GAA and Comhaltas need to be included in Tourism Strategy
North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that Gaelic Games and Irish culture in the north is not being appropriately marketed to tourists and has called on government departments to ensure that these are included in future tourism strategies. He was speaking after organising a meeting with the Tourist Board (NITB), Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure (DCAL), Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) the Ulster Council of the GAA and the President of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) on the issue.
Mr McKay said
“Both Gaelic Games and Irish musical & cultural events should be a key strand of our tourism product but to date the NITB and government departments have failed to grasp this opportunity.
“There is already an evidential base to this argument which we are putting forward. A recent survey of tourists in Antrim, Tyrone, Derry and Donegal found only 12.3% were familiar with the GAA but more than 68% would be interested in either playing or watching a sport which is unique and indigenous to Ireland. 100% of business tourists surveyed were interested in seeing Gaelic Games during their stay. CCE has already demonstrated that it has international appeal sending groups to Cuba and the Expo in China recently.
“Key to promoting these sectors is signposting. The NITB’s ‘Discover’ website is deficient of information relating to GAA and CCE events for example and I am glad to say that they have agreed to look at that issue. We also discussed the pioneering proposal for an économusée in Loughgiel – namely Scullion Hurls and that is one good example of how Gaelic Games can create jobs, attract tourists and act as an economic driver. This needs to be built upon. There is no reason why attending an Antrim Senior Championship match is as normal a decision for tourists to make as going to the Giant’s Causeway or Bushmills Distillery.
“This initial meeting was very constructive and worthwhile. I will continue to work with the Chair of the Culture Arts & Leisure Committee Barry McElduff to ensure that places like North Antrim can realise their full tourism potential inclusive of Irish cultural events and Gaelic Games”