Tourism: 10X Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Doug Beattie Doug Beattie UUP 3:15 pm, 20th September 2021

T2. Mr Beattie asked the Minister for the Economy why tourism does not feature in his Department’s 10X Economy strategy. (AQT 1572/17-22)

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

Tourism is an incredibly important part of our economic recovery. The Member will see in the 10X strategy the reference to "place"; tourism is part of that. The natural environment and everything that we have to offer to people who come here is part of that. It is covered in the 10X vision, as it will be in the associated documents that will be brought forward. The economic vision of 10X sets out where we are and where we want to be, and associated documents will come from that.

Photo of Doug Beattie Doug Beattie UUP

Taking the Minister up on that economic vision, what is the value of tourism to the economy?

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

The Member is looking for a figure from me. In the run-up to 2019, we broke through our previous target of making tourism a £1 billion industry. Unfortunately, that has taken a real hit as a result of COVID. We had a very good few years in the run-up to 2019, however, and the Open Championship was a huge part of that, showing the success that we can have on the global stage. Of course, we then had COVID and its impacts, which are still being felt, but our fundamentals are strong. The tourist offerings that we have continue to be of international interest. I have been contacted by many tour operators looking for a relaxation in restrictions because people want to come here and see what we have to offer.

We have huge opportunity to grow well past that £1 billion figure, not only because we can get the international visitors back but because COVID has provided opportunities in the domestic market. We had a huge increase in the number of visitors from the Republic of Ireland during the period when the restrictions were different in each jurisdiction. Many people will have got the taste for Northern Ireland. In addition, in the summer, I was pleased to launch the "Embrace a giant spirit" campaign in Great Britain to help to increase our market there. With tourists coming from the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, people in Northern Ireland spending more time at home and our international visitors, we can bust through that £1 billion target once more.