Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Lacklustre NITB needs to get into swing of things

I havebeen involved in the tourist industry on the North Coast since 1977. It is no surprise to me that tourist numbers have fallen by 300,000 - partly due to the recession, but also due to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

In my experience, it is an arm of the civil service run by academics who have no idea of running a tourist-oriented business.

They talk the talk, attend conferences and talk about focus groups, statistics and socio-economic demographics, but, with few exceptions, is made up of people with no experience of tourism.

Over the years, many people - myself included - did not criticise the NITB as they were the people who inspected you, that you required to get a licence and sometimes a grant.

It was a bit like getting stopped by the police on the motorway: if you are compliant and apologetic, you might get off lightly. However, if you asked 'Have you nothing better to do?' or 'Why don't you go up the Falls/Shankill and do this?' well, we all know the result.

So it is with NITB. What did they do when Graeme McDowell won the US Open last year? What an opportunity to market Northern Ireland in the biggest market for golf. Well, I have seen nothing.

In fact, if it was not for Alan Simpson of Radio Ulster and Coleraine Borough Council putting up signs at the entrance to Portrush, you would hardly know that G-Mac lives here.

So, NITB: look at the front page of the Belfast Telegraph and see the US headlines. Then, with G-Mac and Rory McIlroy, let's sell Northern Ireland to the US and beyond as a golfer's paradise.

TREVOR COOKE

Portrush, Co Antrim

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