Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Maeve McLaughlin and Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn have joined forces to push for an increased focus by the Irish government on tourism development and promotion of the Inishowen peninsula and the wider county of Donegal as an integral part of the North West Region with Derry City as its hub.
Padraig MacLochlainn, the Sinn Féin candidate for the forthcoming European election, emphasised that tourism could be an economic lifeline for the region, particularly now during the economic downturn, Inishowen and Donegal in general, could be developed through common tourism partnerships with Derry City Council.
Cllr MacLochlainn said:
"The natural beauty and resources of Donegal combined with its proximity to the historic attractions of Derry City is under promoted as the region of outstanding natural beauty that it is. Visitor numbers collated over the last five years would bear out this analysis.
"A range of issues needing attention spring to mind such as the infrastructure required to attract tourists. Sections of the Inishowen 100 route for example require attention and repair; there is a lack of signposting to and maintenance of heritage sites like Northburgh Castle in Greencastle, Grianan of Aileach and Ireland's most northerly point - Malin Head, just to highlight a few areas where there is a dearth of visitor interpretative and service facilities.
"Inishowen Tourism is consigned to one small office in Carndonagh because of inadequate budget allocation. Imaginative initiatives need to be taken to make tourist information more widely available.
"For instance why can Tourist Information booths not be situated in Post Offices as well as cooperative arrangements being made with agencies in Derry City to make literature on the whole North West Region of Derry and Donegal available in their outlets? This situation would certainly not be tolerated in Cork or Kerry where a number of TIC's exist and where routes like the Ring of Kerry enjoy excellent signage and maintenance."
Derry City Cllr Maeve Mc Laughlin also called for the manner in which the North West is marketed in tourism terms to be revamped.
Derry City Council Councillor McLaughlin said:
"The present structure where the Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau (DVCB) is linked with the Regional Tourism Partnership means Derry is promoted in conjunction with Fermanagh and Tyrone rather than our natural hinterland of Donegal. With a very limited budget the DVCB is also obliged to promote these other areas within its marketing activities despite these regions having very little obvious links. Also, areas like the Causeway coast and Belfast continue to enjoy the major slice of NITB's activities and funding structures.
"With this in mind we would urge an increased level of co-operation between the tourism authorities in the Derry City and Donegal County Council areas, with a view to establishing a cross-border tourism organization between the two regions. Both areas enjoy common links in terms of shared history, natural hinterland and established business partnerships that would make sense of a mutual tourism strategy.
"Precedent already exists for this type of partnership given the Irish governments funding assistance to the City of Derry airport and previous cross border tourism marketing initiatives which have clearly recognized the shared identity and geography of the two Council areas. It is clear that NITB has not delivered for Derry and that current Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland activity have been ineffective for Donegal. A new approach is required urgently." ENDS