NEW YORK -- Tourism is among the areas slated for development under
the new governmental framework approved by referendum late last
month in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Plans call for the formation of a cross-border tourism
promotional body that will be unveiled in October, Roy Bailie,
chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), said in an
Though all the details have not been ironed out, Bailie said he
is confident that the new tourism entity will continue to push
all-island promotions and work closely with the British Tourist
"Part of the agreement was to set up east-west [Great
Britain-Ireland] alliances as well as cross-border, and this is one
area where that will happen," he said.
Bailie was appointed chairman of the NITB in July of 1996, a few
months after the Irish Republican Army ended a ceasefire worked out
18 months earlier.
Visitor numbers in Northern Ireland increased 67% in 1995.
Bailie said he is looking forward to seeing healthy arrivals
figures return during the remainder of his three-year term.
"Now is our opportunity to promote a good product without
combating the negative image people have of Northern Ireland," he
The biggest challenge, according to Bailie, is making sure "we
take advantage of the window of opportunity that has been opened
for us" because the publicity surrounding the agreement won't last
About 1.5 million people visited Northern Ireland last year, and
Bailie wants that number to reach 3.5 million within the next four
or five years.
Tourism accounts for 2% of the province's gross national product
-- a percentage Bailie would like to see grow to 6%. Such an
increase would mean 20,000 new jobs, according to Mark Alexander,
the deputy chief executive of the NITB.
A new tourism strategy is being put in place now, Alexander
said, including persuading tour operators to bring groups to
less-visited attractions and encouraging people to visit
He added that the province's infrastructure is improving, with a
number of hotels and bed and breakfasts opening this year.
Hotels slated to open by the end of the summer include the
Belfast Hilton, adjacent to the newly built Belfast Waterfront Hall
conference and concert center, and the Stakis Park, Templepatrick,
located 15 minutes outside Belfast.