Failed tourism policy is costing money and jobs
We get almost two million first-time holiday visitors but fewer than one million repeat holiday visitors. If we achieved the same level of repeat visiting as Scotland we would double our tourism numbers. Most studies of tourism produced in Ireland are controlled by the State tourism organisations.
These reports invariably make recommendations that suit Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Tourism. Examples include the 2004 PricewaterhouseCoopers report on regional structures and the 2012 Irish Tourism Industry Confederation report, Capitalising On Dublin’s Potential.
In 2004, PwC reviewed regional and local tourism structures in a number of countries and then recommended a centralised structure, even though all the countries reviewed operate a community approach.
All tourism businesses in Dublin were excluded from Dublin Tourism Ltd as it was turned into a Fáilte Ireland subsidiary in 2007, and the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation was given the right to nominate five directors. The chief executive of Dublin Tourism was a director of the confederation.
This masterly protection of the insider network in Irish tourism was presided over by then minister for tourism John O’Donoghue.
The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation study compares Dublin with six other medium-sized European cities. The major conclusion of the report is that Dublin is suffering “loss of competitive position against major European city competitors” because of “lack of co-ordination of marketing efforts”. It lists cities that “have established very effective city promotion organisations”.
These are Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Barcelona and Lisbon. Each of these cities has an independent city tourism organisation. The report, however, recommends the setting up of a Dublin Tourism Marketing Alliance as a unit within Fáilte Ireland.
Dublin Tourism was a subsidiary of Fáilte Ireland from 2007 to 2011. The confederation report recommends the replacement of Dublin Tourism Ltd, a Fáilte Ireland subsidiary and a failure, by a unit within Fáilte Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland itself was a political creation that had no basis in any understanding of the nature of tourism or international practice. The setting up of Tourism Ireland in 2000 deprived Bord Fáilte of its role in international marketing. Fáilte Ireland then came from the merger of the rump of Bord Fáilte with Cert.
Tourism is everybody’s business, but State organisations have controlled tourism for their own interests, excluding most tourism business and destroying the employment potential of Irish tourism. The Department of Tourism and the Minister for Tourism are responsible for tourism policy.
Irish tourism policy has no basis in logic and is out of step with standard international practice. The policy has failed and that failure is costing us tens of thousands of badly needed jobs.
Felim O’Rourke is an economist. He was joint author, with Jerome Casey, of the Dublin City Business Association report Rejuvenating the Tourism Product in Dublin, published in 2011