Mon 16th Feb 2015
Jan 15: Shining a spotlight on tourism
It appears that the structures by which our tourism service and products are offered will soon be changing. A review into the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has made 33 recommendations, the highest profile of which is a name change to Tourism NI. In fact, the change of title is less significant than the proposed realignment with Invest NI, all of which is likely to be caught up in the emerging proposals around Departmental structures and in which DETI will be central.
There are also important personnel changes afoot with Chief Executive Alan Clarke having already stood down and Chairman Howard Hastings coming to the end of his term. Tourism is a significant driver of investment and employment in Northern Ireland, and it is currently enjoying a highly successful period.
We know about the high profile events which have shone the international spotlight on Northern Ireland including the Giro and the MTV awards, and with every year new festivals and events take place which draw outside visitors into Northern Ireland. The people behind the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, the Festival at Queen’s, the new Samuel Beckett Festival in Enniskillen to name a few as representative of the many – deserve great praise for the innovation they have delivered to the tourism market. For that reason it is gratifying to hear Tourism Minister Arlene Foster refer to the development of strong relationships with local tourism partners.
Every event, attraction or one off project which draws people into Northern Ireland and encourages them to spend money here is to be welcomed, promoted and supported. Whatever about name changes and structural changes – that is the key function of Tourism NI going forward.
That strong local relationship is a feature of devolution, and it is an advantage which should not be lost amongst the strategically important efforts of Tourism Ireland, whose primary function is to market the island of Ireland to the international market. It is our job to ensure that once visitors have touched down in Dublin, Belfast or anywhere else, that they are exposed to the attractions of this region. At the same time, our product requires and deserves investment and support. Who can deny the value of the public money invested in Titanic Belfast, in the Causeway Visitors Centre or in the North West during the fantastic City of Culture Year in Derry/Londonderry?
The name and structure may change, but that core function remains – to support the NI tourism product.