Dáil Éireann - Volume 474 - 30 January, 1997

Written Answers. - Tourist Accommodation.

96. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Tourism and Trade the plans, if any, he has to introduce a new grant scheme towards the provision of tourist accommodation in areas where the product is deficient. [2693/97]

Minister for Tourism and Trade (Mr. E. Kenny): As I have indicated in response to previous similar questions, the Operational Programme for Tourism 1989-1993, as agreed with the European Commission did not provide support for tourist accommodation projects. Based on the ability of the commercial accommodation market to respond to growth in visitor numbers without grant assistance this policy was, in general, continued under the current operational programme.

The current programme recognised however that there were a number of market segments where the quality of existing accommodation was [384] deficient and included a provision to assist on a selective basis, investment in certain areas. These include accommodation-related conference and leisure facilities, a limited scheme of accommodation improvements to existing small and medium sized hotels with a current capacity of up to 100 bedrooms and graded up to and including three star; limited grant aid for certain specialist accommodation needs such as caravan and camping park facilities; upgrading and improvement of existing buildings for hostel or other specialist accommodation and associated facilities on branded walking routes; provision of new and improved accommodation at approved outdoor pursuit centres in remote areas currently without appropriate accommodation; improvement of existing accommodation at approved residential equestrian centres; horse-drawn caravan and motor-home investments; the additional cost of providing, in existing hotels, suitable access friendly accommodation for people with disabilities; and improved access for people with disabilities at hotels and major visitor centres.

In general, in keeping with the overall strategy in the programme, support is aimed primarily at the enhancement of existing investment rather than supporting new development and all accommodation supported must be registered or approved, as appropriate.

I should add that the funds provided under the programme for tourism development projects are generally over-subscribed and, unfortunately, those available for specialist accommodation related developments are fully committed. These and other aspects of the programme's operations are being considered fully in the context of the current mid-term evaluation of the programme. I am not in a position at this stage to anticipate the findings of this review.

Other EU funded programmes such as the programme for agriculture, rural development and forestry and the Leader II programme administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the local urban and rural development programme provide support for smaller tourism initiatives. In the Border counties assistance may also be available under the IFI and INTERREG programmes and the programme for peace and reconciliation, again on a limited basis. This includes limited provision for accommodation projects, including, in some cases, guesthouses and bed and breakfast establishments, on a basis compatible with that in the operational programme for tourism.

All registered and approved tourism accommodation has been deemed eligible for low interest loans under the access to finance scheme launched last September by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. A sum of £52 million of this £208 million fund has been specially earmarked for tourism projects throughout the country. A similar scheme especially for the Border [385] counties, was recently introduced under the peace and reconciliation fund. All the funds under these schemes have now been committed. Investment in registered or approved tourist accommodation in any of the resort areas designated under the pilot tax relief scheme for certain resort areas may also qualify for generous tax relief under the scheme.