Tourism NI responds to criticism over support for North West 200

Tourism NI has hit back at recent criticism relating to its support of the North West 200.

By Kyle White
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 9:52 pm

Race chief Mervyn Whyte was particularly scathing of the organisation in comments he made following the conclusion of Northern Ireland’s biggest road race just over a week ago.

Noting that no one from the body attended the event, Whyte said: “If there had been a golf event going on three miles down the road, they would have been all over it.”

In March, an £800,000 funding package for the North West and Ulster Grand Prix fell through after being signed off by the Department of Finance and Department for the Economy, leading to widespread criticism after TNI refused to support the amount on “financial and legal grounds”.

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The North West 200 returned this month for the first time since 2019.

The Ulster Grand Prix, due to have marked its centenary in August, was cancelled for a third successive year as a result.

However, on Monday evening, a statement released by TNI said it had been a “substantial funder” of the North West 200 for many years.

The statement said: “Since the staging of the North West 200 Road Races on 14 May there has been much speculation and comment focused on Tourism NI’s support for the event.

“Contrary to reports in various sections of the media that Tourism NI failed to provide financial support for the North West 200, Tourism NI was a very substantial funder of the event in 2022 as has been for many years.

“This year the organisers of the NW200 applied to Tourism NI for a grant of £100,000 and received a funding offer for the full amount requested.

“Some of the commentary around the event has also suggested that the organisers received no support from Government during the Covid crisis. Those comments were also factually incorrect as Tourism NI provided offers of support totalling £105,000 to the Coleraine and District Motorcycle Club during 2020 and 2021 to support costs incurred over that period.”

TNI said that while it would like to be in a position to offer more financial support, “pressures on public finances” mean this is not currently possible.

The statement continued: “Like every public sector organisation, Tourism NI has very many demands on its budget from which it must support all areas of Northern Ireland’s growing tourism sector.

“It has an events budget for this year totalling £1.1m to support a wide range of events across Northern Ireland. The requests which it receives for funding vastly exceed the budget available.

“This year we are planning to provide funding to 37 events with the grant allocation based on the contribution they are likely to make to the local economy.

“We would like to be in a position to offer higher levels of support to many of these events but given the pressures on the public finances this is not possible.

“Tourism NI is, however, keen to continue to work in partnership with events organisers to help them increase their income through realising the commercial value that events such as the North West 200 undoubtedly have.”