Belfast Telegraph

NI support urged for tourism plan

A plan to attract Irish descendants from around the world as part of a major tourism push for 2013 should be supported by Stormont, the SDLP has said.

The Republic's tourism minister Leo Varadkar hopes to attract 300,000 extra visitors, raising 200 million euro (£162 million) for the economy, through the initiative dubbed The Gathering.

The SDLP will table a motion at the Assembly tomorrow urging Tourism Minister Arlene Foster to back the plan to help draw tourists to both the north and the south of Ireland.

SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly said the Executive should tap-in to the plan to promote Ireland as a tourist destination to 70 million people under the 2013 venture, which coincides with Derry/Londonderry City of Culture the same year.

"The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming is a fantasic tourism initiative being advanced by Tourism Ireland with the aim of bringing the Irish diaspora home and stimulating the economy," said the SDLP representative.

"The majority of people of Irish descent living abroad regard Ireland as all 32 counties and therefore The Gathering should be embraced on an all-island basis to benefit every part of Ireland both North and South.

"Tourism is a key economic driver on our island and, as public representatives, we have a duty to maximise upon the tourism potential of The Gathering in the run up to 2013 and make it, not only a truly wonderful year for Ireland, but use it as a springboard for future events, investment and tourism inflow."

She added: "It makes good economic sense for our Executive to work with their southern counterparts to broaden and deepen their working relationships, stimulate tourism, create jobs and improve the quality of government services for everyone on our island."

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