The NI Tourism Alliance, representing the whole of the Tourism Economy in Northern Ireland welcome the 'New Decade, New Deal Approach Deal' published by the UK and Irish Governments and are delighted that the deal has been accepted by the two main political parties and that the local institutions will be re-established. We are pleased to see measures to ensure our institutions are sustainable and that we will never be in a situation where we have no government for three years again.
There is much to be positive about in the document and it is reassuring to see a move to multi-year budgets and a commitment to matched funding for City deals which will take forward much needed investment for Tourism. We also welcome the commitment to address the liquor licensing legislation that was being taken forward before the collapse of the NI Executive 3 years ago. It is important that this is taken forward without further delay. The major economic impact that was generated through the hugely successful hosting of The 148th Open in Portrush has been well documented and we welcome the commitment in the deal to support the attraction of world leading events to Northern Ireland.
The life blood of Tourism is the ability to attract visitors from outside of Northern Ireland and with over 50% of visitors arriving via the Republic of Ireland, we are pleased to see that improved connectivity is one of the priorities identified in the Irish Government commitments. We welcome the commitment for the NSMC to seriously consider high speed rail connection between Belfast, Dublin and Cork along with air routes from Cork to Belfast and Dublin to Derry.
The UK commitment to infrastructure investment, is to be welcomed. The current capacity constraints with waste water is impacting on further tourism development and the essential sewage investment is critical. Commitment to complete the A5/A6 and York Street Interchange are to be welcomed and this needs to be supported by an integrated transport strategy to ensure that people are able to travel around the whole of Northern Ireland.
The inclusion of an Energy Strategy and Climate Change Strategy is very positive. With over 70% of visitors arriving via air to Northern Ireland, we need to ensure that we have a good story to tell regarding our environmental footprint. Eco travel is a growing tourism sector and there is potential to significantly grow our share of this market.
We welcome the commitment to develop a Northern Ireland International Trade Plan and we call on our politicians to ensure that Tourism is included. 70% of revenue generated by Tourism is from visitors outside of Northern Ireland and is therefore one of our top export sectors. In addition, we have a world class business tourism offering, which requires a collaborative approach on the International stage. It important, especially given the confusion and negativity from Brexit, that any International strategy includes Tourism with Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland key partners with Invest NI.
What is missing
There are other pressing issues for tourism, not included in the UK Government commitments, including the impact of the proposed UK Immigration reforms, VAT and domestic air passenger duty (APD), all of which are reserved matters and impediments to the growth of Tourism.
One of the key challenges facing our economy, and in particular Tourism, is access to skills. Work has been ongoing to refresh the Skills Strategy and it is important that this work is taken forward by a new Minister. We were disappointed that there is no mention of the UK Proposed Immigration Reforms and in particular a commitment to a regional policy to address the specific requirements of Northern Ireland where, due to the low unemployment, there is a need to attract people with the right skills to Northern Ireland.
NITA will continue to liaise with the Department and the Migration Advisory Committee and engage with our politicians to ensure the challenges in NI are understood, and we call on the UK Government to to give assurance to industry that these matters will be dealt with and address the unique requirements of Northern Ireland.
Time to Do the Deal
Northern Ireland deserves better and this deal represents a sustainable way forward and through the financial support of the UK and Irish Governments provides the momentum to transform Northern Ireland. NITA is delighted that the two main political parties have agreed to the deal and that the local institutions will be re-established.
The Tourism Industry has an ambition to double the economic impact by 2030 and we will engage with local ministers and politicians to ensure that the work that has been done over the last 3 years is taken forward without delay, including the publication of the overdue draft Tourism Strategy.