What is the Department doing to encourage the development of new hotels in Belfast? A question posed to Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster during today’s Question Time. The Department, in conjunction with Tourism NI and Invest NI, has recently reviewed its position on support for accommodation providers. “The aim is to help grow and develop our tourist accommodation sector to ensure that it supports and enables the provision of a sufficient accommodation supply to meet the demands of our key tourism markets.” The review has been completed and will shortly be put out to public consultation. The review considers the need for hotel development in Belfast and the potential for a tourist accommodation loan fund to encourage such development. The review considers there to be a lack of 4 and 5 star hotels in key tourism areas and expresses concerns that Belfast may be undersupplied in proportion to its tourism aspirations.
Barry McElduff was also keen to press the Minister for an update on the provision of broadband in West Tyrone. Mrs Foster pointed to significant investment in broadband provision across Northern Ireland, including West Tyrone – superfast broadband is available from 150 fibre-enabled cabinets in the area. The Department awarded a contract to BT for the delivery of a £23.6m NI broadband improvement project which will bring improved speeds to more than 45,000 homes around Northern Ireland by the end of 2015. BT has also been awarded a contract to provide ‘superfast’ speeds to more than 38,000 homes around the country by the end of 2017.
Mrs Foster also answered questions on the development of office accommodation, bringing new direct flight routes to our airports and the electricity grid in North Antrim. During the topical question period the Minister also answered queries on a rugby world cup bid, investment in Omagh, the agrifood sector and employment in Foyle.