Belfast Telegraph

Hard border would hit Northern Ireland tourism badly

Editor's Viewpoint

Northern Ireland tourism has never had a better reputation than it enjoys at present with some of the world's most popular guides voting it a must-see destination.

And if that was not enough, the world's most popular television series, Game of Thrones, has further enhanced our tourism offering by shooting at various locations throughout the province - making, for example, the Dark Hedges one of the most viewed images of this part of the world.

Add in iconic attractions like the Giant's Causeway, the Titanic centre in Belfast, the Fermanagh lakelands, the Mourne mountains, great restaurants and high-class hotels, and it is clear that Northern Ireland has much to offer visitors.

All of this makes it all the more puzzling why our attractions don't seem to register with so many people in our nearest market - the Republic of Ireland.

An astonishing 54% of consumers across the border were ignorant of our best known tourist attractions and last year only 3% of overnight trips taken by people from the Republic were spent on this side of the border.

There is a toxic legacy of the Troubles which still preys on the mind of people in the Republic two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement which marked the official end of the conflict - although ironically Troubles mural tours prove popular with overseas visitors.

While some reluctance to travel here has to be accepted, it is clear that marketing the Northern Ireland tourism offering in the Republic is not working to its potential. If it was, we would be raking in £140m a year from that market alone.

Given the linkages between the tourist authorities on both sides of the border, it is baffling how we are failing to make the expected impact in the Republic.

As Brexit has proved, communication across the border has not always been easy and it only requires some careless comments in political exchanges to sour relationships.

However, the potential value to be gained for the Northern Ireland economy means that every opportunity to publicise the province's attractions should be taken, especially given the better value of sterling against the euro recently.

What we certainly don't need is a hard border and tourism is one economic driver which must be borne in mind as this issue continues to take centre stage.

Belfast Telegraph

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