Tourism figures for 2013 bring us down to earth

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The figures for tourism to Northern Ireland in 2013 out last week show a more modest reality than the hype suggesting it’s just about the most visited place on the planet. The numbers visiting from overseas amounted to just 9,000.  Home holidays and short trips and family visits accounted for most of the rest. It’s not a terrible record, much as you’d expect in fact, but it shows yet again the limitations of marketing hype. You have to remember that this is an industry struggling with recession. Francess McDonnell in the Irish Times has a good if obvious angle. Northern Ireland could do with a peaceful summer. Boosts to morale maybe but what was the return on the extra public investment? I haven’t been able to find any coverage in the local media. Is this just my poor searching or might there be other reasons?

The estimated increase in visitors from outside NI (6%) was driven by the GB and overseas market (+13% or 131,000 from GB and +2% or 9,000 from overseas). Those visiting from RoIfell by 7% or an estimated 30,000.

When visitors from RoI are excluded, the number of GB and overseas visitors to NI increased by 9% (from 1.6m in 2012 to 1.7m in 2013).

Given everything that happened in 2013 it would have been more of a surprise if there had not been a major increase in tourist figures….The G8 Summit came to Fermanagh, while Derry was the UK City of Culture and the North hosted both the World Police and Fire Games and the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann was also held in Derry.

Yet the increase in tourists last year appears to have been mainly driven by visitors from Britain.

The latest tourist statistics show they spent an additional £30 million last year, while other overseas visitors also spent £26 million more than they did in 2012.

What they also show is a somewhat worrying decline in the number of residents from the Republic of Ireland who visited and spent money in the North as tourists.

In 2012 visitors from the South spent an estimated £70 million while last year this figure fell to around £57 million – rasing the question why?

The latest research also shows that in 2013 “two-thirds of those holidaying in Northern Ireland” were “Northern Ireland residents”.

So despite all the big events that took place last year, it appears that half of all the external visitors that arrived in Northern Ireland came to “visit friends and relatives”.

And the majority of people who took a holiday in the North last year actually live here all the time.

What exactly does that say about the return on all of the money that the Assembly invested during 2013 in supporting events like the City of Culture and promoting Northern Ireland as a tourist destination?

For one thing, according to the statistics & research agency, it did not boost employment in the tourism and leisure industries.

In its latest annual tourism report it highlights that at December 2013, the quarterly employment survey estimated that the “ tourism and leisure industries accounted for 54,370 employee jobs in Northern Ireland, 8 per cent of all employee jobs”.

Exactly the same number of people were employed one year previously

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  • RegisterForThisSite

    Brian,
    Figures for 1999

    1999 Tourism
    1.64m visitors
    310,000 tourists
    98,000 from UK
    11% up on 1998
    22% increase from Republic of Ireland

    not much change in 15 years, incidentally I got the figures from a BBC story where tourism chiefs blamed the marching season for ruining tourism, so not much change in 15 years (but then again I’ve already said that)

    But on a positive note there’s all those Orange pounds in the tills instead ching ching! http://www.grandorangelodge.co.uk/docs/may13-report.pdf

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    BW[10.18] You can hear the deafening silence from Foster after release of these figures. unless she can contradict the facts on the ground. She seems to be addicted to jingoism, claiming already that Robbo’s implosion, [for he has capitulated tonight on the apology which tried his damnedest to avoid doing] won’t affect tourism or investment. More than a bit premature on Foster’s part.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Something that should be taken into account is that visitors from N.America who used to take charter flights to Aldergrove now have only Dublin and to a lesser extent Shannon as entry points. How many go on to N.I. I don’t know but I do.

  • Politico68

    In my view Belfast is the best Irish city to visit (even though I am a dub) but many people are put off by the media’s presentation of crazy fleggers. I wonder if the media ignored them would it change the figures?

