Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 16 October, 1997

Written Answers - Tourist Accommodation.

135. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if he will make a statement on the situation where major equality problems remain with lower grade accommodation categories; and the additional funds, if any, which will be made available from the Operational Programme for Tourism to rectify this situation. [16790/97]

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): It has been policy, for some time, not to provide support for tourist accommodation projects on the basis of the proven ability of the commercial accommodation sector to respond to growth in visitor numbers without grant assistance. This approach was incorporated into the Operational Programme for Tourism 1989-93 agreed with the European Commission and, by and large, carried forward into the current operational programme. However, the current programme does make an exception in the case of a number of specific market segments where the quality of existing accommodation was recognised to be deficient. Hence, it includes a provision to assist, on a selective basis, investment in such areas as: accommodation-related conference and leisure facilities; a limited scheme of accommodation improvements to existing small and medium-sized hotels with a 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 pursuits centres in remote areas without appropriate accommodation; improvement of existing accommodation at approved residential equestrian centres; horse-drawn caravan and motorhome 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 keeping with the overall strategy in the programme, such 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. All funds in this regard under the programme are fully committed. [1249] The mid-term review of the operational programme is being completed, as part of the overall mid-term review of the Community Support Framework for Ireland and outstanding issues will be dealt with at the Tourism Monitoring Committee meeting scheduled for November next, including the matters of possible financial transfers within the programme, reorganisation of priorities and selection criteria.