Tiger Growth: Tourism’s Roaring Trade 1987–2007
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A second shift in Irish industrial development occurred in the mid- to late 1980s in response to the economic crisis within which Ireland was suffering recession, huge emigration, and unemployment difficulties, ultimately to 20 per cent. As jobs were being lost in agriculture and manufacturing, these sectors were not able to ameliorate the problems (Williams & Shaw, 1998: 225). This developmental shift would eventually lead to the Celtic Tiger economic growth so well-documented in the literature, when GDP growth between 1995 and 2000 averaged 9 per cent and unemployment dropped to 4 per cent (Clancy, 2009: 58). However, the contribution that tourism made to that growth is almost entirely neglected, the assumption being that tourism was a following rather than a leading sector in the growth. This chapter documents the fact that much of the initiative that led to tourism growth predates the Celtic Tiger period and also that tourism made a unique and invaluable contribution to growth by generating jobs when most other sectors initially provided only jobless growth. By the mid-1980s, tourism, as a highly labour-intensive industry with potential to gain foreign earnings, was finally accepted by key players as offering an obvious strategy for economic growth and job creation. Although this potential had been recognised before in the context of the Marshall Plan what was different this time was that there was a fundamental change in both the private sector’s and the state’s approach to the tourism industry.