Economy Minister Committed To Supporting NI Tourism Industry

The Economy Minister, Conor Murphy, has committed to continuing to work with Northern Ireland's tourism industry, inspired by its "optimism, energy, and ambition".

Addressing Tourism NI's annual conference, the Minister said that he sees his Department's role as enabling the industry to continue to grow, and to grow in a way that aligns with his Economic Vision of a productive, regionally balanced, net zero economy with good jobs.

Minister Murphy said: "Tourism is truly a success story of the Good Friday Agreement. The number of external overnight visitors has more than quadrupled. Spending by visitors has increased more than sixfold in real terms. With 70% of jobs located outside of Belfast, the benefits of tourism are spread throughout the region. And given that the industry is primarily made up of local SMEs, we can be confident that these benefits are retained and reinvested locally."

The Minister set out an outline of plans to grow tourism that will be co-designed and co-delivered with the industry. They include:-

• From this financial year, Tourism Ireland will be properly funded, to showcase the north's tourism offering internationally;

• Discussions on extending Fáilte Ireland's tourism brands into the north;
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• Working with the Minister of Finance to continue to make the case to the British Government for tourism and hospitality to harmonise the north's rate of VAT with the south;

• Lobbying the British Government to abandon its Electronic Travel Authorisation policy:

• Looking ahead to the next 10 years and strategically identifying major events we can host, either on our own, or as part of an all-Ireland bid;

• Growing political tourism;

• Working with Fáilte Ireland to extend its Employer Excellence Programme into the north;

• Considering the potential of setting up Skills Academies for the tourist industry;

• Working with the Infrastructure Minister, to ensure that planning supports rather than hinders the development of high quality hotels across the region; and

• The development of an All-Island Sustainability Framework.

The Minister added: "To help take this forward, I will soon establish a Tourism Partnership Board made up of representatives from tourism and hospitality, Executive Departments, and local government. It will develop and oversee an Action Plan that will be co-designed and co-delivered with the industry.

"The Executive does face significant financial challenges and we only have three years left in the mandate. So, it is crucial that we act in a strategic and effective manner, in a way that minimises duplication, and at pace."

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