THE RETENTION of the lower VAT rate for the tourism industry in the recent Budget will be a boon for Fingal's tourism product in the year ahead as communities around the county prepare for ' The Gathering'.That is the view of Cllr Tom O'Leary (FG) who welcomed the move, saying: 'I am delighted that provision was made in the Budget to retain the lower rate of VAT in tourism for at least another year. The lower VAT rate has already been proven to help in the creation of jobs in the sector over the last year.' He added: ' Fingal and its local towns (Skerries, Rush, Malahide, Swords, rural villages Naul, Ballyboughal, Oldtown) have great potential for growth in tourism. 'Fingal County Council and senior management are keenly aware of the rich heritage we have in Fingal. The recently renovated gardens and heritage area in Malahide castle is a huge success in partnership with the Avoca outlet.' Cllr O'Leary added: 'Fingal is working ahead with the restoration of the magnificent Castles at Main Street Swords and Bremore Castle in Balbriggan. ' These are key heritage and tourism assets and Fingal needs to market them in partnership with tourism bodies to drive job creation and the tourism revenue in Fingal. '2013 is ahead of us, when we will see The Gathering swing into full force, starting with a series of celebrations on New Year's Eve. The lower VAT rate should have a positive impact on the success of The Gathering by ensuring tourists get the best possible value for money.' He concluded: 'As we continue to stimulate the jobs market, the tourism sector will play a key role. The lower VAT rate has already given the sector a shot in the arm, and I am confident that its retention will foster further growth. 'I would encourage the Minister to consider making the lower VAT rate a permanent feature of the tourism industry.'