the range of sporting and recreational facilities and events. Golf, angling, walking, cycling, equestrian activities, culture and heritage offer attractive things to see and do, complemented by high standards of accommodation, food and hospitality.
Recently the Government has launched “The Gathering Ireland 2013”. This will be Ireland’s biggest ever tourism initiative, due to take place throughout 2013, providing an opportunity for those with ancestral links or an affinity for Ireland to play a part in – and benefit from – our economic recovery. The initiative is an invitation to the wider world to connect with the people of Ireland in business, the arts, sports, communities and public life.