Ulster Unionist Party MLA for East Antrim, Roy Beggs, has presses the DETI Minister on his strategy to increase overnight stays in East Antrim and how he plans to maximise the tourism industry in East Antrim, during question time at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr Beggs said “The Minister mentioned the Causeway coastal route, which encompasses both the natural beauty of the north glen and the soon to open Gobbins cliff path. Does the Minister agree with me that it is important not just that we capture the day tripper, but that we also get overnight stays so that local hotels, bed and breakfasts and restaurants gain from such stays with additional resources? How is he ensuring that other Departments, such as DCAL and the Department of the Environment, which are responsible for a number of properties such as Carrickfergus Castle, maximise their input to the tourist industry, enhancing the product and encouraging those overnight stays?
In response to Roy Beggs, the Minister said “I am more than happy to work with the other Departments, as the Member suggests, and with their corresponding Committees. We have had a wonderful offering in the past but, because of difficulties with our history, people tended to come in, visit the Giant’s Causeway and leave. Now, when I look at some of the research, which shows that people visit the Giant’s Causeway, stay overnight and then visit Titanic Belfast, what I see is a tourism offering that will result in an increased need for overnight accommodation. My Department and Invest NI are more than happy to work alongside hoteliers — and have been doing that — to see where the additional need can best be accommodated. We want to make sure that we do that in all the events that we have done; we have done them marvellously well. We are looking forward to the arrival of the Tall Ships later this week and to the 2017 women’s World Cup. I spent quite a bit of time with Dick Spring, the former Tánaiste, to talk about bringing the World Cup to Ireland as part of a bid. We know that we will have the Irish Open again in 2017 and we hope to have the Open. I will take the Member’s concerns on board. We need every Department to step up to the plate to make sure that when people come we have the capacity to give them the offering that we are capable of giving.”
Roy Beggs MLA added “It is important that we make the most of our local assets like Carrickfergus Castle, that East Antrim has. I am also aware that Carnfunnock Country Park, Larne, was recently awarded with the top prize for large family visitor attraction by NI4Kids, and I would like to congratulate Mid & East Antrim Borough Council on this accolade which was nominated by local residents – It is vital that we get the day trippers into our area and then build on that through partnership working to draw tourists in for overnight stays which will benefit local traders, hotels and restaurants.”