The island of Ireland is failing to fulfil its tourism potential due to the exclusion of Northern Ireland from key promotional initiatives, Sinn Fein has claimed.
Stormont deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill joined party colleague Caoimhe Archibald in west Belfast on Wednesday to launch a new plan aimed at reinvigorating the tourism sector post Covid-19.
The Explore More strategy calls for Northern Ireland destinations to be included in marketing strategies that currently promote areas and attractions south of the border.
The party specifically wants the Wild Atlantic Way extended to include the Causeway coast; the Hidden Heartlands extended to include the Fermanagh Lakelands and the Ancient East extended to include historical sites in the north east.
“As a whole, Ireland is a country spoiled with beautiful landscapes, rich history and culture that just has so much to offer both to domestic visitors but also to those from overseas,” said Ms O’Neill.
“Tourism Ireland already markets the island internationally as one single tourism destination but yet the north is still cut off from some of the island’s best known tourism attractions.
“This Sinn Fein document Explore More puts forward the arguments for extending the main tourism experiences into the north.”
The party vice president added: “You can’t experience all of our Atlantic coastline has to offer without including our north coast, you can’t truly appreciate the richness of our ancient past without including the sites of some of Ireland’s most historic events and places, and you can’t fully enjoy and discover our inland waterways and heartland without the inclusion of Lough Erne and its surrounding countryside and villages.
“So whilst our proposals seek to realise the economic potential of tourism in the north, it also emphasises the role the north can play in realising fully the potential of Ireland as a single tourism destination.
“Simply put, we want people from this island and those visiting this island to come to the north to explore more of Ireland.”
The north is still cut off from some of the island's best known tourism attractions.Michelle O'Neill
Ms Archibald added: “There has been an opportunity missed to date as the key tourist spots, known the world over, stop at the border.
“Prior to the pandemic, tourism was a key part of the local economy and can be a key part of recovery by getting more people into local businesses like bars, restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions.
“Extending these tourist areas and working on all-Ireland basis can help achieve this and help businesses protect and create jobs in our communities and support workers and families.”