  • Gopher

    Tourism is a big failure of the executive

    1/ We still have Passenger duty
    2/ We have not lengthened the City Airport runway
    3/ All three airports have railways which run beside them and none have stations to service them (Total fail by executive)
    4/ Proposed New Mass transit system does not go to the airport (what idiot would would ensure that)
    5/ You can clear immigration for USA in the Southern airports
    6/ Let the Heathrow route go back to a virtual monopoly

    Basically the executive are either sabotaging tourism or useless. I would love to know how many visitors for the Giro came through our airports as opposed to the South.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Gopher,

    I believe the reason that Air Transat reverted to Dublin only was the Passenger Duty. So that’s where most Canadians fly to for the past 3 or 4 years.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Gopher

    “3/ All three airports have railways which run beside them and none have stations to service them (Total fail by executive)”

    Absolutely incredible.

    I was on the train on the north coast and it actually has to STOP to accommodate an inbound aircraft but you can’t get out catch said plane.

    Mental.

    ———————————-

    How many of those people who are coming to ‘visit family and friends’ are actually from Northern Ireland I wonder?

    —————————————————————–
    I heard the Game of Thrones is getting involved in a new batch of tourist adverts?

    I can see the slogan now:

    “If you think Westeros is primitive and bloody, wait till you get to Northern Ireland…”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher: “Basically the executive are either sabotaging tourism or useless.”
    They have an almost supersticious “build it and they will come” approach to hotels, etc, but fail to remember that people from off need to have a pressing a reason to visit a land with cold, rainy summers! Few but masochists will come for our beach holidays, our few remaining natural attractions are in the process of being “industrialised” by wind farms and fracking, and our one internationally recognised site, the Gaint’s Causeway is going to be commercialised to death by Alex Atwood’s flaunting all authorative advice and bizarrely granting planning permission for a hotel and private housing estate disgusied as a golf course. But at least the old stalwards will continue to come for fishing, etc,

    The one thing we have to offer is cultural tourism, with a strong literary tradition and a rich historical record that is scarcely catered for in the rush of our tourist board to jump on any old bandwaggon they have seen other countries use, no matter how inappropriate! The one exception is their attempt to use the fictional Game of Thrones as a draw in a way they seem incapable of using their own ACTUAL history.

    Sabotage, probably……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Excellent, Am Ghobsmacht, and thanks for the Westeros byline! I wish I’d thought of that……

  • Politico68

    Lads, are you seriously suggesting having a situation where tens of thousands of tourists from them foreign lands come to Belfast? What if they are Muslim? what if they is Catholics? do you really want to see our protestant heartlands watered down by themmuns and odd lookin strangers? They might take root, they might have childer and then where would we be? Huh? up to our sashes in all sorts of funny people, all out to destroy the Union !!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have just re-read my earlier posting and must just mention the one glowing exception to the general malaise. For the last two years the Happy Days Festival at the end of July has offered an excellent example of what might be achieved if we were able to clone the festival organiser Sean Doran and use similar “make it new” approaches to explore the possibilities of other locally “linked” luminaries.

    Look, I know Beckett was from Foxrock, and only attended Portora but that sort of tenuious linking opens endless possibilities. We even have quite a few poets that pre-date the ubiqitious Heaney, who with a little imagination might just generate a festival all of his own around Baile Eachaidh, in darkest South Derry!

  • Gopher

    At least you can get a drink on Westeros

    I forgot to mention

    7/ Holiday times when tourists can’t get a drink because the Pubs are shut.

    The executive are useless

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I seem to remember that you could get a drink on the “Stirrings Still” dawn voyage to the monastic ruins of Inishmacsaint, at the Happy Days Festival two years back but my memory may be playing me tricks.

  • Gopher

    Good Friday in Belfast is always a fun day, watching bewildered tourists followed by closing time on Easter Saturday. Honestly does anyone go for a weekend away to a location if you cant get a drink. The tills should be ringing all weekend long but we get tumbleweeds instead.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think the real problem is that the executive is foolish enough to believe that tourists are privileged in being permitted to come to our fair land………….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Having what might be described as an old fashioned Anglo Irish accent I still find myself being offered the welcoming “Are ye enjoying yer holidays?” delivered with all the warmth of an Auschwitz meeter and greeter! And me descended from Niall Noígíallach!!!!

