The outgoing President of the Irish Hotels Federation called for the €300 million allocated to tourism in Project Ireland 2040 to be frontloaded, saying that the actions set out
within the plan will have a real and lasting influence on Irish tourism’s future success.
Joe Dolan, (pictured with Failte Ireland ceo Paul Kelly amd Tourism Ireland ceo Niall Gibbons), was making his final address as President.
Currently the allocation is weighed towards the second half of the plan. Speaking at the Federation’s 80th AGM and Annual Conference in Cavan, Mr Dolan said that sustaining Ireland’s tourism success depends on a strategic approach by Government and other state partners to marketing, tourism and hospitality skills provision, as well as a specific focus on regional tourism development, so that tourism benefits those rural areas outside the key urban centres and traditional tourism hotspots
“Despite the upturn, the hotels’ sector- most especially in rural areas - is still a number of years away from achieving sustainability. There is a need for new creative thinking. Project Ireland 2040 contains a stated commitment to rural regeneration with a fund established to promote rural renewal. We would like to be a positive stakeholder in that process. We are on the ground in every town and county and have the market intelligence and business expertise to advise,” he said. “We all have seen the closed shops, the derelict buildings in too many of our towns. Tourism can be a real driver in turning towns and villages around by providing new employment and a new lease of life that embraces the benefits that tourism can bring, once the right strategy and supports are in place,” he said.
The Irish Hotels Federation notes that the Government’s roadmap for tourism development to 2025 - People Place and Policy – acknowledges the important contribution of tourism to the economy and its role in securing some 230,000 jobs. “As we seek to secure continued growth, the barriers stifling that growth must be addressed. Hoteliers are finding it more difficult to find qualified staff and this will significantly hinder the prospect of achieving the target to increase tourism related jobs by in excess of 40,000 between now and 2021 – never mind what could be achieved by 2040,” he said.
“Sustaining tourism growth means putting in place now educational programmes and supports to attract people and train people for tourism and hospitality careers. Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry relies heavily on the consistent delivery of a quality product. Our employees are our best ambassadors and we must address their ongoing and future skills needs in order to ensure a highly skilled workforce that can realise their potential and can contribute to the continuous improvement of standards across the sector,” he added.
Mr Dolan called for more support for training programmes that enable people to “earn and learn”. He pointed to the new National Commis Chef Apprenticeship Programme. Describing it as an important first step, he said it was an example of the commitment to continued education and training that is required. The industry-led “earn as you learn” programme, which the IHF was involved in developing, provides young aspiring chefs across Ireland with a two year formal programme. The scheme is available to young people aged over 16 years, existing kitchen staff and anyone else who wishes to gain an internationally recognised qualification.
He also said for sustainable tourism growth marketing funds must be re-instated to pre-recession levels so that we can compete successfully internationally and get more people to visit Ireland. “There must be a strategic joined up plan to extend the tourism season for beyond the peak season and to develop tourism products in those parts of the country where great potential exists.”
“We have a great image abroad and high tourism visitor satisfaction with some notable new product developments such as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, which have helped to open up new parts of the country to the benefits of tourism. Nevertheless, we are missing opportunities. There are many areas in rural Ireland where tourism just is not providing a sustainable living and it could, with the right ideas and support,” he said.