More can be done to realise the full potential of Mid and East Antrim’s burgeoning tourism sector, it has been claimed.
Welcoming new figures recording a period of growth, East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said he believes the area should have a larger share of the market with additional accommodation key.
Mr Lyons noted that NISRA (Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency) statistics show in 2018 there were almost 300,000 overnight trips to the area, bringing £51m to the local economy.
He said: “The Mid and East Antrim area offers world class scenery, hospitality and facilities for both local and global tourists to enjoy.
“With the ongoing renovations at Carrick Castle, the re-opening of the Gobbins and other attractions such as the Whitehead Railway Museum, it is little wonder that we have seen such a positive increase in tourists visiting the borough.
“However, I believe we have yet to unlock the full potential of our local area and can do more to help grow our tourism offer. We should be aiming for a much larger share of the tourism market in Northern Ireland and key to this will be providing more accommodation.
“I have been working with those who are seeking to bring more hotels and other types of accommodation to East Antrim and I believe that this increased hospitality capacity will increase the number and spend of tourists in this area”
MEA Council noted the data shows a 17% increase in tourism revenue which has been a direct result of more holiday visitors choosing the borough as their desired location. It also indicates tourism jobs are on the up with an 11% increase from 2015 to 2017.
The local authority area includes rugged coastlines, castles and former homes to two US presidents, plus The Gobbins walk, Islandmagee, with its hidden tunnels and cliff face staircases.
Councillor Gregg McKeen, said: “These figures are proof that more people are coming to Mid and East Antrim to enjoy all our wonderful attractions. Council works closely with the local tourism and hospitality trade to deliver market ready products, offer support and develop compelling reasons to visit Mid and East Antrim. With this work I hope these figures continue to rise year on year.”