MLA for South Down Chris Hazzard has welcomed the Grand Fondo Giro d’Italia to South Down. “Great credit is due to the event organisers and promoters for choosing our region,” he said. “The route through Rathfriland, Hilltown, Rostrevor, Castlewellan, Dromara, Ballynahinch and Saintfield, taking in our mountains, forests and drumlin countryside is something we all take pride in. Grand Fondo Giro d’Italia is a brilliant opportunity to showcase the beauty of our landscape to a worldwide audience. The natural beauty of south Down is complemented by the hospitality which comes naturally to its people. Disruption caused by road closures isn’t a cause for widespread complaint here. So it is important that we pay tribute to the locals and the people who volunteer their services, to make sure that participants are watered and fuelled along the route. We’ve attracted Ireland’s leading mass participation cycling event for sound reasons. Recognition that South Down is an excellent tourist destination is clear following the awarding of ‘The European Sport Tourism Event of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ at the Tourism NI Annual Awards. Unfortunately too many visitors to South Down are forced to book accommodation elsewhere as the number of local beds fall well short of what is expected of a premier tourist destination. This is why I have been calling on Minister Johnathan Bell and Invest NI to proactively develop overnight accommodation in South Down. It’s fantastic we are hosting premier events. Now is time to build on it to ensure the economy of South Down benefits to the maximum.
16th June 2015