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Six tourism promises from the new Government - from an 'Irish Sea Way' to the 'Year of the Invitation'

Ireland's new Programme for Government includes both vague and specific promises for tourism, our Travel Editor reports

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Ross Castle, Killarney. Photo: Deposit

Ross Castle, Killarney. Photo: Deposit

Ross Castle, Killarney. Photo: Deposit

The new Programme for Government has been published this week. So what does it include for a tourism industry facing the challenge of a generation?

"There's quite a lot of positive words and sentiments about tourism, but being a Programme for Government, it's a bit vague in terms of detail."

That's according to Eoghan O'Mara Walsh, CEO of the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC), who sums it up fairly succinctly.

Tourism "is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors" and will be "at the centre of our National Economic Plan", the document notes.

"We will prioritise a domestic tourism campaign to promote staycations, subject to public health advice," it adds, noting that an Irish Tourism Recovery Taskforce has been established (its recommendations are expected this autumn).

Here are six specific initiatives mentioned:

The Year of the Invitation

In 2013, The Gathering was widely lauded for its part in the last tourism recovery.

Now, the Government plans to make 2023 "the Year of the Invitation", which it describes as "a global invitation to visit Ireland on the 10-year anniversary of The Gathering".

A Wild Atlantic walking route

A new "National Outdoor Recreation Strategy" is promised, along with mentions of investment in Ireland's blueways and recreational trails.

It also promises to "initiate a consultation process with communities along the entire Wild Atlantic Way, with a view to creating a continuous walking route from Malin Head to Kinsale".

An Irish Sea Way

The document pledges to start another consultation process with communities along the coastline "from Carlingford Lough to Cobh, with a view to creating a new tourism trail, the Irish Sea Way, along the east and south-east coast to boost tourism".

Greenways galore

Walking and cycling get several nods in the tourism paragraphs, including work to develop "an integrated national network of greenways".

Funding will continue for longer-term projects like the Galway to Dublin Greenway, the Fingal Coastal Way, and the Waterford Greenway will be extended into the city centre, it says.

Cross-border projects

The Government will work with the Northern Irish Executive to create "a coastal tourist trail, linking the Wild Atlantic Way, the Causeway Costal Route, and the area along our eastern and southern coast", it says.

It will also support cross-border greenway projects, "such as the Sligo-Enniskillen Greenway", and will work to deliver the Ulster Canal Project, "in order to restore the all-island inland water system as a premier tourism attraction".

A Sustainable Tourism Policy

"The success of the Wild Atlantic Way has demonstrated the potential for marketing Ireland as a clean, green holiday destination," the document states.

"We will build on this and develop and strengthen Ireland’s image as an outdoor activity holiday destination to the domestic and international markets."

An Interim Action Plan will lead to a fuller policy, it says.

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The Programme for Government will be voted on by party members this week and, if agreed, would see Micheál Martin serve as Taoiseach until December, 2022.

The document promises to sustain support for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, to keep investing in key brands like the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, and to bolster both air and sea access to Ireland.

It also includes vague promises to develop the agri-tourism sector, tourism in Gaeltacht areas, Irish food trails, and to explore "the feasibility of a group insurance scheme" for activity providers.

What is actually actioned, remains to be seen.

The last Programme for Partnership Government, published in 2016, committed to retaining the 9pc VAT rate (it rose to 13.5pc in Budget 2019), while a €100m funding boost for the Wild Atlantic Way mentioned initiatives including "an Atlantic Blueway route" and "the Ireland Way".

Read the full Programme for Government here.

Online Editors