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TheJournal.ie’s progress report for the Government: Tourism

Increasing tourism is seen as one of the most important ways for Ireland to revive the economy. How has Leo Varadkar done?

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

1) WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE 2011 ELECTION CAMPAIGN

  • Fine Gael promised to abolish the travel tax – providing airlines reached certain targets on passenger numbers and on internships for college graduates
  • Job growth would be achieved by abolition of the travel tax, subject to negotiations with Aer Lingus and Ryanair on the introduction of new routes

2) WHAT THEY PROMISED IN THE PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT

  • Abolition of the €3 travel tax subject to a deal being agreed with Ryanair and Aer Lingus to re-open closed routes and bring more tourists into Ireland
  • Exploration of the possibility of a new agreement on visitor visas with the UK, offering tourists from “emerging economies” the opportunity to visit
  • Development of marketing campaigns in emerging long haul markets such as China, Russia, India, Japan and the Middle East, using the Tourism Marketing Fund
  • Development and co-ordination of niche tourism products and activity packages that are attractive to international visitors focusing on food, sports, culture, ecotourism, activity breaks, water-based recreation and festivals
  • Prioritisation of event tourism to continue to bring major fairs and events to Ireland such as the Volvo Ocean Race or Solheim Cup

3) PROGRESS – OR LACK THEREOF – IN FIRST YEAR OF GOVERNMENT

  • The travel tax has not been abolished. Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar siad the tax would be maintained until spring 2012 because the airlines involved in talks had failed to provide solid commitments on increasing capacity – the money generated by the €3 tax is being invested in a tourism campaign
  • The Visa waiver scheme was  introduced, making it easier for tourists from “emerging economies” like Brazil and India to visit
  • In order to tap into developing markets: ministers went on sales missions to India, China and Japan last autumn; an online campaign reaching 100,000 Chinese customers with messages about Irish food and scenery was launched; and a ‘travel workshop’ took place in October to allow tourism providers to network with travel agents and tour operators from India, China, Japan and South Africa
  • To develop event tourism: a €2.2m golf promotional campaign was rolled out in summer 2011 in key markets overseas to capitalise on the opportunity sparked by Rory McIlroy’s win at Congressional – this included TV, radio and online ad campaigns in UK and US, social media competitions
  • VAT for the tourism industry was temporarily lowered, with a 9 per cent rate being introduced from July to apply to tourism-related services like restaurants and catering, theatres, museums, parks and sports facilities, introduced in the jobs initiative

Our full report: How did the government do in its first year? This is how.

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