Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Tourist Board to face review in bid to hit £1bn target

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Northern Ireland's Tourist Board is to undergo a major shake-up to ensure it is fit for purpose, it has been announced.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster wants to make sure the body can deliver a £1bn industry by 2020.

The most recent official report into tourism figures revealed that visitor numbers in 2012 were slightly up by 5,000 on 2011.

But spending had increased significantly over the year, by £42m, contributing an estimated £683m to the local economy.

She said: "The review will examine current structures to ensure they are fit for purpose and the optimum necessary to deliver our tourism targets."

NITB, which employs 160 people and has an annual budget of £24.4m, is primarily responsible for the development of tourism and the marketing of Northern Ireland as a destination for domestic visitors.

The review, which aims to be complete by next March, will re-examine its functions and organisational structures.

It will also look at the role of councils and how NITB can deliver on targets set out in the Programme for Government.

Ms Foster added: "Tourism is a crucial sector of the local economy and over the last few years we have been working hard to develop our tourism product. The Executive has delivered key projects and events such as the Irish Open, Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Visitor Centre and the Walled City Signature project to ensure maximum economic benefit to the local economy.

"Much has been achieved in the last two years, however we cannot be complacent. Now is an opportune time to undertake a review and consider future plans. I want to ensure we have the right structures in place to maximise future tourism growth and deliver on my and the industry's aspiration to grow tourism into a £1bn industry by 2020."

FACTFILE

In July, it was revealed that overnight visitor numbers were virtually unchanged between 2011 and 2012 at just under 4m in both years – but money spent rose by around £42m between 2011 and 2012. Some 60,000 more came from the Republic in 2012 than 2011 but those from Great Britain fell by 18,000, said the 2012 Annual Tourism Statistics Report.

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