Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board


  1.1  The NITB, a non-departmental public body, was initially established under the Development of Tourist Traffic Act (NI) 1948 (now repealed) and reconstituted under the Tourism (Northern Ireland) Order 1992.


  The Board has both mandatory functions and responsibilities which it shall perform and discretionary functions which it may perform with the approval of the Minister.

  2.1  The Board shall:

    —  encourage tourism;

    —  encourage the provision and improvement of tourist accommodation and tourist amenities;

    —  advise the Department generally on the formulation and implementation of its policy in relation to the development of tourism; and

    —  undertake other functions as are conferred on the Board by or under the Order or any other statutory provision.

  2.2  The Board may:

    —  provide advice and information about travelling to and holidays in Northern Ireland and publicise or advertise holidays in Northern Ireland;

    —  provide or assist any event which appears to the Board likely to encourage tourism;

    —  co-operate with persons or bodies training persons to do work wholly or mainly connected with tourism;

    —  establish or assist in establishing any body in connection with tourism;

    —  trade in any business associated with tourism;

    —  make known the financial assistance which may be provided under the Order;

    —  make charges for services provided by it and for any certificate or approval grant by it for the purposes of any statutory provision other than the Order;

    —  carry out surveys and collect statistics and information relating to the tourist industry;

    —  generally assist in making Northern Ireland attractive to tourists; and

    —  co-operate with or assist any other body or association carrying out activities falling within the functions of the Board.


  3.1  BTA does not have statutory responsibility for the promotion of Northern Ireland, NITB has observer status on the BTA Board and enjoys close co-operation on a range of operational matters. NITB purchases services from BTA in a number of markets including accommodation for its New York and Frankfurt Offices.

  3.2  In preparation for devolution within the UK the BTA, in conjunction with DCMS, drew up an agreement for BTA to continue to provide the role of marketing Britain overseas on behalf of Scotland, England and Wales. Following the formation of the Northern Ireland Assembly in similar "Milestones Agreement" was agreed between BTA and NITB in late 2000.


  4.1  NITB also co-operates closely with its Southern Irish counterpart, Bord Failte. This includes joint promotions, exchanges of market intelligence, and joint marketing.


  5.1  Following the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 it was agreed that the promotion of tourism would be an "area of co-operation" to be developed under the control of the newly established North-South Ministerial Council.

  5.2  A new publicly owned limited company has been established by the two governments in Ireland, NITB and Bord Failte to carry out functions aimed to promote increased tourism to the island of Ireland.

  5.3  An independent Board has been appointed by both governments (six nominations from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) to establish the company, which is expected to become operational later this year.


  6.1  NITB currently receives £13.88 million annually in government funding for the range of activities undertaken. £4.7 million of this total is distributed by way of capital support for tourism development under the Board's Selective Financial Assistance Scheme. NITB is also responsible for the administration of European Union and International Fund for Ireland monies for both capital and marketing support to the industry.

  6.2  NITB's present marketing promotional Budget (including EU sources) stands at £5.3 million. This is spent on a range of generic and tactical activities directed by NITB Headquarters and through its market offices in London, Glasgow, Dublin, Germany, New York and Toronto. (NITB has also "representative agents" in France and Australia/New Zealand).

  6.3  In addition to NITB promotions, five Regional Tourism Organisations (part funded by NITB) are responsible for marketing key "local" tourism areas.


  7.1  The supply of tourism information within Northern Ireland is almost entirely a Local Authority responsibility. NITB has a role in the co-ordination and standardisation of tourism information provision through the establishment of the NI Tourist Information Centre (TIC) Network in 1994.

  7.2  There are 26 Networked TIC's in operation in 23 of the 26 Local Authority areas in Northern Ireland. A further 16 "second tier" TIC's also operate.

  7.3  NITB does not provide revenue for TIC's but contributes in its role of Network Co-ordinator and undertaking tasks of training, benchmarking, branding etc.


8.1  Background

  Northern Ireland has had four cases of FMD only.—Test results from two further farms in Co Antrim are still awaited.

  The original outbreak in South Armagh was confirmed on 1 March.

  The subsequent cases were confirmed on 4 April and 22 April in Co Tyrone and on 15 April in the Glens of Antrim, a popular tourism area.

  The single outbreak in the ROI was declared in Co Louth on 22 March. The area is immediately adjacent to the border with Northern Ireland and the restriction zone for the Louth case extended into the Newry and Mourne District of Northern Ireland.

8.2  Impact on Tourism

  It has been difficult to establish hard evidence to accurately quantify the effect that FMD has had on tourism to date.

  A number of events have been cancelled and it is clear that many small tourism businesses in rural areas, particularly farmhouse accommodation, have effectively been closed since early March.

  The Premier Sports Tourism event in Northern Ireland—the NW 200 Motorcycle races—was postponed by organisers on the advice of the Northern Ireland Executive. The event, scheduled for mid-May, generates in excess of £5.5 million in direct income to the Coleraine area.

  Initial NITB projections for the potential impact of a prolonged and widespread outbreak of FMD in Northern Ireland is to wipe £210 million from the industry's annual earnings from out-of-state and domestic tourism. This is in a context of NITB spend targets of £310 million for out-of-state tourism and anticipated domestic tourism spend in excess of £60 million.

  Estimates of losses by industry sector groups are almost entirely anecdotal. The Northern Ireland Hotel Federation has gone on record quoting £4 million of lost income by the end of March. NIHF fears further outbreaks in Northern Ireland may lead to cancellation of tour programmes scheduled for the summer season.

8.3  Actions for recovery

  The Minister announced an agreed industry recovery plan with a budget in excess of £1 million on 5 April. This funding is already fully committed to a series of over 100 marketing and promotional activities implemented and co-ordinated by NITB.

  NITB has established a seven day/week information line to provide advice and reassurance to visitors (5 April). NITB's Internet service provides daily updates on tourism facilities open to visitors.

  Details of recovery activities are exchanged at all levels within the industry and as part of a weekly telephone conference exchange between BTA, ETC, Visitscotland, WTB and NITB.

8.4  Issues

  The main issue of concern to tourism representative groups is the expressed need for immediate compensation. Many representatives will cite tourism as being treated unfairly in terms of support to farmers.

  In addition to extra funding provided for recovery through marketing, the following relief measures are available in Northern Ireland based on a demonstration of hardship:

    —  deferral of Rates payments;

    —  deferral of Tax and VAT payments; and

    —  access to Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme.

  The above measures fall well short of calls for rebates and actual financial support sought by industry groups.

April 2001

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