New name for tourist board in rebranding
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is to being renamed 'Tourism Northern Ireland' and is to join forces with Invest NI.
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster told the Assembly she was hopeful the current 40,000 jobs in the tourism industry would be expanded with the aim of becoming a £1bn-a-year industry by 2020.
Her statement followed a review of tourism policy which suggested a closer alignment between the former board and jobs creation body Invest NI - including the possibility of shared offices - and the creation of a "new stand-out brand" for NI.
The report also envisages an increased role for the 11 new super councils, which are due to go live in April.
Mrs Foster said: "I hope they will all put forward innovative proposals for tourism in their areas."
Tourism NI will also soon have a new chairman and chief executive. Alan Clarke stood down as chief executive last year and hotelier Howard Hastings is due to finish his term as chairman.
He said the name change provided a "dynamic springboard" for the future. "The prospects for tourism here have never looked better," he added.
"We look forward to working more closely with the new councils, given their increased powers and responsibilities for economic and community planning."
Mrs Foster, whose Industry and Trade portfolio includes tourism, said: "I have tasked both organisations to deliver a new brand strategy, which, I believe, will strengthen the competitive position of Northern Ireland through inward investment and tourism."
But Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend voiced concerns Tourism NI would become the "smaller brother or sister" of Tourism Ireland while Sinn Fein's Martin O Muilleoir asked for a guarantee that Invest NI would not "smother" the other body.
Mrs Foster replied: "It is certainly not the intention that that should happen."