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Ulster Unionists calls for tourism strategy which focuses on Northern Irelands potential

The Ulster Unionist Party has called on the Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, to deliver a long awaited tourism strategy for Northern Ireland.  During a debate calling for the Executive to support Tourism Ireland’s Irish Homecoming 2013 initiative, the Ulster Unionists highlighted the need for a Strategy to boost Northern Ireland’s tourism industry.
Speaking after the debate, Ulster Unionist DETI spokesperson Sandra Overend MLA said:
“Tourism is an extremely important part of our economy and it is vital that we make best use of Northern Ireland’s potential in this area.  The value of tourism in promoting economic growth and in helping us achieve a shared future cannot be underestimated.’
“Recent figures show that there have been improvements within our tourism industry and it is important that we work to build on this. I would hope the DETI Minister will aspire to meet, or exceed, the current Programme for Government targets given how far short her Department fell in respect of the 2007-2011 targets.
“Today’s motion called on the Executive to encourage and support Tourism Irelands plans for “The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming” in 2013.  While this initiative will undoubtedly play a role in boosting the Republic’s economy, it is important to remember that the schedule of events is for the benefit of the Republic of Ireland.  What some of the other Parties fail to recognise is that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are in competition. We are in competition for Foreign Direct Investment, we compete to attract jobs and our tourism industries are competitors.’
“It would have been more relevant if today’s debate had been to discuss the fact that Northern Ireland doesn’t currently have a Strategy which is dedicated solely to the tourism sector.  It has been two years since a draft Strategy was produced and the Enterprise Committee are yet to have sight of the finalised document.’
Ulster Unionist DCAL spokesperson Robin Swann said:
“Given the funding and emphasis that is currently being placed on tourism by the Republic’s government, it is important that the Northern Ireland Executive is on the top of their game when it comes to promoting the many high profile events over the next number of years.’
“The Titanic centenary and all that came with it has already generated positive media worldwide.  Looking forward we have the decade of centenaries, the Irish Open, the World Police and Fire Games, the Signature Projects and the Olympics. Therefore, it is clear that we have a number of projects in Northern Ireland to focus on and we must ensure that we do all we can to use them to maximise our tourism potential.’
“Of course the Northern Ireland Executive should be looking at the aspects of The Gathering which it can capitalise on but we cannot afford to “encourage and support” it at the expense of our own events.’ 

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