DCSIMG

NR GREER: Stormont’s spinning is making us dizzy

TOURISM. That’s the thing that is supposed to save the Northern Ireland economy, but unfortunately the reality is in serious danger of falling short of the rhetoric.

For the last year and longer, we have been hearing of an impending tourism boom, that the world’s well-heeled golfers would be flocking to Ulster’s greens and dropping greenbacks like confetti, and that they would be fighting their way onto the aircraft past the movie-going masses compelled to make a mass pilgrimage to Queen’s Island.

That’s if all the seats had not already been snapped up by hordes of hip young things eager to hang out in the most happening of hotspots, as seen on MTV.

It has not quite worked out like that so far.

Bmibaby is the latest airline to pull out of Northern Ireland following Ryanair and Air Berlin, companies that can find a market to almost every hole in the hedge across Europe, but who cannot make a business case for Belfast routes.

The taxpayer has had to pony up the cash for the privilege of letting superstars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke knock some white balls around Portrush, as a lead sponsor cannot be found for the Irish Open.

Usually premium brands are falling over themselves to put their name on a top notch golf tournament, but for some reason Portrush just is not doing it for them.

Last week the Titanic Lockdown Festival was cancelled due to a titanic lack of interest.

Local music fans disappointed at missing New Order may instead wish to join the thousands of other British revellers who will be making the annual trek to the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona.

Incidentally, at the Primavera Sound Festival, some headliners do not take to the stage until well after Alex Attwood’s 2am curfew on fun.

Similarly, those who would have liked to have seen the Womad Festival in Londonderry - cancelled because it could not make the finances work - can catch the show in Bristol, Caceres, Sicily or Bristol.

Anyone else see a pattern developing here?

However, one event that is unlikely to be cancelled is the World Police and Fire Games that comes to Belfast next year.

Nearly £6.5 million of taxpayers’ money will be thrown at it to make sure it happens.

Incredibly Stormont is giving £100,000 to a PR company to tell you about it and make you think that this is exciting.

The political classes are no longer able to differentiate between mugging for the camera and sending out puffed up press releases and reality.

There is no doubt that there is still massive potential in our tourism sector, which is far below parity with the similar and neighbouring regions in Scotland, the Lake District and the Republic of Ireland.

If a group of people living in Brussels decide to go to Berlin or Barcelona for a weekend instead of Belfast, it is not because German and Spanish ministers have put their faces in more photographs, it is more likely because there are air connections, a decent public transport system, late-night clubs and the probability they will not be assaulted by drunken yobs while trying to find their way back to the hotel.

These are the issues Stormont needs to get to grips with.

 

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