Fine Gael Tipperary/South Offaly TD, Noel Coonan, said recent CSO figures on tourism which show that visits to Ireland for the first eight months of 2011 were up by 11% compared to the same period in 2010, are proof that the Government’s efforts to boost visitor numbers are paying off.
“In total, 4.5 million people visited Ireland in the period from January to August. This is a significant rise of 11% on the same time in 2010 and a clear indication that the tourism industry is finally getting back on track,” said Deputy Coonan.
“Tourism has been a key priority of the Government’s since it came to office. The sector has been strongly supported by a number of targeted measures aimed at encouraging visitors to Ireland and places like Tipperary and Offaly.
“Many of these were included in the Government’s Jobs Initiative introduced last May. Among them are a visa waiver aimed at making it easier for tourists from emerging economies to visit Ireland without the cost or hassle of applying for a separate Irish visa. Employers’ PRSI for those on modest wages has been halved, making it much more attractive for tourism employers to give people a chance to take up work and a reduction in the level of VAT to 9% on a range of labour-intensive tourism services is aimed at making good and services more affordable for overseas visitors.
“Minister Varadkar has also recently announced a 9 million Euro overseas tourism marketing blitz to attract visitors to Ireland over the typically quieter winter months. This is in addition to ‘The Gathering’, which will be the biggest ever tourism initiative in Ireland, consisting of a year-long programme of arts, sports, business and community group events in 2013. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the Irish Diaspora to come home, ensuring a boost for tourism in Tipperary, Offaly and the surrounding region.
“The Government is serious about tackling unemployment and encouraging job creation. Ireland has so much to offer and by focusing on the tourism sector, as part of the solution, we can slowly restore this country to greatness. These figures show that we are doing just that,” concluded Deputy Coonan.