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Tourism NI responds to criticism received in North West 200 funding row

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Tourism NI has clarified its position on funding for the North West 200 . Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Tourism NI has clarified its position on funding for the North West 200 . Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

PMAKER

North West 200's Mervyn Whyte

North West 200's Mervyn Whyte

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Tourism NI has clarified its position on funding for the North West 200 . Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Tourism NI has denied claims it failed to financially support this year’s North West 200 road races.

A statement from the public body said since the beginning of the road races on May 14 there had been “much speculation and comment" about support for the event.

Earlier this month, NW200 chief Mervyn Whyte hit out an apparent lack of support for the event from Stormont and Tourism NI.

Mr Whyte had been asked about a well publicised £800,000 rescue package for the North West and Ulster Grand Prix that failed to materialise.

He was also critical that representatives from Tourism NI had not attended the event on the north coast.

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“They need to realise the North West is a jewel in our tourism and economic crown with the numbers we attract,” he said.

“They need to provide us with help and resources. There is so much more we could do, today was just a foretaste.

“For whatever reason, Tourism NI were not able to sign off on the funding agreed by the Executive. They need to wake up and see sense.”

The DUP’s North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley, also called it “a great source of regret” the £800,000 had not been made available.

“Yes, tourism chiefs should have been here to see it. As we all saw here, the North West tells a powerful story about Northern Ireland and it deserves to be funded accordingly.”

In response, Tourism NI said in a statement: “Contrary to reports in various sections of the media that Tourism NI failed to provide financial support for the North West 200, Tourism NI was a very substantial funder of the event in 2022 as it has been for many years.”

It added that the organisers of the NW200 had applied to Tourism NI for a grant of £100,000 and had received this in full.

Tourism NI also rejected commentary that stated the organisers had received no support from Government during the pandemic.

“Those comments were also factually incorrect as Tourism NI provided offers of support totalling £105,000 to the Coleraine and District Motorcycle Club during 2020 and 2021 to support costs incurred over that period.”

The statement added: “Like every public sector organisation, Tourism NI has very many demands on its budget from which it must support all areas of Northern Ireland’s growing tourism sector.”

With an events budget of £1.1m for this year, Tourism NI said the requests it receives “vastly exceeded the budget available”.

A list of 37 events being sponsored by Tourism NI this year was included in the statement, with grants based on the contribution they are likely to make to the local economy.

Tourism NI said the pressure on public finances meant it was not possible to increase the budget at this time.

“Tourism NI is however keen to continue to work in partnership with events organisers to help them increase their income through realising the commercial value that events such as the North West 200 undoubtedly have.”

Other events that also receive funding from Tourism NI include the Belfast International Arts Festival, Derry Halloween, the Balmoral Show, Super Cup NI and the Northern Ireland International Airshow.


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