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Unionists need to debate potential of political tourism

18 February, 2008


Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Tourism, West Belfast MLA Paul Maskey has said unionists should not run away from the debate about the potential of political tourism to drive forward the growth of tourism.

The Assembly will debate a Sinn Féin motion on political tourism tomorrow, Tuesday 19th February.

Speaking ahead of the debate Mr Maskey said:

"There has been a significant increase in the tourism budget. We now need to translate this into very ambitious targets for growth in the tourism sector. I believe that tourism offers so much potential for us to deliver a sustainable economy, and particularly to support the social economy.

"The number of visitors who are travelling to the North has increased greatly over the years and the expenditure that this brings is hundreds of millions of pounds every year to our economy. The tourism industry also sustains over 36,000 jobs in the North. But we have yet to reach our full potential of the number of jobs created or the visitor numbers and the expenditure that this brings.

"We need to look at the areas where there are many thousands of visitors coming to see, but the local community haven't really benefited due to the lack of infrastructure and under investment from the government department with responsibility for tourism.

"Many of these tourism hotspots are in areas of social need and are areas that need to see investment in their communities. These areas that tourists visit are political and are related to the conflict. We fail to make the most of this tourism potential at our peril.

"But the fact is that we need both unionism to engage in the debate about political tourism and for organisations such as Invest NI and NITB to financially assist and encourage local community tourism initiatives, local businesses and hoteliers alike to invest in a range of tourism initiatives, including accommodation to boost the local economy." ENDS

Note to Editors

Paul Maskey is chairperson of Fáilte Feirste Thiar, the West Belfast tourism initiative and a board member of the Belfast Visitor Convention Bureau.

Motion - Tourism

That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to bring forward plans to develop tourist infrastructure, particularly in areas of social need, and to recognise the significant potential of political tourism.

[Mr P Maskey]
[Mr W Clarke]

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