This week, I continued to push the case for Government to take on board my proposal that all major tourist sites in Ireland should provide free wi-fi internet access to visitors.

I have received confirmation from Minister Leo Varadkar that the proposal is now actively under consideration by both the Minister’s office and Fáilte Ireland. I want to welcome this development and will now seek to ensure that the proposal becomes a reality and benefits areas such as Bunratty, and the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare and the Old Friary in Ennis.
With a relatively small investment, many visitors could be encouraged to share pictures of their visit to well known landmarks on social networking sites and websites all over the world, thereby increasing the exposure of the visitor attractions.

I first raised this issue last August and subsequently wrote to Minister Leo Varadkar at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. I want to thank my colleague Minister Varadkar for taking my initiative on board and giving it serious consideration. I look forward to working with the Minister’s office and also Fáilte Ireland to help now make it a reality.

There is great merit in putting in place a national network of free Wi-Fi internet at popular tourist sites. Such an initiative would encourage visitors to upload photos to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in an instance. For a relatively small investment users could send pictures to family and friends, thereby promoting many popular tourist sites across the Country.

The Wi-Fi zones could be located in café areas, or in kiosks like the ones provided at airports, and would be relatively cheap to install and run. You can get internet access now for less than €50 a month, and I believe the value in promotion and marketing terms would be a multiple of this.

This isn’t simply about allowing tourists to send emails or surf the internet, it is also about making it easier for them to use smart phones, send pictures of their locations, access tourist information on-line and communicate positive messages about particular areas to a global audience.

Any proposal which can raise the profile of our tourist sites at present is worth looking at. Many European cities and places of tourist interest are looking to similar projects and we in Ireland should do the same.

I note that the Cliffs of Moher café recently started providing free Wi-Fi, and many towns and cities across Europe are also rolling out schemes to benefit tourists in scenic areas. I will work closely with my government colleagues to look at the feasibility of rolling out a national Wi-Fi Scheme at tourist locations across the Country.