Rating Policy

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 11:45 am, 22nd November 2016

I thank the Member for her question. It is a fact that the Minister for the Economy has been working assiduously over recent months on a new tourism strategy. It is a matter of fact that the Executive have invested very strongly in our tourism infrastructure. All parties, I think, have agreed to that. Think of the Gobbins, the Peace Bridge — also a piece of tourism infrastructure — or Titanic Belfast. We have made tourism the jewel in the crown of our proposition as a region, yet, at the same time, we have not joined that up with rates policy.

When I was in Ballycastle recently, I saw at least two closed-up pubs. I travel to other areas. There has been a big decline in the number of pubs in recent years, for a number of reasons, which include the changing habits of people. I would like to see the tourists who come here to follow the 'Game of Thrones' tour, for example, and who end up in Ardglass or north Antrim be served by the people who want to open cafes, restaurants, pubs or other premises, and whom we have encouraged to do so. I saw that when I visited Portrush at the invitation of Minister Givan. Down on the harbour, we had the pleasure of seeing a small cafe called Babushka, where we met 10 Chinese bloggers who were in having fish for their breakfast. They were enjoying breakfast and blogging about the wonders of that part of the world. We are trying to join up our thinking. We know that tourism is important, but now we are giving an added incentive and lift to those who have taken a risk and set up businesses in the hospitality sector.