Areas near border miss out on vital tourist cash, fumes MLA
Border regions account for a major portion of the tourist trade but are receiving a fraction of the funding available to boost the industry, an Assembly member has claimed.
Efforts to use the story of Titanic to draw tourists to Northern Ireland have been grabbing international headlines.
But Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan said investment figures obtained from Tourism Minister Arlene Foster's department showed Belfast was landing the vast bulk of cash support.
The Sinn Fein representative said: "Despite accounting for more than 25% of the north's population, and more than 20% of the total tourist spend, the number of overseas visitors and the number of overnight stays, the border corridor only received 12% of the total capital expenditure from the Tourist Board and less than 15% of events funding."
Mr Flanagan added: "Unexpectedly, as with other areas of investment, the majority of the funding has been targeted at the Belfast City Council area, which received approximately 60% of the tourism total capital spend since 2006. This is in stark contrast to investment by NI Tourist Board for infrastructural development and events promotion in the tourism industry in the Border Region."
He said: "When promoting the tourism theme, Arlene Foster is constantly telling us that this is 'Our Time, Our Place' and 'Our Year of Opportunity', but judging from the figures these slogans up until now have only applied to Greater Belfast and parts of the North Coast.
"For the hospitality and tourist sector in most of the Border Region it seems that 'Our Time, Place and Opportunity' will have to come only from our own endeavours."
The MLA obtained statistics for Armagh City and District Council, Derry City Council, Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, Fermanagh District Council, Newry and Mourne District Council, Omagh District Council, and Strabane District Council.
He said the councils that cover the border area are home to 25.5% of Northern Ireland's population, and in 2009 accounted for 21.24% of tourist spend, 20.14% of tourist trips and 20.54% of tourist nights spent.
But the councils received 12.39% of the funding available for capital spend from 2006/11 and 14.58% of the available funding for running events.
The percentage border regions received of funding for capital expenditure