Lack of transatlantic air routes to NI down to 'poor marketing'
Belfast International Airport (BIA) has told a powerful committee of MPs that a lack of marketing is to blame for the failure of transatlantic airline routes to Northern Ireland.
The region was left without a direct route to North America last year after airline Norwegian pulled out.
BIA business development director Uel Hoey told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee the "sales pitch is not being made for Belfast" by Tourism Ireland, a cross-border body set up under the Good Friday Agreement to promote the island as a whole internationally.
"Essentially we are set up under the auspices of the Good Friday Agreement to be sold externally by an all-island tourism body, and a very good job they do for the island of Ireland in terms of marketing and shining green lights on things on March 17," he told MPs.
"That brings people into Dublin. When they get into Dublin, they stay in Dublin.
"If we cannot get the 350 million Americans to consider Belfast as an option as an entry point, we are wasting our time trying to develop the routes because we have to be able to sustain them and we can only sustain them on American visitors."
In a response, Tourism Ireland said it is "undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world" this year.
"A key element of that programme involves working closely with all of the airports in Northern Ireland and with the carriers that service routes to Northern Ireland," it added.
It added that it works "closely with the Department for the Economy, airlines, airports and other key partners to identify and help close gaps in air services to Northern Ireland, and to jointly promote new and existing routes".