Ministers coy over plans despite urging people to holiday at home
€1m tourism campaign hoping to capitalise on recent high-profile visits
MINISTERS are refusing to say if they will holiday at home this summer despite a €1m campaign aimed at increasing the number of Irish people going on 'staycations'.
Last night, senior ministers including Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin refused to state where they would holiday, saying it was a "private" matter.
The refusal to back a major tourism drive launched yesterday reflects badly on the Government, which is aiming to cash in on the success of the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama in recent weeks.
The Discover Ireland Summer 2011 campaign is aimed at boosting tourism numbers, which fell 15pc last year.
Junior tourism minister Alan Kelly said he planned to go to Galway and "maybe Mayo", and that he would encourage all ministers to stay at home.
While Taoiseach Enda Kenny does plan a 'staycation', senior government ministers last night refused to state if they planned to follow his lead; while Fine Gael and Labour said it was up to individuals to decide where they would go on holiday.
Spokespeople for Health Minister James Reilly, Mr Noonan and Mr Howlin all refused to comment, saying it was a "private" matter.
"I would consider the minister's holiday plans to be a private matter and I wouldn't feel comfortable asking him about this," a spokesman for Mr Reilly said.
"As far as I know, he wouldn't appreciate such a question given that he is very busy at present; I would imagine his holiday plans are the furthest thing from his mind at this stage."
No response was received from Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte or Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will go to Connemara, Jimmy Deenihan (Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht) has not made plans but might go walking in the west of Ireland, while Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar is going to Kerry in August.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was not available for comment.
Mr Varadkar urged his cabinet colleagues to stay in Ireland as industry bosses battled to shore up falling numbers.
Tourism earnings fell to €4.6bn last year, a drop of 13pc, with numbers down 15pc to 5.6 million.
But the Government hopes that the cut in the VAT rate to 9pc for tourism-related activities, and the abolition of the €3 travel tax, will help increase business.
People planning a holiday should follow in the footsteps of recent high-profile visitors and "discover Ireland", Mr Varadkar urged.
The Discover Ireland campaign includes half-price rail tickets at weekends, family deals with day trips on the railways, a Discover Ireland smartphone app and a revamped Failte Ireland website.
Senior citizens from overseas can travel anywhere on the rail network for a maximum of €26, while 750,000 holiday guides will be distributed with national newspapers.
Mr Varadkar said the domestic tourism market was worth €1.3bn to the country. Research from Failte Ireland suggests up to 800,000 people plan to holiday at home this year -- an increase of 33pc. "About eight million domestic long weekends are taken at the moment, so hopefully we'll get that up to nine million," he added.