Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 17 January 2011.

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Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP 3:00, 17 January 2011

1. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to outline how her Department educates and informs residents, living in areas of tourist interest, of the value which the tourism industry could bring to an area. (AQO 793/11)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Raising the profile of tourism has been a priority during the past year. Activity has included the launch of the publication, ‘Campaigning for Tourism’, media coverage, television advertising and a range of other actions and initiatives involving my Department, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and many other bodies and groups, all of which bring the concept of Northern Ireland as a tourism destination into every home.

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

I thank the Minister for that. Coming from Fermanagh, as I do, she knows only too well the importance of the domestic market. However, many of Northern Ireland’s tourist attractions go unnoticed by our own people. Can the Minister give any indication of what the increases may be in that domestic market in financial terms? Has she any projections for the next three years?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

The Member is probably aware of the tourism strategy that my Department is finalising, and the projection there is that we will double the spend in relation to tourism by 2020 up to £1 billion. Undoubtedly, there has been a fall-off in the number of tourists coming to Northern Ireland, whether from Great Britain, which is our biggest market, or from the Republic of Ireland, our second biggest market.

As I indicated in my previous answer, we have worked with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to find ways of developing the message. We have also launched the One Voice One Team initiative, which gets everybody involved in tourism to say that tourism is there for everybody. It also aims to get private sector organisations, such as Fermanagh Lakelands Tourism, with which the Member will be familiar, to get involved with the Tourist Board to sell Northern Ireland as a good destination. There has been a lot of capital investment over the past number of years in the tourism product, now we really need to sell it.

Photo of Paul Butler Paul Butler Sinn Féin

The Department’s recently published budget proposals seem to show cuts in the tourism budget. Will the Minister give her assessment of how that will impact on the tourism strategy and targets set by the tourist body here to attract more people here? Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

As I indicated in my answer to Mr Elliott’s question, I believe that tourism is the business not just of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Tourism Ireland and the Department but of everybody in the private sector as well. I very much hope that the capital investment that has been put into the signature projects over the past three years will now bear fruit for us, not least across signature projects such as the Titanic Quarter project, which is making great progress, as I am sure many Members have seen as they drive past it. We also see the way that the UK City of Culture, Londonderry, has been developing over the past years. However, the Member is right: if there were more capital funds, I would certainly take them. Unfortunately, with the Budget as it is, I have to make do with what I have been given. I feel that we have been fortunate in so far as we have put a lot of capital investment into the tourism product over the past three to four years. We now need to get down to selling what we have and making sure that everyone is aware of Northern Ireland as a place to visit.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

In the tourism strategy, it has been suggested that we could maximise the income that we receive and make even more of it than we do today. I make specific reference to areas such as Strangford, with its Christian heritage trail and the benefits of the lough and everything else. Will she confirm that, even in a recession, this is a major growth area? How much does she expect that growth to be?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

As I indicated, the 2020 tourism strategy is being finalised by the Department. It was out for widespread consultation over, I think, the past 12 weeks. I am keen that we continue to grow the tourism product here, because, in that strategy, which was backed up by work carried out by PWC last year, the thought was that we will be able to increase the tourism spend to £1 billion, doubling the spend here by 2020. I am very committed to that, as are the tourist bodies and the tourism industry in the private sector. They have had a difficult time over the past 40 years, but they always stepped up to the plate, and I am confident that they will do the same again.

Photo of Gerry McHugh Gerry McHugh Independent

A Cheann Comhairle, I refer to the situation that we have seen happen to Michaela Harte while on honeymoon out of this country. Will the Minister seek guarantees, at the very least, from those who will come over here on a damage limitation exercise following the awful happenings to that family? Something good might come out of it if we can get guarantees that our people, our young people, on honeymoon or otherwise, can visit all of the places, including where that happened and many others, in safety and that we can get some guarantees that —

Photo of David McClarty David McClarty Independent

Order. That has absolutely no relevance to the original question.