Lack of major events in Northern Ireland after The Open a worry, says Paisley
Northern Ireland's tourism industry will be left staring into the abyss after The Open as no more major international events are planned, Ian Paisley has warned.
Speaking at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday, he said that after July's Open golf tournament in Portrush, he sees nothing on the horizon to ensure visitor numbers are maintained.
"We're all looking forward to welcoming The Open, but what next?" he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"At the end of the summer, we will be left on the north coast staring off the edge of a cliff.
"What big events are on the horizon? Where is the strategy?"
The DUP MP revealed Northern Ireland could miss out on an opportunity to attract a round of the World Rally Championship unless a strategy for the future is agreed.
"There are indications out there from people who are crying out to do stuff," he said.
"Last week we had WRC promoter, Oliver Ciesla, basically inviting his event to Northern Ireland, moving it from Wales, and that's what we should be going after.
"It has the ability to attract hundreds of thousands of people. It's watched by 900m people worldwide.
"Perhaps a Minister for Tourism should be considered in the future, someone who is ultimately responsible to co-ordinate a strategy to attract these major events."
Addressing the committee, Dr Janice Gault, chief executive of the Hotel Federation, admitted "there are no significant events coming that we are aware of at this moment in time".
She said: "A lot of international events have looked at coming to Ireland, but you have to be sure you have the money behind you before you bid, and that's always been an issue."
Dr Joanne Stuart, CEO of the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, said developing a co-ordinated approach would be critical.
"We don't actually have a strategy," she admitted.
"At the moment, the thinking is disjointed.
"Having somebody who is really focused on tourism would make a real difference."