    Most of the numerous exceptions seem to start with “Maidin mhaith….”

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    The armchair whingers – or should that be bar-lounge lizards – are having a field day :)

    Late last Friday evening, as I made my way home from a shambolic post-election event in Hudson’s Bar in Belfast, I received an email from Casey, a Denver man, who was staying in a BnB near Ballycastle. He had compiled a family tree of a David Scott born about 1830 and had a reference to ‘Balacastle’ in Northern Ireland as well the names of David’s parents, John and Alice. I spent three hours with Casey and his wife on Saturday; it was great crack but, sadly, despite delving into the public records that are on-line, the other records that I have access to and visits to several local graveyards, we drew a blank. We found several John Scotts but further research ruled them out. Had his son David been married in Ireland the chances of success would have been greatly increased but he was married at an unknown location in the USA. The odds were also diminished by the existence of several townlands called Ballycastle as well as the name of Ballycastle for a Poor Law Union.

    Three generations of folks with north Antrim roots dating back to about 1850 are coming over at the beginning of August. Jane and Daniel were here in 2008 and this time they are bringing their children and grandchildren to celebrate their golden wedding and to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors:

    “Our tummies are full, our eyes have seen so many wonders, our ears have been soothed with traditional music and we have met some of the most gracious and kind people on this earth.” Jane in 2008 – “Charmed by County Antrim”

    I’d suggest to the various promoters of tourism across these islands that they should give more thought to the interests and requirements of potential visitors and ease-up on the competition with their rivals.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As one on this Nevin! It would be a joy to see a real tourist policy that recognised what people actually come here for. Thank you for your piece.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “As one on this Nevin! It would be a joy to see a real tourist policy that recognised what people actually come here for.”

    Careful what you wish for, I imagine there are more tourists in Ireland North and South for Hen/Stag weekends than researching family history, the Hens and Stags probably spend more money too, so your saying we need a tourist policy that is similar to Blackpool or Amsterdam.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Come HERE for. For what is actually unique to here.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “their attempt to use the fictional Game of Thrones as a draw”

    Seean, just as an aside, I’ve done two blogs that relate to ‘Game of Thrones’ locations: Ballintoy Harbour and the Dark Hedges [east of Ballymoney].

    Moyle Council has just had the harbour dredged – and the sludge was dumped on the little strand beside the cafe!

    The Dark Hedges is also a popular location for wedding photographs. I’m told that the new fencing was erected from compensation given by the Game of Thrones company.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seaan, apologies for ‘Seean’!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for the links, Nevin. I will follow them up with interest.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    “Come HERE for. For what is actually unique to here.”

    That’ll be Fleggers, the 12th, tours of West Belfast, everything else is unique not only to NI but across the whole island and the South’s tourism industry is done a lot better.

    The South has a well managed and promoted tourist industry mainly because they’ve been doing it for a long time and have seen the rewards and that drives them forward.

    The North has never really experienced more than either local tourism, passing trade from the Souths tourists or the ‘Troubles’ curious
    .
    Tourism in NI can be done a whole lot better, but unfortunately the busy season coincides with the rioting and marching season, the rioting bit is off-putting, the marching bit is just boring. So that needs fixing before anything really positive can be done

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for putting me right about how the media presents our poor province to a shocked and horrified world “RegisterForThisSite”. With my innocent Anglo-Irish flâneur penchant for triviality, high in my ivory (painted) tower, I’d simply not noticed!

    Yes, you are right, the department of Tourism will really have to hire a serious mercenary force (or the Irish army) to sort out (“fix”) these terrible flegger people and flute bands before we can offer anything of any real cultural value to the world out there. And pull in a few Culture Dollars.

