North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that Ballycastle should be one of Ireland’s most popular tourist hotspots and that stakeholders should focus on increasing accommodation and achieving a higher scale of marketing.
Mr McKay was speaking after meeting the Enterprise Minister along with the local Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking after the meeting Mr McKay said: “Ballycastle has so much going for it in terms of its location. It has the Glens to the east, Rathlin Island to the north, Carrick-a-rede and the World Heritage Site of the Giants Causeway to the west. It has beaches, a quality golf course and the aul Lammas Fair. Yet so many other locations, whether it be in Mayo and Kerry, have higher tourist numbers with less of a tourist product in my opinion.
“This is something that needs to be addressed and was the focus of today’s meeting with the Tourism Minister Arlene Foster and senior officials of both Invest NI and the Tourist Board. We should not be in the position that we are currently where there are no hotel rooms in the town, and whilst we raised the issue of the Marine with the Minister today there are obviously limitations to what her department can do at this stage. What we need from DETI, and other departments to be fair, are incentives for people to invest in accommodation (of all types). Further to that Invest NI should be doing more work to attract investment into Ballycastle by flagging up the opportunities that clearly exist to investors further afield.
“A number of proposals were put to the Minister at the meeting which she has agreed to look into. I intend to work constructively with the Department on this matter but will not hesitate to hold them to account if Ballycastle is not prioritised equally with other parts of the north where tourism is a key economic driver.
“Key to increasing tourist numbers is choice in terms of accommodation and a selection of attractions and activities which we already have here in abundance. Marketing is also vital and Ballycastle should be seen as being at the heart of the Causeway Coast and very much the gateway to Rathlin. I have tabled a series of questions to the Tourism Minister to ask what exactly Tourism Ireland and NITB have done and plan to do to market Ballycastle and Rathlin. I believe that they could be doing a lot more.”