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Speech by Minister Varadkar at the Tourism Ireland dinner for delegates to the Tourism Summit, Aras an Uachtarain on Monday 23rd June

23rd June 2014 - Leo Varadkar, TD

I trust that this evening’s hospitality is a fitting finale to your busy day here in Dublin. I want to thank Tourism Ireland for organising the event and giving me the opportunity to say a few brief words to you on the eve of the Tourism Summit.

I want to echo President Higgins’s earlier words of welcome, especially to those of you visiting from overseas. The President spoke of the importance of tourism in building understanding between nationalities and cultures, as well as its other economic and social contributions – and of course the industry itself is at the very heart of all of them.

Tourism Performance
Here in Ireland, the tourism industry has performed very well in the last three years. In 2013, almost 7 million overseas trips were made to Ireland, and overseas travel to Ireland generated earnings of €4.1 billion.

I know that Northern Ireland’s tourism industry had a similarly successful season in 2013, and I want to take this opportunity to welcome representatives of the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment, and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, who are here this evening.

I’m pleased to say that the indications for tourism performance to date in 2014 are also positive. Visitor numbers for the period February-April 2014 are up 7.5% when compared to the corresponding period of 2013.

As a result of this strong performance, employment in the Irish tourism industry has grown significantly. There are 14,000 extra people employed in the accommodation and food service sector in the last year. In fact, the level of employment in the accommodation and food sector has now recovered all the ground lost during the economic crisis, matching the previous employment peak of 2007.

I mention these figures because your enterprise and hard work, both in Ireland and overseas, has been a key factor in this success, and I thank you all for your ongoing commitment and support which benefits economies and communities across all parts of Ireland.

In particular, I want to acknowledge the contribution of the overseas Marketing Partnership Group members over the last number of years. We appreciate your efforts and the invaluable job the commercial sector does for Irish tourism. We look forward to working with you to achieve even greater success in coming years. The fundamental basis for making progress in developing tourism is building strong partnerships – between tourism agencies and the industry, across the public sector and across the private sector.

Government Support for Tourism
For our part, the Irish Government believes strongly in the importance of tourism as a vehicle for Irish economic recovery, and recognises that tourism plays a vital role in shaping the international perception of our country.

The measures that the Irish Government has put in place since 2011, including the reduced VAT level on tourism services, and the reduction of the Air Travel Tax to zero this year, underlines our commitment to supporting the tourism sector. This in turn has been rewarded, I believe, with the recovery in tourism employment I referred to earlier.

Since the Government came to office, the number of international visitors coming to Ireland has increased by more than a million per annum and is almost certain to exceed 7 million this year.

We remain fully supportive of tourism as a driver of economic growth and employment, and the new Tourism Policy which I will publish shortly places tourism firmly at the heart of the Government’s economic strategy.

Tourism Ireland Summit
For those of you taking part in Tourism Ireland’s summit tomorrow, I hope it’s a productive and informative experience. I know that Tourism Ireland places great value on the input of its industry partners from overseas. Meeting the needs and desires of overseas visitors is the key to future success for Irish tourism, and I know that Tourism Ireland is looking forward to hearing your views on the opportunities in your respective markets and on the best ways to harvest that potential. 

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