    But wait! I’m still trying to work out whether my apparent experience of the excellent non-sectarian, non-violent, non-political Happy Days Festival over these last two years was some opium induced fantasy! I seem to remember that I was in Fermanagh between the end of July and the beginning of August and there were a lot of very creative people milling about, both participants and audiences. Must have been imagining things, so I’d better go and check my old credit card statements for dream payments…….

    Seriously, it can be done if a few people like Sean Doran can be found, and there’s a great deal more to this place than the troubles and their sickly, repellent aftermath. And the image Nevin paints of Ballycastle and the north coast is something fully echoed in my experience. Its what brings the people I meet from the U.S. here even in despite the annual descent every Summer into what they see as incomprehensible tribal folly.

  • slanlot

    A couple of years ago I was visiting Australian friends in Dublin and had spent Sunday morning in the city, O’Connell St was congested with people and the atmosphere was very laid back. I returned by train to Belfast in the afternoon, as I made my way through the city centre the place appeared almost empty and I thought , all that was missing were the tumbleweeds when compared with the vibrancy of Dublin. From an economic perspective this is disaster for the North. My Aussie friends were reluctant to visit the North their view of here having been influenced by the news and the violence for which we are famous on a global scale . Slick advertising campaigns and pundits talking up Northern Ireland are meaningless, we suffer from an image problem which is one of violence and intolerance the first Minister enhanced and reinforced that perception last week. Nevin the term is craic

  • Charles_Gould

    The figures are actually good – posters here are complaining on autopilot. I see good percentage spending increases for the tourism industry, that exceed most economic growth rates, especially remembering that the overall economic picture is sluggish.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Considering that 70% of the economy here is subsidised (directly of indirectly) by UK monies, Charles_Gould, the amont spent on the inept tourist campaigns per actual tourist visiting would make quite interesting reading.

    It might just be cheaper for the Tourist Board to simply pay the entire costs for their holidays rather than try and entice tourists into sampling the auld sod with tired derivative campaigns recycled from what has worked elsewhere. When I was still in TV I remember the dull dog at the production meetings (usually the one with all the real clout) saying “Can you not make it more like….. (some programme that was high in the ratings that week).” Usually something so utterly inappropriate for the programme that it left the rest of the table gasping.

  • Charles_Gould

    Seaan

    The tourism economy is showing good levels of growth. The figures in the report of 5% and8% are good.

    There are a lot more things to do now and every year sees more attractions opening.

    InvestNI has been having a successful year, NI Has been growing its private sector quite well.

    The complaints on this thread just seem to be a bit clichéd to me.

    Getting gb people to visit more, friends and family, is not a bad strategy.

  • Gopher

    Charles the Cruise ships mean Belfast get tourists that is due to something quite unique a deep water non tidal Port. Do we charge the passengers on those cruise ships any duty to walk about Belfast? No of course we dont. You got the infrastructure people come.

    People are flying to Dublin because it is cheaper and not bothering to come North its ludicrous. People from Northern Ireland are flying on Holiday from Dublin in increasing numbers so we arnt getting their duty anyway and we arnt getting what they would spend in the Airport. Airlines which incidentally supply jobs increase routes in Dublin and cull routes up here. Our politicians are thick seriously thick

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Slanlot

    You’re right, it is quite a shame to compare the vibrancy of Dublin with that of Belfast.

    THE image problem certainly puts people off.

    I suspect though that the city council doesn’t help matters, I am given to understand that the rates in Belfast are atrocious, can any one confirm this?

    If so, I agree with the suggestion above that cafes and bars should be given rate breaks or reductions, clusters of cafes really adds to a city’s atmosphere, see the first photo here for a class example of a cafe lined alley way in Melbourne:

    http://www.au.timeout.com/melbourne/bars/features/23/best-laneway-bars

    Also, the Ulster Architectural and Heritage society have a great vision for the Cathedral Quarter.

    They want to pedestrianise the area around North st and the North st Arcade (the one which ‘mysteriously’ burned down): http://www.uahs.org.uk/campaigns/current-campaigns/royal-exchange

    That would be a boost to the area if the council coerced the developers to sensitively develop this area instead of turning the arcade (last of it’s type in Ireland) into a car park.

