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Being driven mad by a lack of tourism foresight

As a coach-driver, I recently brought a party of Japanese visitors to the new Titanic visitor centre in Belfast. To my dismay, I discovered the dead hand of bureaucracy to be still evident in Northern Ireland.

There is no coach-park. And this in a city which declares its intention to attract visitors. Upon inquiring, I was directed to a small car-park with no coach bays. Although I was told coaches were exempt from payment, there was no signage as to this.

It is normal elsewhere that coach-drivers are allowed a free cup of tea and a scone, say. Not at the Titanic exhibition. We are, though, generously allowed a 15% discount on an over-priced coffee.

It is similar at the Giant's Causeway. Coaches are still obliged to park at Bushmills, once the few spaces at the visitor centre are taken.

We then have to negotiate badly parked cars to set down and pick up our passengers before motoring two miles to the village. If we are fortunate enough to be able to park at the visitor centre, we are permitted a free cup of tea, but the accompanying guide is not.

We work for national minimum wage. We do not get a meal allowance from our employers, nor do they want to pay parking fees.

If Belfast and the National Trust are serious about attracting visitor groups, then its minions should make an attempt at joined-up thinking and cater for the drivers which actually bring them in to spend their money.

R W STOTHARD

Washington, Tyne and Wear

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