Last summer, the Dublin City Centre Business Association commissioned Felim O’Rourke and myself to examine how Dublin’s tourism product could be rejuvenated. Our report is at www.dcba.ie. If short of time, skim the 33 pages reviewing existing tourist attractions, since each was afforded one page, regardless of its attractiveness. Among the conclusions and recommendations are,
- The Irish Government may not be able/willing to burn the bank bondholders, but it should liquidate Treasury Holdings, rather than allow NAMA to keep it alive. This would cause the 25 year PPP on the Irish Convention Centre to lapse, and save the Exchequer €0.7bn.
- My colleague and I are retired, and thus our recommendations are not modified by the expectation of future work. But in 80 years of commercial activity, neither of us has ever come across such a combination of overspending and underperformance as is exhibited by the national tourism organisations (NTO’s). We did not make specific recommendations for organisational change, but your respondents may wish to take up this baton!
- The Irish national tourism organisations (NTO’s) perform poorly when benchmarked against Scotland, Edinburgh and Amsterdam. In 2009, if Scottish rates of attracting tourists were applied to Ireland, the budgets of Irish NTO’s would have been reduced by two-thirds, or by c. €100m. p.a.. Amsterdam attracts eight times the tourist numbers per employee of Irish NTO’s, at just over one-half the cost per employee. Within Ireland, there is a mismatch between visitor numbers and NTO spending: Dublin accounted for 32% of tourist revenue in 2009, but only 6% of current spending by NTO’s was spent in Dublin.
- This is sectoral stuff, microeconomics. At the micro, micro level, Dublin tourism is going to have to function in future with lots of ingenuity and with little finance. For example, the municipal food market should maintain cleanliness standards with frequent water sluicing on tarmacadam floors, rather than by (much more expensive) investment in ceramic floor tiling. Again, where a tourism product is space-constrained, such as the Book of Kells or the Anne Frank house, it is cheaper to extend visiting hours, rather than to invest in expanded waiting areas. Let’s have similar cost-constraining initiatives in other major areas of social expenditure, such as health, education and social welfare.
This industry and this report are too important for Ireland’s future to be consigned to the neglect of the authorities.