Tourism could break £1bn ceiling with solid plan

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill
Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill

A co-ordinated tourism strategy could push the province well past the £1 billion mark one of the sector’s leaders has claimed.

Instead, as the latest figures revealed that tourism spend reached almost £940 million in the 12 months to April 2018 , Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said the industry was “fighting with one hand tied behind it back” for the want of a government willing to take action.

“Once again we see an increase in the number of tourists in the province, the number of overnight stays and a rise in the total value of tourist spending,” he said.

“This isn’t a one-off, this is part of a trend which shows the continued strength of tourism in Northern Ireland, which for so long was a sleeping giant.

“However, think how much more we could achieve if Northern Ireland was in a position to make decisions, to offer a joined up tourist strategy, to amend outdated licensing laws, to look at issues such as business rates which are hampering our tourist offering and stopping development.

Of course with Brexit negotiations ongoing, today’s figures underline the importance of maintaining the hospitality sector’s access to labour. There is a need to fill 30,000 vacancies by 2024 and it is very obvious that having access to suitably skilled workers is essential.

“It is high time that either local politicians, or others, took the necessary decisions to help.”