    Also, I think that one is allowed to ‘landbank’ a building i.e. buy a rate free building and just allow it to naturally appreciate in value, there is no impetus to do anything with the building or lease it out.

    Finally, “Nevin the term is craic”

    C’mon, you know that’s not true, it was originally a Scots word that was brought over centuries ago.

    I write ‘crack’ too, I don’t see why people suddenly get to decide that this version should be purged

    The ‘craic’ version is relatively recent addition but has taken off.

  • antamadan

    I think the amount of union and unionist/loyalist flags are the biggest offputting thing for non-British visitors.(You would-in general- have to go right into nationalist estates to see the tricolour, or at least to see more than one). People know there are two communities, so it appears like one side is Lording it over the other and puts people off when they just want to relax. The lack of tourist boats on the Bann/Neagh compared to the Shannon is remarkable.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “I think the amount of union and unionist/loyalist flags are the biggest offputting thing for non-British visitors.”

    Every one I’ve brought over to NI during ‘carnival season’ has found the excess fleggery intimidating (and some of these people were from Britain).

    People who advocate the bands as ‘tourist attractions’ seemingly don’t analyse them in a properly critical fashion:

    YES, the parades can be impressive.

    YES, the community spirit of some of the parades can be heart warming.

    So far so good.

    But that’s where the analysis ends, things that tourists MIGHT not like include the usual suspects; drunkenness, under-current of sectarianism etc etc (we’ve been through this so many times before, do I really need to list them?)

    We could kill numerous birds with only a pebble or two if marching culture (including fleggery) was ‘resculpted’.

    E.g. less trouble, more tourists, fleggers wouldn’t have to whinge about their culture being ‘chipped away’ as it would now be more central tourism instead of being a deterrent.

    ——————————–

    Nevin

    Do you know if their is any plans/possibility of the council issuing compulsory purchase orders on those derelict buildings on Bushmills’ main street?

    Something needs to be done, the town has great potential but it is way behind Ballycastle in terms of appeal.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear Charles_Gould, this just will not do! “Getting gb people to visit more, friends and family, is not a bad strategy.”

    I remember being told by a U.S. friend that the Mafia invest in restaurants, sewage and undertakers because people have to eat, excrete and die! People with family in NI usually already want to visit them, you do not actually need to build a tourist policy around this.

    The report itself is well worth looking at:

    http://www.nitb.com/ResearchIntelligence/TourismFactsandFigures/TourismPerformanceStatistics/QuarterlyTourismPerformance.aspx

    Particularly intersting is the section: “The overall increase in the number of overnight trips in NI may have been influenced by a number of events that have taken place in NI such as the UK City of Culture year in Derry-Londonderry, the World Police and Fire Games, ‘Backin’ Belfast’ and the all-Ireland Fleadh. The good weather in the summer of 2013 might also have contributed to the growth in overnight trips.”

    Note “may” and “might”. Its a very lazy marketing strategy that spends heavily on major events and them fails to analyse their impact. The evasions of the report state “failed to” to anyone with a background of any sort in marketing, alas one of the threads of my mis-spent youth. These mis-concieved projects show just how unimaginative our policy makers are, who, with cultural riches to offer that easily equal the south, simply plump up the sort of thing others do much better elsewhere as tourist draws. And we all listen year long to the long low hiss of escaping hot air…..

    The marketing policy of NITB comes over to anyone with experience in selling ideas as only really sound on what already exists. Its really a lazy maintenance policy for long established sites such as the Giants Causeway, which had a growth last year that was probably fuelled by those wanting to view it for one last time before Alex Atwood’s almost inconceivable decision to urbanise its immediate hinterland erodes all that it had to offer the world.

