HC Deb 02 December 1998 vol 321 c873
6. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

If she will make a statement on the latest trends in tourism in Northern Ireland. [61203]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram)

In 1997, 1.45 million visitors came to Northern Ireland—a 1 per cent. decline on 1996—and contributed £208 million to the local economy. Estimates for the first half of 1998 suggest a marginal growth of 1 per cent. over the same period last year. Tourism performance measures for 1998 will be available early in 1999.

Mr. Bruce

Will the Minister tell us what is being done in Northern Ireland to develop contacts with the Republic of Ireland to improve tourism, work on matters other than security and, hopefully, build up trust between the two communities?

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman refers to one of the important areas in which there is good cross-border co-operation. That is being examined by an implementation body of the new Assembly Members and the Republic of Ireland. Tourism has great potential for the local economy and many jobs will flow from it.

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)

Will my hon. Friend please tell the House what work has been done to market in north America the great tourism potential of Northern Ireland and the rest of the island of Ireland? Has not the confidence that tourists have gained from knowledge of the bipartisan approach that we have previously witnessed in the House encouraged them to return to the island of Ireland, bringing prosperity to parts of the Northern Ireland economy?

Mr. Ingram

The Northern Ireland tourist board has put in considerable effort. Against a very difficult backcloth, it has energetically tried to bring more tourists to Northern Ireland. Those who visit Northern Ireland return again and again, and I believe that we may all promote Northern Ireland as a great place to visit. It will be even better when the Good Friday agreement is implemented in full.