Ulster Unionist Tourism spokesperson Sandra Overend MLA has questioned the value for money of the Tourism Minister’s “Our Time Our Place” Campaign in light of official statistics which show that GB Visitor numbers to the Province have fallen dramatically in 2012.
The Mid-Ulster MLA said:
“On BBC Radio this morning Tourism Minister Arlene Foster sought to defend official figures showing that there was a big fall in the number of overseas tourists coming to Northern Ireland.
Visitors from Great Britain are down 15% and these figures are very worrying given the much vaunted marketing campaign “Our Time Our Place” which clearly has had little or no impact on the crucial Great Britain market. Bearing in mind the concerns that were raised in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics about gridlock, fears of people staying away from London and the amount of people looking to get out of London, one would have thought that we in Northern Ireland should have been able to attract increased numbers of visitors from the mainland rather than take a 15% hit.
This is a real failure to capitalise on a once in a generation opportunity within tourism this year. The fact that the Minister has still not produced a tourism strategy or action plan has been consistently raised by my Party and we hope this is rectified in time for next year so important events such as Londonderry’s year as the UK City of Culture and the World Police and Fire Games are able to prosper.
It was also curious to hear Arlene Foster criticise Tourism Ireland but pretend she was lumbered with it because of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. She forgets that her party “renegotiated” the Agreement at St Andrews and kept Tourism Ireland as part of that settlement.
Rather than trying to rewrite the history of the Peace Process, she needs to do more to ensure she doesn’t go down in history as the Tourism Minister who blew a once in a lifetime opportunity.”