  • RegisterForThisSite

    Well, I suppose no-one in Tourism NI ever lost their job for producing yet another “Visit the Giant’s Causeway” leaflet and they can alternate with “Visit the Titanic Quarter”

    But thats just lazy marketing, yes, it’s ‘unique’ to NI, but it’s also ignoring the fact uniqueness is everywhere, and because they ignore that fact they convince themselves that tourists will come for NI’s little bit of uniqueness instead of somewhere else’s uniqueness.

    Even if you can offer lots of sun, sand, sea, cheap hotels and cheap booze,tourism isn’t easy to do, I would seriously suggest that NI needs to learn from how tourism is done from people South of the border, and even merge completely because tourism isn’t individual events or locations or periods it’s a joined up very competitive hard working industry and the Irish are pretty good at it.

    No point trying to flog our wee bit of uniqueness the secret is to actually create the uniqueness, and I don’t think NI has the inhouse skills at the moment

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    RegFTS

    I thought about the idea of North and south teaming up but then I thought that might actually compound matters.

    Most people I meet abroad who tell me they’ve been to Ireland tend to have been south orientated as in the holiday normally revolves around the Dublin – Galway parallel before heading south to places like Killarney, Cork etc.

    If they do break free of this then it’s usually to venture to the Giant’s Causeway.

    I hold high hopes for this Game of Thrones theme.

    NI and indeed Donegal should team up and capitalise on being ‘The North’ a la Winterfell.

    We need some sort of strategy based on getting people north of the Black Pig’s Dyke.

    A tourist office for ‘The North’ on O’Connell st or somewhere might help, with a map of THE North transplanted onto a map of ‘The North’.

    New Zealand has wonderfully untilised the Lord of The Rings franchise, NI could use them as an example of how to do something similar with Game of Thrones.

    ” I don’t think NI has the inhouse skills at the moment”

    That might be true from a governmental point of view, in which case the hospitality industry needs some fresh thinking.

    Perhaps it would be wise for different interest groups to ‘network’ on this one.

    When I was home last (Feb) I travelled around bits of Fermanagh and West & South Tyrone that I’d never heard of before and was positively delighted (to the extent that I bid on a house in Fermanagh)

    That would be ideal territory to pitch to cyclists.

    If all the old school pubs, eateries and hotels could link up and print maps, routes and advertise they areas (and bicycle services) then perhaps they could carve out their own little niche market?
    Who knows, just thinking out loud.

    Another thing people in NI have to remember is that tourists love old, traditional things like old pubs and buildings.

    On that front the planning permission needs reviewed and the reckless destruction of our cultural heritage needs to be arrested:

    http://www.uahs.org.uk/

    I’ll admit to an ulterior motive on this topic, when/if I move back to NI I hope to start a business which would probably be tourist/hospitality based.

    So, in the meantime, all ideas are welcome!!!

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Donegal is hard to beat when the weather is good. It could be marketed with Derry and its marvellous walls. That might attract people who normally just visit the South to venture further into N.I. The Sperrins are wonderful and are mostly neglected, for example.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Absolutely Mr J

    The Sperrins are truly neglected.

    Even though I was brought up on their doorstep, I could only ever think of them as bleak moors that were on a par with Mordor, but, my past few trips back home have smashed that idea.

    The run from Claudy to Strabane is delightful.

  • Turgon

    The tourism industry here is not always well marketed. The lack of infrastructure is a major problem. The airports not linking to the trains is a relevant issue as is the lack of trains. Essentially one needs a car unless it is a trip to Belfast.

    However, we also need to look soberly at what we can offer tourists. Yes we can improve assorted things I agree entirely but there are unavoidable natural problems.

    We are not as unspoilt as we pretend. The property building boom managed to create bungalows every hands turn on some of our best scenery such as along the north coast road.

    We have castles etc. but Wales, England and Scotland have better castles. We have mountains but Wales, England and Scotland have bigger and better mountains. Snowdonia or the Cairngorms are simply more impressive let alone the Alps etc. We have lakes and indeed Fermanagh’s lakes are great but Scotland and England have loughs / lakes respectively.

