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TIME FOR OUR ISLAND, OUR TIME, OUR PLACE’ tourism strategy – McLaughlin MLA

11 July, 2013 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said that the figures produced by NI Tourist Board (NITB) in last few weeks would indicate the need for a rethink on the ‘Our Time, Our Place’ Tourism strategy.

Maeve McLaughlin said:

“The NITB figures claim that tourism contributed £42.2m to the local economy with 1,054,972 visitors attending events connected to NI2012. But it failed to explain how this conclusion was reached. For instance, was everyone who turned up at a City of Culture event marked as a visitor despite the fact that most of them lived only a few streets away?

“Does the £17m economic impact figure reflect an increase in terms of employment in the sector? How does this reflect on the recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report which highlighted that employment in the Tourism sector decreased by 2.2% - from 58,630 in 2010 to 57,320 in 2012? There has also been a decrease in bed spaces of 22,000 due to closures in 2012. How can these statistics be portrayed as a positive outcome?

“The report goes on to tell us that the overall figures are not available for 2012. So without accurate, up to date data, how do we measure success?What are the actual visitor numbers?In 2011 we are told that there were 3.9 million visitors to the north of which 1.9 m were domestic. What is a domestic visitor? Is someone from Derry visiting a relative in hospital in Belfast and books into a hotel overnight regarded as a domestic visitor? In order to assess the impact of the ‘Our time, Our Place’ strategy what we need is the number of ‘tourists’ – the actual figure for 2012?

"The fact is that no amount of manipulation will disguise the fact that visitor numbers last year flat lined. The £11 million spent promoting NI2012 did not produce a value for money return.

"All around the world the island of Ireland is viewed as a single entity; the vast majority of people from North America, Europe or elsewhere planning a holiday in Ireland enter the island through Dublin and other southern ports of entry. On arrival, through lack of strategic planning and insular attitudes by tourist bodies in the North the tourist information available to them does not include attractions north of the border.

“It is time for a rethink of tourism strategy! ‘Our Time, Our Place’ needs to incorporate an ‘Our Island’ focus. To greatly enhance our attractiveness to potential visitors, due to the wider product offering across Ireland we need to be marketing attractions such as the Giants Causeway, Dublin, the Lakes of Fermanagh, the Cliffs of Moher, the Walls of Derry and the Hills of Donegal etc as a single tourism product. If we are going to take the potential for growth in the tourist economy seriously, then the road of greater single island promotion and marketing is the one we need to travel.”

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