Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: Press Notice

Session 06-07

15 March 2007

Press Notice No 13


Tourism in Northern Ireland and its Economic Impact and Benefits

Select Committee calls for a Minister for Tourism for Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today calls for a Minister for Tourism to be created to co-ordinate efforts to boost the number of visitors to Northern Ireland. The recommendation comes in the Committee’s report into Tourism in Northern Ireland published today.

The Committee says the key signature tourist projects being developed in Northern Ireland: The Giant’s Causeway/Antrim and Causeway Coast, the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, the Walled City of Derry, Christian Heritage/ Saint Patrick’s Trail and the Mournes National Park, have the potential to make Northern Ireland stand out as an international tourist destination.

However, the Committee found that the current situation in which seven departments of the executive were involved in tourism has led to policy fragmentation, poor departmental coordination and confusion for the tourism industry.

It concludes that a Minister for Tourism would provide much needed leadership and focus, would improve coordination between departments and would demonstrate the Government’s commitment to developing the industry to its full potential.

The MPs  also call on the Government to ensure that enough funding is available to support the signature projects. In addition they want to see fiscal incentives for private investors to encourage them to provide the hotels and other services required to support these sites along the lines of those in operation in the Republic of Ireland. The Members are particularly concerned about the question mark which hangs over the future of the St Patrick’s Centre, an integral part of the Christian Heritage Trail.

 MPs would also like to see greater clarity between the roles of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Tourism Ireland and the Regional Tourism Partnerships. They also believe that excessive departmental control is undermining the effectiveness of the NITB, and the Committee recommends that NITB be given greater operational autonomy along the lines of Failte Ireland.

While commending Tourism Ireland for the progress it has made in increasing the number of tourists visiting Northern Ireland, the Committee wants the Dublin based organisation to give more emphasis within its marketing to Northern Ireland.

Improving the skills of the workforce should also be a priority. In particular, the Committee found evidence that there was a lack of skilled and trained chefs. Consideration should be given to the use of the “skills passport” as recommended by People 1st to encourage further training and also steps should be taken to recognise the skills and qualifications of international workers, say the MPs. They also urge better investment in public transport to bring Northern Ireland up to the standard of other regions of the United Kingdom.

Commenting on the report, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Sir Patrick Cormack said:

“I believe that the Report makes a number of important comments and recommendations and I very much hope that whoever has ministerial responsibility for tourism after 26 March will respond positively. There is no doubt that Northern Ireland has enormous potential as a tourist destination and a properly managed tourist industry that drew in the maximum number of visitors would make a massive contribution to the Northern Ireland economy.”

Media representatives who would like to receive a PDF copy of the report or would like to interview the Chairman should contact the Select Committee media officer Laura Kibby on 0207 219 0718 or 07917 488 557.

The Report will be available on the Committee’s website from 3.30 p.m. on Thursday 15 March :

If you wish to receive a hard copy or require more information please contact Paul Derrett, Committee Assistant on 0207 219 2173.

NOTE FOR EDITORS:  The Committee is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 of the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Northern Ireland Office and associated public bodies.  It has the power to send for persons, papers and records.

The Committee Members are:- Sir Patrick Cormack, MP (Chairman) (Conservative, South Staffordshire), Mr David Anderson, MP (Labour, Blaydon), Rt. Hon John Battle MP (Labour, Leeds West), Mr Gregory Campbell, MP (Democratic Unionist Party, East Londonderry), Rosie Cooper, MP (Labour, West Lancashire), Mr Christopher Fraser, MP (Conservative, South West Norfolk), Mr John Grogan, MP (Labour, Selby), Mr Stephen Hepburn, MP (Labour, Jarrow), Lady Hermon, MP (Ulster Unionist Party, North Down), Dr Alasdair McDonnell, MP (SDLP, Belfast South), Mr Denis Murphy MP (Labour, Wansbeck) Mr Stephen Pound, MP (Labour, Ealing North),Mr Sammy Wilson, MP (Democratic Unionist Party, East Antrim)