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Stormont is hiding a tourism goldmine

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 23/11/2016

Just a couple of days after a leading tourism figure said that Northern Ireland needs a new visitor attraction to help grow the industry, we learn that we are not making the most of one of the iconic buildings we already have
Just a couple of days after a leading tourism figure said that Northern Ireland needs a new visitor attraction to help grow the industry, we learn that we are not making the most of one of the iconic buildings we already have

Just a couple of days after a leading tourism figure said that Northern Ireland needs a new visitor attraction to help grow the industry, we learn that we are not making the most of one of the iconic buildings we already have.

A virtual treasure trove of artefacts associated with some of the most seminal moments in the history of the province are hidden away in storage instead of being put on display.

These include priceless art and items such as the table on which the Act of Union was signed in 1800 and historic flags and letters.

The items are all owned by the NI Assembly and the magnificent Parliament Buildings is an ideal location in which to display them.

The building is open to the public for tours and the inclusion of the hidden gems would surely increase the offering to visitors and make it a more desirable site to go to.

At the weekend Tim Husbands, who runs the Titanic Centre - which has become a record-breaking tourist attraction - called for a new visitor destination to be created outside Belfast.

Sometimes Northern Ireland has been very slow to realise the tourism potential of its heritage. After all, it took a century after the sinking of the Titanic for a dedicated attraction outlining the fateful history of the liner to be built.

We are in danger of taking another century to fully cash in on the political heritage of the province by hiding away some of our most important artefacts.

MLAs should take a look at how the popularity of author CS Lewis has led increased numbers of tourists wanting to see where he created such enduring masterpieces as the Chronicles of Narnia. Luckily, some people have had the foresight to take advantage of this interest and create trails lauding the work of the author.

A square containing statues of seven of the characters from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has just opened in east Belfast, where there is already a trail taking in Lewis' home and the church where his grandfather was rector and where he was baptised.

Another trail in the Mourne Mountains celebrates his Narnia tales, which were inspired by those mountains.

Northern Ireland has a limited natural heritage which can be exploited for tourism and there needs to be more imaginative ideas celebrating all aspects of life in province to offer to those who come here. Certainly, we should not be hiding any of our tourism jewels away.

Belfast Telegraph

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