Belfast Telegraph

Let’s make tourist numbers count in Derry, says MLA

By Donna Deeney

A tourist monitoring system to record accurately the number of visitors to Londonderry should be put in place ahead of the City of Culture celebrations, Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said.

The Sinn Fein spokeswoman for tourism wants a system similar to the one already in place in Belfast to be adopted in Derry which will give a realistic assessment of the number of tourists visiting Derry and the wider north west area.

Ms McLaughlin said: “Belfast has a very comprehensive system of monitoring tourist numbers visiting that city and an excellent estimation of tourism spend.

“Unfortunately Derry doesn't seem to have any similar system of compiling this information regarding visitor numbers and spending estimations for the north west.

“If we don't have this basic information on numbers visiting, overnight stays, day-trippers and most popular attractions, I can't see how we can properly plan marketing strategies or decide how to signpost the attractions that are most appealing to tourists or lesser visited sites that we wish to promote.

“I would encourage Derry City Council and the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau to examine the Belfast model and adapt it to the Derry situation.

“Belfast last year posted a £401m tourist spend supporting approximately 9,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Can we produce similar figures on which to base future marketing?

“Rather than depending on inquiries to the DVCB and anecdotal evidence, it is time to instigate an accurate system of monitoring visitor numbers, length of stay, where they stay and what attracted them to the region in the first place.

“A start would be placing questionnaires in hotels; guesthouses; bed and breakfasts; youth hostels; self-catering accommodation etc to gather information such as length of visit, state or country of origin, purpose of visit, attractions visited and comments on all facets of visit including quality of accommodation, entertainment, visitor facilities.

“The information gathered would provide us with the foundation on which to build future marketing strategies and where best to direct investment in visitor facilities and attractions.

“The preparations for City of Culture 2013 gives us the perfect vehicle with which to drive such a programme.”

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