Arlene Foster, the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, began Question Time by explaining the rationale for undertaking a review of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. She stated:
"With the success of ni2012 and, indeed, continued success in 2013, now is an opportune time to undertake the review to ensure that we have the optimum structures in place to deliver the tourism targets that are set out in the Programme for Government and the economic strategy."The Minister also provided a few statistics:
Visitors from GB are up 18%; visitors from the Republic of Ireland are down 14%;
Visitors from outside Northern Ireland are up 6%;
The number of visitor nights spent in Northern Ireland increased by 5% in the first six months of 2013.
Barry McElduff challenged the Minister to outline her strategy to tackle the current high levels of emigration. Ms Foster stated:
"By growing the economy and creating skilled, high-paying employment opportunities, we will encourage our talented people to remain in Northern Ireland and, hopefully, attract back those who may have emigrated in recent years."
"Latest available data shows that the number of employee jobs increased by more than 5,000 in the year to June 2013, with over 3,000 of that increase coming in the last quarter. By the end of September, Invest NI had promoted over 17,200 jobs in the Programme for Government period."The Minister also stated that "over the past 15 years, the trend has been for net immigration to Northern Ireland, with, on average, around 22,000 people each year coming to settle here."
When asked by Jim Wells what support her Department can provide for a new hotel, the Minister stated:
"New hotel developments may benefit from capital support from Invest Northern Ireland if the promoter can demonstrate that the project is market driven and capable of attracting visitors from outside Northern Ireland and that it will not displace business from similar projects. New hotel projects offering at least 30 rooms may be considered for support."Bronwyn McGahan asked the Minister for assessment of the figures showing that over 23,000 businesses have ceased trading between 2007-2011. The Minister responded by stating:
"Although over 23,000 businesses ceased trading, almost 24,000 began trading during the same period. When Northern Ireland is compared with the rest of the UK, it has the lowest business death rate of all 12 regions."During topical questions the Minister was quizzed on matters relating to energy prices, economic recovery, Titanic Belfast, Invest NI Targets, Harland and Wolff, Broadband: Rural Areas and tourism. You can read the full transcript on our website.