    We lack any interesting animals to attract tourists. The supposedly unique species of trout in Lough Melvin hardly compares with bears, crocodiles, lions, elephants, marsupials etc possessed by other countries.

    Finally we have our weather which is even worse than England’s and no better than Scotland’s. We may have beautiful beaches but when beach holidays to Spain cost what they do we will always struggle to compete.

    To an extent we need to stand back and realise we will always be a bit of a minority interest niche destination. That does not excuse some of the problems that have occurred in marketing but a healthy dose of realism in terms of what Northern Ireland actually has to offer would be healthy: especially with the rise of Chinese tourism etc. we cannot expect from them any of the traction we have traditionally had for US tourists.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    AG’

    Next time try the drive from Magherafelt through Draperstown then the Gleneely Rd through Plumbridge to Strabane. It’s astounding. The road twists and turns up the mountains following the Gleneely River in the valley below. I always took it when driving from Aldergrove to Strabane. You’ll never forget it. My wife simply adores it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Turgon

    Sobering points indeed.

    I am particularly taken by your point that highlights the ‘bungalow blight’.

    Regardless of how unfavourably we may compare to the highlights of other countries and places the point remains that people flock to Ireland.

    For various reasons; romanticised notions of Ireland, family connections and history, the coasts, the cities (Dublin, Cork and Galway spring to mind).

    That means that people are coming and will always come to Ireland, the question is how do we bring them north?

    If we think of the things that people want, we could take architecture question into consideration.

    The building boom did a grand job of ripping the heart out of some villages.

    Bellaghy springs to mind. Castledawson is a few old building-demolitions away from going the same way.

    On the other hand, villages like Glenarm, Draperstown, Moneymore, Gracehill, Strangford and Hillsborough are delightful (to look at).

    If we could arrest the blandisation of our towns and villages then the place as a whole would be more appealing.

    Bushmills and Portrush could use some encouragement to (though I thought the Bushmills paint job certainly helped).

    Dungiven is an example of a town that could go either way, a lot of the main st was earmarked for demolition (to build new houses and cul de sacs). The crash gave it a last minute reprieve.

    If they refurbish their old buildings then the village could have some appeal (and the village certainly received attention in the form of Lewellyn Bowen courtesy of the castle).

    I don’t who can take charge in such matters.

    Is it a question of planning policy?

    Would automatically listing all prewar buildings help? Or would this cause a hullaballoo?

    But then, supposing we do save the towns and villages, we need restaurants and the like to encourage people to stop off there or even spend a night or two.

    This then comes down to rates and an existing market.

    More hullaballoo.

  • Kevsterino

    Fishing is always part of my vacation. But it pretty much promotes itself.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes indeed, Turgon, “we will always be a bit of a minority interest niche destination.” I’m still trying to find a real interest group of Ulster Bungalow aficionados on the net (It all started in Ballycarry, you know! If I could, I’d post a picture of “Bungalow Bill’s” first example).

    But apart from that, there are people, some with very thick wallets, who read and watch plays. They would need an infrastructure, as Am Ghobsmacht points out in detail, but short of paying the full price of visitors holidays (as I’d suggested above) to get numbers up, this is the only way I can honestly see to build up a real tourist economy that might just prosper.

    Perhaps some of the educational standards of such tourists might just encourage some of the locals who don’t get out much to begin to recognise that we have a decent, quite marketable culture, even in the English language, and that’s not starting on how anyone with imagination might begin to market one of the great cultures of Europe, our Irish language tradition.

    But for that to happen you’d need to have people who really understood these things in Tourism NI.

  • Gopher

    Tourism was a mixed bag today The Open is coming to royal Portrush though everyone will fly through Dublin and United are withdrawing their Transfer Atlantic Flight for part of the year.

    The Northern Ireland Assembly just don’t do Tourism.

    For The Open they should be aiming to lengthen the city runway scrap passenger duty and move the rail line into the City airport with a proper halt and have luggage check in at Great Victoria Street. I’ll not hold my breath.