The new Irish government is to introduce a number of key measures to boost tourism in 2011 and beyond.

Air travel tax rate is to be abolished in a move that is hoped will bring about a significant increase in overseas visitors. This measure is subject to an agreement being reached with the airlines to bring in additional passenger numbers.

Part of a major jobs initiative it is one of a number of approaches being taken to revitalize, not only the tourism industry, but the Irish economy as a whole. The cost of this measure is likely to be around €15 million in 2011, €90 million in 2012 and €105 million thereafter.

The second major announcement is that the Irish government is to introduce a new reduced VAT rate for tourism related goods and services. Slashing VAT from 13.5% to 9%, the new rate will apply mainly to restaurant and catering services, hotel and holiday accommodation and various entertainment services such as admissions to cinemas, theatres, museums, fairgrounds, amusement parks and sporting facilities. This measure is estimated to cost €350 million per year.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny “The purpose of this targeted VAT relief is to boost tourism and stimulate employment in the sector and I am confident that it will give the tourism sector a much needed shot in the arm.

Overall, our tourism products are very strong. In addition to Ireland’s natural attractions, we have a wide range of high quality accommodation, including hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, self-catering accommodation and hostels, to suit all tastes and budgets.”

Mr. Kenny continued “We offer a wide range of sporting and recreational facilities and events. Culture and heritage, golf, angling, walking, cycling and equestrian pursuits are all easily accessible. In recent years, holidaying in Ireland has become more affordable. These are some of the many advantages which we must harness in order to improve visitor satisfaction and to increase the number of people from overseas who choose Ireland as their holiday destination.”

Other elements of the new jobs initiative include a scheme of discounts on airport charges, which has been agreed by the State airports in consultation with the Irish Minister for Transport and the airlines. Also, a new tourism marketing campaign will begin which will be particularly focused on Ireland’s major source markets such as the US.

These announcements come as Ireland prepares to take center stage with historic state visits this weeks from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama. Thousands of well wishers will line the streets for a series of ceremonial events in Dublin, Cork and Co Offaly. The two heads of state are expected to receive the warmest of welcomes.

Mr. Joe Byrne, Executive Vice President, Tourism Ireland North America “We are delighted that both President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II have chosen to visit Ireland. We have a great relationship, both with our friends here in the US, and our near neighbors in the UK, and we look forward to showing some great Irish hospitality to our two very special guests.”

Mr. Byrne continued “2011 is an especially exciting year for tourism on the island of Ireland. Not only do we have the fantastic state visits, but a number of other great events will also be taking place such as the centenary of the launch of Titanic in Belfast, the celebrations in Dublin marking its recent honoring as a UNESCO city of literature and, of course, the Solheim Cup at the Killeen Castle in Co Meath.”

Tourism is one of the largest indigenous industries in Ireland and nearly one million visitors travel every year from North America.

****Courtesy of Discover Ireland