That is a fair question and one which I suspect will be asked and answered continually in the months ahead, and it is fair that this should be monitored monthly. I welcome the overall growth in visit numbers to Ireland in the first eight months of 2017. However, the decline in the numbers visiting from Great Britain continues to be a concern. While growth from North America, mainland Europe and other markets has allowed us to maintain upward momentum, it is important that we would take appropriate action to address the Great Britain decline.
Overseas marketing is vital for tourism. While recent tourism performance has been strong, research in our key overseas markets has indicated that Ireland’s share of voice needs to be strengthened. To that end, I have secured €2 million in budget 2018 for digital investment in tourism marketing, both to help restore Ireland’s share of voice vis-à-vis its competitors and also to develop growth from alternative markets. This is critical in the context of Brexit and the decline in visitors from Britain.
Tourism Ireland and industry partners, working in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland, have implemented a series of actions in the Great Britain market to address the implications of Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling. For example, a greater focus has been placed on culturally curious visitors, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations, and highlighting off-season breaks and value offers. As well as this, Tourism Ireland is continuing its market diversification strategy. This aims to attract more visitors from markets which deliver longer stays and, therefore, higher revenue returns. This strategy is bearing fruit, as evidenced by the significant increase in visitors from North America and other markets thus far in 2017.
The existing capital plan for 2016-2022 provides an allocation of almost €126 million for tourism product development. Fáilte Ireland's tourism investment strategy 2016-2022 lays out the funding streams and delivery mechanisms for this allocation. I am pleased to have secured an additional allocation of almost €33 million for tourism product development in the mid-term review of the capital plan, bringing the total amount available to almost €160 million. This capital budget will contribute significantly to the development of the tourism sector. In line with the tourism commitments in A Programme for A Partnership Government, this capital budget will enable Fáilte Ireland to invest in the further development of the signature experience brands, including the Wild Atlantic Way. It will also allow Fáilte Ireland to progress the development of a brand for the Lakelands region as a separate proposition to sit alongside the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. I assume that last sentence has great appeal to Deputy Troy.