Monday, 29 March 2021

·         Revitalising town centres, rural jobs, adventure tourism, green economy and island development central to new policy

The importance of tourism to local and regional economies cannot be understated. The Tourism Recovery Taskforce, which was established in 2020, noted that tourism is the only employer of note outside of agriculture in many rural areas. The sector also employs a higher proportion of young people than many other sectors.

COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the Tourism sector. The Tourism Recovery Taskforce estimated that, of the 260,000 jobs in the sector prior to COVID, 180,000 were either lost or vulnerable. The Tourism Recovery Taskforce has developed a Recovery Plan containing over 30 recommendations for the Government’s consideration across a number of areas designed to help the sector to survive and recover from the crisis out to 2023. Successful initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, along with our UNESCO Geoparks and Geoheritage sites and National Parks, provide a blueprint for further development of tourism offerings in rural areas.

Some of the plans aimed at increasing tourism in these areas are to develop a pilot bicycle up-cycling initiative to support employment creation, to harness the potential of investment in greenways, and to support the development of the social enterprise business model, Expand the Walks Scheme to achieve a target of at least 80 trails, doubling the number from 2018 and to explore the potential for the development of further tourist trails, including new flagship cross-border trails and initiatives.

Minister Anne Rabbitte said:

Our Rural Future Strategy has many goals and will help the tourism and hospitality sectors to recover post pandemic, create jobs in the Green Economy and the Agri-food sector, and make it easier to set up and grow a business in Rural Ireland.

It means more people will be able to live in their own communities, or move to new ones, with the option of good quality employment. It will mean less commuting, and more vibrant communities as people have more time to spend with their families, their neighbours their local clubs and organisations.

The implementation of Culture 2025 will also help to support job creation in rural areas in the culture and creativity sectors over the lifetime of this policy. Heritage lies at the heart of rural Ireland and is one of the keys to sustaining rural areas and regenerating them. Ireland’s rural areas benefit from a relatively unspoiled environment containing some of the most spectacular landscapes and collections of flora and fauna in the world. The implementation of a new National Heritage Plan, Heritage Ireland 2030, will recognise the role our heritage plays in our communities, economy, and society and will set out strategic priorities for the heritage sector over the next decade.

The Green Economy presents significant potential for employment opportunities for rural areas as Ireland transitions to a low carbon, climate-neutral future. Ireland has the opportunity to grow a sustainable renewable energy industry across on-shore and offshore wind, solar, and biomass categories, and, in particular, to become an exporter of wind-generated energy. There are also opportunities for micro-generation for enhanced community and business engagement in realising renewable opportunities and the development of this sector is critical for Ireland to meet its renewable energy targets of delivering 70% of Ireland’s electricity by 2030 from renewable sources.