The new tourism agency for the North, Tourism NI, should be based in Newry. That’s the view on Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon. The recently released Hunter Review Report contained 33 recommendations covering a range of issues which in particular will impact NITB, Invest Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and district councils. “The Hunter Report recommends the NI Tourist Board should be rebranded Tourism NI as a part of a wider strategy to attract more tourists to the North. I welcome the Enterprise Minister’s support for the recommendations of the Hunter Report to locate the Tourism NI and Invest NI Offices after 2016. Having the both of these locations in the same place is a good idea as it will help coordinate the tourism development strategy until the creation of a single all Ireland tourism body. I have asked the Minister to consider locating the new headquarters of the two organisations in Newry. In order to attract more tourists we must market the island of Ireland as a single destination and Newry as a border city is the perfect place from which to coordinate an all island approach. Most visitors fly into Ireland through Dublin of Belfast and Newry is half way between the two airports and is at the centre of each coast economic corridor,” she added. Speaking in the Assembly and responding to the question from Ms Fearon of the possibility of the co-location being after 2016 when leases expire the Minister (Arlene Foster) said: “That will be a matter for the boards of Tourism Northern Ireland and Invest NI. We will work together with both organisations so that they make an impact right across Northern Ireland. Tourism is one of those industries that happens right across Northern Ireland. There is not a constituency on which it does not have an impact Through using the nine key destinations and working in collaboration with the 11 new councils we want to move tourism on a step change , particularly given the new themes we a currently looking at. Outdoor activities will be very important to the Member in Newry in particular. The bike trails that have been set up in her constituency have been a great success and we want to see more people looking to Northern Ireland for outdoor activity holidays. We think that there is a good market there and again that leads on to the need to have direct air access into Northern Ireland so that we can attract people here particularly from Germany,” she added. Meanwhile John McCallister MLA, Independent Unionist for South Down called on the Minister for Trade and Investment to ensure that the new strategic plan for tourism had localized targets and will bring benefits to all council areas especially those which have lower than average visitors and tourist spend. I welcome the rebranding of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to Tourism Northern Ireland and plans for to work more closely with the new Councils and Invest NI,” said Mr McCallister. “I still however have concerns that certain areas are not benefiting enough from Northern Ireland’s increased tourist numbers. The recent closure of the Kilmorey Arms hotel in Kilkeel is an illustration of how certain areas are not benefiting from the increased number of visitors. The spend from Invest NI and the Department to support the development of tourist businesses has also been extremely erratic with South Down and Newry and Mourne doing considerably worse than the average. Certain areas of South Down such as Rathfriland and Kilkeel are not getting the support to attract enough visitors and those that do come don’t have enough activities to spend their money on. I have asked the Minister if the new strategic plan will contain specific targets for visitor numbers and spend for each new Council area including the new ABC Council and Newry Mourne and Down. From the Mountains of Mourne, the Game of Thrones to the Bronte Homeland, South Down has some fantastic assets. I urge the existing councils and the shadow councils to engage at the earliest opportunity with the Department and Tourism Northern Ireland to maximize these assets,” he added.
27th January 2015