The Gathering: An Important Week

This weekend we have seen the huge impact that tourism and culture can have on both our economy and our national mood. Tourism is a great source of jobs in our country and for the last two years has been growing since this Government took office.

As Senate spokesperson on Arts and Culture, I know the challenges that are faced by people in arts and people in small business. With The Gathering, we are hoping to increase the number of visitors to our shores by 5%. It doesn’t sound like much; but imagine the impact of having 5% more people in our shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels and arts venues? This weekend showed what that might look like, and already it is paying off.

With flights from the US for the coming year up by 20% on last year and flights from Abu Dhabi to Dublin increasing by 34% this year it is looking positive already. I have met numerous families, groups and organisations that have planned their own Gathering this year. It might be as simple as relatives coming back from England for a get together, or maybe it’s a little bit more ambitious, but all efforts will be worth it.

If you’re not planning one yet, but know of a friend or relative abroad, why not think about it? It’s a great excuse to invite people here, or get back in touch with long lost friends and relatives. Let’s try and get as many people back as
possible and show them the best of Ireland.

This is a big year for us and a big year for tourism. I hope everybody gets involved, and for my part, I have been working on an initiative for The Gathering together with a cross party group, which will invite international parliamentarians of Irish extraction to Dublin for an international political “Gathering”. This is just one example of the hundreds of events that
are happening up and down the country as part of The Gathering, which, it is hoped will drive tourism growth by 5% this year. Since taking Government, we have seen two consecutive years of rising tourism, following three consecutive years of falling numbers, and it looks like The Gathering could help make 2013 another great year.

The gathering of international politicians is an effort by us in the Oireachtas to show leadership through action. We’ve been encouraging friends, family and colleagues to organise gatherings around the country, and now we’re trying to do one ourselves. If successful, it could see a plethora of people visiting our shores who may have put it off for another few years and, hopefully, will also help to contribute to our economy.

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