New Millenium, New Tourism

Article excerpt

A new drive to ensure that Northern Ireland's 'curate's egg' tourist industry reaches its full potential as a wealth-generating economic force in the province's economy was launched yesterday when the Tourist Board brought together everyone who is anyone to hear about and debate its new strategy and the detailed action plan designed to convert it into action.

The future shape of the industry, which has the potential to create some 20,000 new jobs, is being drawn at a two-day conference in the Slieve Donard Hotel at which the theme is ''Growth Through Partnership'.

The new strategy has been thrashed out over more than a year of consultation with all intrerests and is powered by three key drives - partnership, co-ordination and communication, with the aim of boosting its contribution to GDP from 2 to at least 5 per cent.

The 'mission statement' for the new concept of 'sustainable tourism' is to ''increase the contribution that it makes to the economy in a way that responds to the needs of visitors, respects the environment, is acceptable to the people who live here and is economically viable in the long term''.

This will involve the provision of a high quality tourism experience for visitors backed by an integrated, high-profile marketing drive, training to ensure world standards of quality of service and a demand-led development of tourist attractions.

Partnership is seen as the key element in achieving this with the Tourist Board itself acting more as a facilitator for tourist and promotional initiatives and providing the main marketing thrust.

Tourist Board chairman Roy Bailie said yesterday: ''There is no other industry where the contribution of so many people is so critical to success. The ability to deliver that success resides, not with the Tourist Board but with the individuals involved in the industry. The role of NITB will be to encourage tourism through the development of a supportive environment and to take responsibility only for those roles which cannot be performed by others''. But he warned: ''This is an ongoingprocess of communication and development. We want continual feedback to ensure that everyone in the industry is working together in partnership and can react quickly and efficienctly to changes in market conditions as they arise. …