Holidaymakers would find it hard spending a full week or fortnight in Northern Ireland — despite the Executive’s huge tourism push, the Assembly has heard.
The Titanic complex may have opened, with the new Giant’s Causeway centre launch, Irish Open, World Police and Fire Games and other events still ahead — but Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan said visitors would find insufficient activities here to fill up a seven or 14-day break.
The DUP and Ulster Unionists rounded on the remarks as “a shame” and advised Mr Flanagan to go back and look at the area he represents — Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
Mr Flanagan argued: “When somebody is looking at a website at home for places to visit, particularly those from places like Australia or America where there is quite a lengthy journey, they will mostly come here for 10 days or a fortnight.
“Many will find it difficult to find enough activities or events to justify staying here for a week or a fortnight. Therefore, there needs to be more work done there.”
The DUP’s Paul Frew said Mr Flanagan, representing the beautiful Fermanagh and South Tyrone area, saying he would struggle to stay for 10 days was “a shame”.
“Let us not have any more self-defeatism; let us promote Northern Ireland for what it is. Let us promote Fermanagh as the holiday destination that it is — a place where you could spend 10 days without any problem whatsoever,” the North Antrim member said.
Ulster Unionist Robin Swann then told Mr Flanagan: “Given that you are a public representative for Fermanagh, which is a fantastic area for tourism, I think that you, sir, should get back and look at your own tourism brochures.”
Mr Flanagan said the brochures for Fermanagh showed only one event — a show in Co Tyrone.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said the debate, on a motion from his party urging the Executive to back Tourism Ireland’s plans for ‘The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming’ next year promoting Ireland to 70 million people worldwide, had been turned into “a schoolyard squabble”.
“This is what happens when you have people who do not know much about how tourism works.”
The motion was passed by two votes, by 48 to 46.
...but travel site puts Belfast among UK’s top 10 destinations
Belfast is among the top 10 destinations to visit in the UK, a leading travel site has said.
It is the first time Belfast has been ranked by the TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Destination Awards .
It is thought the opening of the new £90m Titanic visitor attraction , the MTV concerts and the new MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) — which was unveiled last month — helped bump Belfast up to sixth place on the list of must-see UK destinations ahead of Manchester, Blackpool, Birmingham in England and Llandudno in Wales.
This is the latest in a string of tourist-related accolades for Belfast.
Last year it was voted one of the world's top destinations for 2012 by the internationally renowned National Geographic Traveller magazine, which called the city a “treasure” with an “incredible atmosphere”.
TripAdvisor spokeswoman Emma Shaw said: “The UK is a wonderful place for travellers. With so many beautiful towns, villages, sites, cities and more on offer, it’s a tremendous honour for Belfast to be named amongst the UK’s best destinations.”
As the venue for the Olympic Games in July and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations next month, London topped both the UK category, and more surprisingly came in front of tourist meccas such as Rome and Paris in the European list.
The only other UK city to rank in this list was Edinburgh, which took 13th place and was ranked runner-up in the UK category.
The Travellers’ Choice Destinations Awards honour top travel spots worldwide based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor users.
Award winners were determined based on the popularity of destinations, taking into account travellers’ favourites and the most highly rated places.