Tourism 'requires fresh thinking'
Fresh thinking is needed if Northern Ireland is to succeed in the lucrative tourism market, Arlene Foster has claimed.
The tourism minister said improved air links, better internet promotion and maximum exploitation of social media were essential for attracting more visitors next year.
"The current economic situation means fresh thinking is required if we are to tempt GB visitors to come to Northern Ireland," Ms Foster said. "In its new strategy GB Path to Growth, Tourism Ireland will target specific market segments from the young, urban adventurers to the over-45s who want to explore the landscapes, history and culture we have on offer."
Last week, official government figures reported a large drop in tourist numbers last year - despite the huge NI2012 Our Time Our Place promotional campaign.
Speaking at the launch of a new £15 million marketing drive for 2013, Ms Foster said the UK City of Culture status for Londonderry would play a major role in helping to sell the region overseas.
She also urged tour operators and hoteliers to redouble their efforts to ensure Northern Ireland pulled ahead of the pack.
Ms Foster added: "I have no doubt that the legacy of Northern Ireland 2012 will stand us in good stead for the future. Despite the gloom, I do believe we do have exciting times ahead."
A revamped Tourism Ireland website is expected to go live in three weeks. It will translate into 11 languages and will target 30 individual markets. Promoters are also hoping to enlist celebrity ambassadors.
Niall Gibbon, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, described 2013 as a spectacular year but said there would be tough competition from Scotland, the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall.
Mr Gibbons said: "Next year is about delivering growth in the continuing difficult climate. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the pace of economic recovery in our key source markets, we believe that 2013 will see an increase in visitor numbers. In particular, the Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations will provide fresh and compelling reasons for people across the world to visit."