Belfast International Airport boss urges Tourism Ireland to look north
Tourism Ireland, the all-island body set up under the Good Friday Agreement, needs to be more proactive in attracting British tourists to Northern Ireland, the head of Belfast International Airport has said.
In a letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Graham Keddie said Northern Ireland was becoming much more attractive as a destination for travellers from Britain than the Republic due to the strength of the euro.
And he urged Mr Kenny to "impress upon" Tourism Ireland the need to focus its work on Northern Ireland.
"This, of course, requires Tourism Ireland Limited (TIL) to adopt a much more proactive stance in the crucial GB market," Mr Keddie wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the BBC NI political show, The View.
"Just as TIL aggressively marketed and promoted the Republic of Ireland through Dublin, we expect no less an effort now that the situation is reversed. Perhaps that is something you and your colleagues could impress upon TIL in the interests of fairness and equality."
Sterling slumped almost a fifth after the Brexit vote on June 23, although it has strengthened recently from the 90 pence to the €1 mark, to about 85p. However, the weakened pound has made it more expensive for British tourists to visit the Republic.
"A weaker pound makes Northern Ireland a much more attractive proposition for tourists from Great Britain. The flip side is that a stronger euro makes the Republic of Ireland much more expensive and, therefore, much less attractive," Mr Keddie wrote.
"We view this as an opportunity to recalibrate the tourism 'balance sheet' where the lion's share of advantage flowed in the Republic of Ireland's direction.
"Now, for the first time, we can say to an important market that they can use Belfast as the 'gateway' to not only Northern Ireland, but the island as a whole."
Tourism Ireland said it continues to promote Northern Ireland in 23 markets around the world.
It said official figures "confirm growth of +9% in overseas visitors in the first half of 2016 - including growth of 10% in visitor numbers from Britain and +29% in holiday visitors from Britain".