New Late Late Show presenter, Patrick Kielty and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, were among the notable luminaries who addressed a large gathering during a landmark major tourism conference in the Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone on Monday.
Hosted by journalist and broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald, the event, titled ‘Tourism: Big Impact, Small Footprint,’ took place in the Radisson Blu Hotel along the River Shannon and was organised by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC ), who showcased a new report which outlines its vision of the tourism sector becoming a €15 billion annual industry by 2030.
Sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, AIB, and Westmeath County Council, the conference was welcomed by Mayor of Athlone, Councillor Louise Heavin, who underlined the importance of a thriving tourism industry to the region.
Key highlights at the event included
ITIC’s Chairperson, Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, emphasised tourism’s role as a regional economic powerhouse, providing jobs throughout the country
ITIC’s report includes 38 recommendations, projecting an annual contribution of €3.5 billion in direct tourism-related taxes to the exchequer
The report calls for a shift of tourism from the Media and Culture portfolio to the Enterprise Department, a 15% increase in tourism budgets, and Ireland becoming an R&D hub for sustainable aviation fuel. It also demands a plan from Government as to how their dependence on hotels and guesthouses for refugees will be lessened
Minister Catherine Martin said that the report would be considered as part of the National Tourism Policy to be published later this year - she would not be drawn on budgetary matters including industry’s call for the restoration of the 9% tourism VAT rate
Patrick Kielty spoke on how we can use tourism as a force for good and how tourism had benefitted the island following the Good Friday Agreement
Following this theme former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressed concern at the ongoing political stalemate North of the border. He spoke about his memories of the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and how “peace must be normalised but needs to be guarded preciously”
International guest Anita Mendiratta, a Special Advisor to the UNWTO, praised Ireland for its sustainability efforts and highlighted the €68 million Just Transition Fund for the Midlands as a game-changer for regenerative tourism
On the theme of sustainability, 250 cruisers on the Shannon will adopt Sustainable Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO ) in 2024, reducing their carbon footprint by 92%.