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Brexit Uncertainties Spur Increased Tourism Investment by Local Authorities

Local authorities plan €150m investment in tourism projects to build on €100m funding over the last five years.

With the looming uncertainties of Brexit,  local authorities have increased their tourism investment and resources to sustain and enhance Ireland’s tourism sector a conference in Cork heard on Thursday 4th April.

The conference ‘Tourism is Everyone’s Business’ organised by the County and City Management Association (CCMA) in association with Fáilte Ireland brought together local authority staff and other industry stakeholders to consider how we can strengthen Ireland’s tourism offering throughout the country and appeal to a diversity of markets, domestic and international.

Mr. Brian Tyrrell, Senior Executive Officer with Kilkenny County Council, addressed the conference on the topic of Ireland’s Medieval Mile, Kilkenny.

A new report released at the conference shows Ireland’s City and County Councils have plans to develop 256 new tourism projects, with €156 million committed to these projects by councils including for new walking trails, discovery centres, cultural plazas, harbours, and sports facilities. An additional €205 million will be leveraged by local authorities from external agencies. Local authorities directly invested €99.4million to develop tourist attractions in the five years 2014-2018. On top of that, councils leveraged a further €88.4 million from external agencies towards these developments, meaning City and County Councils harnessed a total capital investment in tourism attractions of €185.8 million. This increased investment will play a key part in building resilience in the context of Brexit, according to Ann Doherty, Chair of the CCMA Economic and Enterprise Committee: “Brexit is a challenge the local authority sector is actively addressing, committing increased resources and working even harder to expand our markets and generate new offerings. With 35% of Ireland’s overseas tourists coming from the UK, and in a competitive international market, it has never been more important to actively develop new offerings to provide diverse and niche tourism products throughout the country to appeal to both domestic and foreign tourists. “We are continually looking for new ways to reach out to potential visitors and in the last year over €8 million was invested in tourism promotion with a further €6m provided to fund 292 new innovative tourism projects including ambassador programmes; international collaborations, and new food and cultural festivals,” Ann Doherty said.

A report released at the conference shows:

– On a day-to-day basis, local authorities run or support more than 460 tourist attractions nationwide, contributing almost €52m each year towards their operations. These include historic buildings, forest parks, greenways, interpretive centres, museums, heritage centres and trails, 65% of which are free of charge to visitors.

– In 2018, a total of €7.8 million was spent by local authorities to develop specific tourism infrastructure. Almost half of this, €3.6 million, was invested directly by local authorities for facilities including upgrading amenities, maintaining beaches, building carparks, developing road signage and other travel infrastructure.

– More than 1,400 festivals and events are run or supported by local authories each year at a cost of €11.2 million to local authorities. Festivals and events attract more than 200,000 overseas visitors and contribute over €100 million to the economy each year, according to Failte Ireland. As well as their financial investment, local authorities provide other supports such as implementing road closures, providing staging areas, erecting signage, managing traffic, street cleaning and litter management, and health and safety support.

– Almost 300 dedicated tourism staff are employed across the local authority sector. They collaborate across departments with many more staff on events and activities to improve the tourism offering.

Concluding, Ann Doherty emphasised the importance of tourism to Ireland’s regional and local economies, saying: “Making great places to live, work and visit is at the heart of what local authorities do. Tourism supports almost a quarter of a million jobs across the country and brings more than €5bn into the country each year from overseas visitors.

“Our investment in tourism development is an investment in economic development, and an important aspect of that is the contribution tourism makes to balanced economic development, offering employment opportunities across the country, including in remote areas that might otherwise find it difficult to maintain industry or employment.”

Welcoming the investment, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, Paul Kelly said:

“Tourism is a major economic driver and contributes hugely to communities across the country both socially and as a key source of employment. 

At Fáilte Ireland we are focussed on developing tourism to ensure every region can benefit from the revenue and job creation it brings. Local authorities are a key partner for us and the work they do to develop local area makes tourism a viable industry in so many towns and communities across Ireland. 

Alongside Fáilte Ireland’s ongoing investment in visitor experiences and product across the country, the additional funding for tourism announced by councils today will make a significant contribution to how Ireland attracts tourists from around the world.”

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