Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin has welcomed the European Commission's adoption of Ireland's Territorial Just Transition Plan and associated programme for 2021–2027.
The adoption of the Just Transition Plan confirms significant Ireland/EU funding to support the midlands region, as Ireland moves away from fossil fuels. The tourism element of the Just Transition Plan includes allocations of €38 million under regenerative tourism business supports and €30 million for a tourism trails network.
Minister Martin noted the aim of the EU Just Transition Fund to act as an enabler of more ambitious climate action within specific economic sectors, in particular through the promotion of sustainable tourism and welcomes this major boost for the economic and social infrastructure of the Midlands region.
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Speaking about the funding announcement, Minister Martin said, "The EU Just Transition Funding is a significant step for regenerative tourism development in Ireland, as we work to reduce our emissions in line with the Programme for Government. The scale of investment is a testament to the work of Fáilte Ireland in making a compelling case to the EU. I am confident that Fáilte Ireland, working in partnership with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and my own department, will deliver effectively on this ambitious scheme of work, which will transform tourism in the midlands.
"This investment is very much in line with the Programme for Government commitment for the development of a sustainable tourism policy document. This new tourism policy will seek to support sustainable economic development in communities throughout the country, whilst protecting our environment and natural resources, and with a greater spread of demand across the year.
"The funding confirmed today will enable the development of a network of trails linked to existing and emerging greenways; provide support to tourism businesses developing tourism infrastructure and experiences; repurpose buildings for small scale tourism developments; and support the use of smart technology and digitalisation to the benefit of visitors, businesses and the economy of the midlands."
CEO of Fáilte Ireland Paul Kelly said, "This investment reinforces the value of tourism to the economic well-being and development of a destination. I want to pay tribute to the team at Fáilte Ireland for their tireless work over a number of months on developing our successful submission to the EU. The allocation to Fáilte Ireland is recognition of our expertise as the national tourism development authority to deliver projects of scale that will create jobs, empower businesses and build stronger communities leaving a lasting legacy of transformative change that will enhance the appeal of the Midlands as a tourist destination for generations to come. It is an unprecedented investment in tourism, and one that is going to have a tangible economic impact in the towns and communities of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands and Ireland's Ancient East.
"Fáilte Ireland is looking forward to working collaboratively with local tourism businesses and communities, the East and Midlands Regional Authority (EMRA), Bord na Mona, Local Authorities, and our strategic partners including Waterways Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte, to deliver this transformational project of scale."
The EU Just Transition fund supports the regions and communities in Europe that are negatively affected by the transition to climate neutrality. The fund will focus on the regions where there has been direct impacts from the move away from peat production and electricity generation from peat.
The EU Just Transition Fund in Ireland has three priority areas for investment:
- generating employment through diversification of the local economy;
- restoration of degraded peatlands and regeneration of industrial heritage assets;
- and smart and sustainable mobility.
These priority areas are designed to complement each other to address employment, economic, social and environmental impacts from the cessation of peat production for energy generation in the wider midlands area. They are also complemented by other EU funding programmes. This funding scheme is a matched funding scheme by the member state .
How The Funding Will Benefit Irish Tourism
This funding will enable Fáilte Ireland to reimagine, connect and generate employment for former peat related communities by investing in the diversification of the local economy, which will include new opportunities for tourism.
Four Strands For Reimagining Ireland's Midlands Through Regenerative Tourism And Place-making
Strand 1: Midlands Trails Network - €30 Million
To deliver a strategic network of trails that inter-connects with the existing and emerging arterial greenway network and includes of a network of connected walking, cycling & water-based trails, and related infrastructure including the repurposing of former narrow gauge rail track, culverts etc. for cycle ways; reimagined industrial bridges formally used to transport peat to factories across the JTF region to thematic experiences; place-making and art installations; signage and interpretation to create a sense of connectivity across the towns and villages, bogs and waterways of the Just Transition region.
Strand 2: Amenity Support To Tourism Businesses - €25 Million
Support public, private and community-based tourism enterprises to develop new and expand existing regenerative and sustainable tourism infrastructure and experiences to help enhance and sustain local economies. The aim is to create new jobs through the stimulation of new, or the expansion of existing tourism enterprises. These enterprises must operate to a high standard in terms of sustainable tourism (e.g., the Global Sustainable Tourism Council standard).
Supporting small to medium enterprises to provide and/or expand on and off the water activities, including bike hire, water sports (kayaking, SUP, etc), day-boating and water-taxi services and the development and/or improvement of visitor experiences and attractions, focused on the provision of eco-tourism experiences.
Strand 3: Alternative Low Carbon Accommodation - €3 Million
Carbon-neutral and low carbon small scale developments at key strategic locations aligned to the trails network and geographically spread across the Just Transition geography to give a demonstration effect and provide confidence to the private sector for future accommodation investments in Carbon Neutral / Low Carbon developments to include repurposed buildings.
Strand 4: Smart Solution Development - €10 Million
Building on the experience of Fáilte Ireland’s delivery of supports to SME, Smart Solution Development proposes a comprehensive programme of hard and soft supports specifically for the Just Transition Fund region to help deliver Smart technologies and digital solutions and develop more sustainable, commercially viable visitor experiences that prioritise the economic development potential of the region. This investment will result in widespread benefits for the consumer (reduced prices and time savings) business (efficiency gains and cost savings) the destination (clustering activities and highlighting regional offering) and the economy (exchequer returns, economic benefits and job creation).