SOUTH Down MP Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) has said that reduction in airport passenger duty and in VAT on tourism products are crucial to the growth of tourism in Northern Ireland.
Ms Ritchie told delegates at an meeting in Newry earlier organised by the NI Hotels Federation, recent events including the year-long City of Culture in Derry and the Giro d’Italia cycling extravaganza, illustrate the potential for staging global events at home.
Ms Ritchie said: “In South Down we have the re-invigoration of St Patrick’s Country and the Mournes under NI Tourism Board signature projects and, complimenting these wonderful resources, there is Carlingford Lough and the Ring of Gullion – all on our doorstep and increasing in popularity with our home and overseas market.
“We have an enormous amount to be proud of, but we need to create a better economic environment that will let our businesses capitalise on everything that we have to offer.
“Two decisive factors that need to be changed to propel our hospitality industry to new heights are reducing airport passenger duty and VAT on tourism products, including hotels. Action on these issues would drive growth, increase visitor numbers and create jobs – not just directly in the hospitality sector but across the wide range of industry and businesses that services our hospitality industry.
“A sector-targeted VAT cut for this labour-intensive industry would directly support the local economy and have a multiplier effect for all local businesses.
“The sector in the North is particularly penalised by the UK’s excessive rate of Airport Passenger Duty, which is among the highest in the world. The Irish government has just scrapped this tax completely. However, this is yet another barrier to visitors coming to Northern Ireland.
“I will continue to be relentless in pursuing both of these issues when Parliament returns next month,” added Ms Ritchie.