The Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Invest Northern Ireland administer several financial assistance schemes aimed at developing visitor attractions and facilities, marketing projects, events support and business support in general. Applications for assistance under those initiatives are welcomed from projects in Lagan Valley. Support policies are continually under review and will be adjusted according to sector needs and tourism policy.
Officials from Lisburn City Council recently met the Minister and outlined the funding that the area has received from the Tourist Board in the past few years. I assume that the Minister agrees that that funding is minuscule. When will the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Tourist Board realise that there are areas between Belfast and the north coast, and between Belfast and Fermanagh, that attract tourism spend? When will the Department support events in those areas?
The Tourist Board is very conscious that events happen throughout the Province. In fact, it provides East Belfast with less funding than any other constituency. In the past 10 years, £2·85 million has been offered to 19 projects in Lagan Valley. The constituency is not ignored.
Applications are vital. The Tourist Board and the Department can only give assistance for which they are asked, and the objective of my meeting with Lisburn City Council was to attract a hotel project to Lisburn. The then mayor and some of his officials referred to the Department’s moratorium, which has a radius of 10 miles from central Belfast. They felt that, were a hotel project proposed, the moratorium would be discriminatory because Lisburn would not qualify for grant aid. I made it clear that the 10-mile zone was an administrative decision, not a legal or statutory requirement. I also said that future projects would be considered carefully to determine whether they fulfilled the Department’s overall policy objectives and that they would not be ruled out on the basis of the moratorium.
Last month, officials from Invest Northern Ireland met a potential developer to discuss the establishment of a hotel in Lisburn. Those discussions are ongoing.
Last week, the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment held the second of its tourism inquiry conferences in the heart of west Tyrone. During a workshop, the Committee was told that the domestic market generates the same amount of tourism revenue as visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of Europe — some £66 million per annum. I am very much in favour of attracting foreign visitors to our islands —
Yes. Does the Minister agree that, if the home market were promoted more rigorously, it could attract even more revenue, especially in areas such as the Sperrins and west Tyrone?
I made a point when the Member for North Antrim, Mr Kane, asked me a question that did not relate to the question on the Order Paper, and my response to Mr McMenamin falls into the same category. Mr McMenamin’s question does not relate to Mr Poots’s question about Lagan Valley. I have answered Mr McMenamin’s question in the past. I have no doubt that he will ask me it again in the future.