Minister Alliance

Thursday, December 07, 2023.

It has long been a gripe not only of these pages but of so many hardworking people in the tourism industry that our tourism minister at any given time has so many portfolios to look after that he/she cannot possibly give tourism the attention that it deserves.

The current incumbent seems to have found a solution to that particular headache by choosing which areas to concentrate her best efforts. Going by some of her recent activities, there appears to be evidence to suggest that she is favouring the arts over Ireland’s largest indigenous industry. And who can blame her? A six-headed monster of a ministry is no easy beast to grapple with. Just to remind readers, it’s the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

At the recent IHF annual conference in Killarney, Deputy Martin was conspicuous by her absence. It’s a major tourism event, where the core of Ireland’s hoteliers gathers every year to air their variant concerns and to plan for the future. As it turned out, they had to do so without the presence of the Republic’s tourism minister.

Catherine Dundon; rugby legend Ronan O’Gara; Tourism Minister Catherine Martin; Arnaud Devanlay, Evaneos (French online travel agency); chef Kevin Dundon; and Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland, at a Team Ireland networking event, on the eve of the Ireland v South Africa World Cup clash in Paris

Last year, Deputy Martin chose to address the conference, but on the big screen from the comfort of her office in Dublin.

There was no sign of our tourism chief either at the Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards gala dinner in the Clayton Hotel in Burlington Road. It was far less of a trek from Dáil Éireann, being only a few kilometres away, but the show had to progress without her.

This was another key event in the tourism calendar and it’s quite simply inconceivable that whatever Minister of Tourism there was for the day would not be in attendance. The tourism minister is responsible for directing policy on tourism, for reflecting on it and shaping its destiny. If he/she is absent from such landmark events such as define the current state of the hospitality industry, then you have to start asking just how seriously is that minister taking their role. One place that she did turn up to lend the full weight of support that her office can provide was at the National Gallery of Ireland.

There’s absolutely no doubt of the occasion’s importance to Ireland and to Irish culture in general, but juxtaposed alongside some major industry events in what is indisputably a far greater industry (with no disrespect to the arts), one would have to question the thinking and the logic behind such decision-making.

To put it simply, it appears that there is a bias in the brief, with the current Minister preferring to focus her time and efforts on one or two parts of the multiple-personality brief rather than on tourism. In any organisation, the boss has to make their presence felt. They are the leaders and the ones who direct policy. Without that leadership and direction, the organisation flounders. In our largest indigenous industry, the boss is absent. Maybe it’s not her fault. Maybe this is a resurgence of the same problems that have dogged the Irish minister put in charge of tourism for over a generation.

You have to go back to July of 1997 – an absence of 26 years – to a time when tourism only had to share its attention within a ministry with just one other area of concentration (the Ministry of Tourism and Trade). The office of Deputy Martin was contacted and when asked to confirm all of the above and/or comment, it was an official in her department who responded saying, “The Minister is fully aware of the importance of the tourism sector to the Irish economy and to communities in every part of the country and she has delivered a very large package of business continuity, promotional and other supports to the sector over the past three years to support it during Covid and to assist with the current post-pandemic rebuild phase, including for example EUR 105 million in business continuity funding to the industry, a substantial increase in funding for overseas marketing and funding for measures such as outdining facilities.

The Minister engages very regularly with the tourism sector and as recently as 27 September co-chaired a meeting of the Hospitality and Tourism Forum with the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, She also spoke at the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation conference on 18 September. She has attended a wide range of events in the tourism sector, from individual attractions to representative conferences, and will continue to do so as her workload and Oireachtas commitments allow. Where the Minister’s diary does not permit attendance at key events, officials from her Department will be in attendance. The Minister will continue to engage and advocate with colleagues across Government on tourism issues and on behalf of the tourism sector.”

Read the Sept / October 2023 Magazine Publication from Hotel & Restaurant Times – https://www.hotelandrestauranttimes.ie/2023/10/11/sept-october-2023-magazine-issue/

 

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