Minister Brendan Griffin
As the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Sport, what would be a typical day for you?
When I’m at home in Kerry, my day starts at around 6.30 or 7am when our 2 year old son shuffles into our bedroom. His 4 year old brother is soon to follow and all systems are go after that!!! I’m usually gone from 8am-10 or 11pm attending meetings and clinics in all parts of the county. When I’m in Dublin, the day is mostly confined to Leinster House and the Department, usually from 8 in the morning til about midnight.
You were elected to the Dail in 2011 at just 29 years of age. Was it intimidating being so young entering the national political stage?
My first day in the Dail was my 29th birthday coincidentally. By that stage though I had been involved in Fine Gael for 13 or 14 years, had fought four campaigns of my own, had spent a few years on Kerry County Council and had spent 3 years as a parliamentary assistant, so making the step to being a TD wasn’t the big issue, I think it was the fact that we were going into government in 2011 that was daunting for everyone in Fine Gael and Labour, given the massive economic challenges at that time.
You took office in June. Is there anything you have learned or by which you have been surprised since being involved the tourism sector?
It has reminded me just how many great people work in the sector and how people centred the industry is. I worked in the industry for many years and understand the hugely important role it plays in so many peoples lives.
What is the biggest selling point for Ireland as a tourist destination, the secret to the country’s success?
Irish tourism’s biggest selling point is the Irish People. Time and again this comes across in the feedback received from overseas visitors to this country. Visitors are genuinely taken with the welcome they receive when they come here. Combine this with our great scenery, food, heritage and culture and you have a top class offering.
Where would you like to see Ireland’s tourism sector in 10 years?
In 10 years, my aim is that we will have a vibrant attractive tourism sector that makes a significant contribution to employment across the country, is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, helps promote a positive image of Ireland overseas, and is a sector that people wish to work in.
I would like to see a greater spread of tourists throughout the calendar year and also, a greater geographical spread of tourists. There is capacity for development in off-peak periods and also in less developed destinations. In fairness, the tourism agencies are aware of this and are seeking to address it. It is also why it is great to see initiatives like the Munster Vales as it is one which can help address both issues.
What contribution does tourism have to the Irish economy?
Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors and continues to play a key role in Ireland’s economic renewal. 2016 was a record year for Irish tourism with the highest ever number of overseas visits to Ireland of over 9.5 million.
Expenditure by overseas visitors in 2016 was €4.577 billion(excluding fares). When carrier receipts are included, along with cross-border visitors, the figure rises to just over €6 billion. Spending on domestic tourism in 2016 was €1.77 billion. Total spending on tourism in 2016 was therefore almost €7.8 billion (including carrier receipts).
At present there over 150,000 people employed in the ‘Accommodation and Food Services’ sector in Ireland. Fáilte Ireland estimates that total tourism employment (when other parts of the sector such as conferencing, attractions and festivals are included) is in the region of 228,000. Our aim is to increase this number to 250,000 by 2025.
What does Tourism mean to Ireland?
Tourism’s contribution is not confined to directly generating employment, economic activity and exports. Tourism has played a vital role in reshaping North/South relationships through the joint marketing and promotion of the island of Ireland in international markets.
Many of our tourist ‘experiences’ promote and celebrate our culture and heritage from traditional music, to galleries, to theatre. Irish people love showing the best of our country to visitors and take huge pride in ensuring that our visitors have a great time while they’re here.