Tourism in Northern Ireland keeps edging steadily upwards

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Tourism Ireland aims to bring two million overseas visitors to the Province next year.

The opening of the Gobbins Cliff Path is one of the attractions that the body hopes will help it to reach that target.

It seems this year will end with 1.9 million people having visited Northern Ireland, so the target is to increase that by five per cent next year, after this year’s rise of five per cent.

Tourism is a significant part of our economy, at around five per cent of GDP. This is no mean feat after the disastrous impact of the Troubles on Northern Ireland’s image.

Now, the post conflict society forms part of the attraction. We still need greater thought about how to approach murals. They have become a quirky but renowned attraction, and while it is of course welcome when communities rid themselves of violent images, it would be helpful to co-ordinate how to preserve famous murals when there is local support for maintaining them as symbols of past division.

Titanic Belfast, which is a major success, has contributed greatly to the existing key attractions including the Giant’s Causeway, the Fermanagh lakes and the road up the east Antrim coast. Londonderry has its walls while Belfast has an attractive, well laid out city centre that mostly survived both the 1941 Blitz and later terrorism.

The interest in Rory McIlroy’s every move underscores the potential of our golf courses.

But Northern Ireland needs to be careful about preserving the beauty of the countryside. Genuine farming families need appropriate planning approvals but over-development that has nothing to do with farming has damaged the landscape.

Tourist bodies are chasing markets including China and Ulster Scots descendants. Both are huge. Many millions of Americans say that they have Scots Irish blood, which means north of Ireland (predating the country Northern Ireland).

It seemed at the height of the downturn that perhaps NI had too many hotel rooms. Happily, it does not seem so now.