Sinn Féin Tourism Spokesperson Phil Flanagan MLA has called for the establishment of a single website for promotion of tourism across Ireland.
Mr Flanagan, the Deputy Chair of the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee, was speaking after questioning the Minister on her statement to the Assembly following a recent meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, where the importance of the internet in travel and holiday planning was discussed.
“The separate promotion of tourism on this island by agencies North and South is failing to reach the full potential of the tourist product available if the confusion of having to visit two separate websites were removed.
"A single website to allow potential visitors to Ireland plan and book a trip encompassing the whole island, without the need to visit two separate portals would, I have no doubt help address the falling numbers of tourists visiting the North.
"Presently foreign visitors coming into Ireland through southern points of entry will consult www.discoverireland.com and possibly be totally unaware of the existence of a separate site for the North. For instance a visitor arriving via Knock Airport with some 685,000 visitors last year, will receive information on attractions and accommodation in counties such as Mayo, Sligo Donegal etc, but remain totally uninformed of the wealth of attractions North of the border. This is a lost opportunity to encourage visitors to sample the sights and attractions of the whole island.
"We are losing out on potential tourists to areas north of the border by this fractured approach to tourism promotion. I would encourage the Minister, in the best interests of our economy, to meet with her Dublin counterpart with the purpose of establishing a single body, charged with promoting and developing our tourism sector across Ireland.
"The creation of a single website for those planning holidays in Ireland would be a good first step on this journey and should be a key priority for both Tourism Ministers."