Six county Tourism Board must stop blinkered approach
Responding to a recent survey by yell.com that Belfast has become a more popular venue for visitors, it's inclusion in Lonely Planet and the fact that Belfast's Visitor and Convention Bureau figures show that in 2006, Belfast played host to 6.8 million visitors Sinn Féin MLA and Spokesperson for Tourism Paul Maskey has said that even more visitors can be attracted to Belfast and Ireland if the "Northern Ireland" Tourism Board become less blinkered in it's approach.
"The cultural murals and cultural renaissance of Belfast has not been capitalized on by the six county Tourist Board. The fact is that Belfast is a multi-cultural city in a reinvigorated Ireland. Belfast is not being portrayed in a correct manner and its history and it's example of a post conflict city holds an attraction for tourists around the world.
"This tourism board, which traditionally put their energies into promoting signature projects such as the Titanic Quarter, needs to ensure the benefits of this growth in tourism are spread throughout the city. There are many local tourism initiatives throughout the city, in both republican and loyalist areas, of a cultural and political nature, but which are not getting the recognition they deserve from the NITB. This legitimate and viable form of tourism can help to contribute to the economic regeneration of local areas by bringing much needed tourist spend into local areas.
"Where once murals, for example, were an expression of resistance today they reflect the wider interests and confidence of all in Ireland ; our culture and language, our sports and history, our interest in international matters, as well as our hopes for the future. Murals are now more positive in tone and outlook than at any time in the last 30 years. This confidence can be seen in the Gaeltacht Quarter to name one example of a new rejuvenated North East.
"This tourist board, rather than being a toothless tiger and espousing paddywhackery, should proactively showcase our history and culture and take the real modern day Ireland seriously." Críoch