A major report on Mid Ulster has highlighted the possibility of a tourism boom linked to the area’s archeological sites as well as glaring failures in the past.
The Mid Ulster Tourism Strategy report also warned that ‘a mood of disillusion and helplessness’ had taken hold of the district’s tourism sector.
A total of 214,000 visitors came to Mid Ulster in 2014 and spent £27m, however, this amounted to only 4.6 percent of Northern Ireland overnight trips and 3.6% of the region’s entire tourism spend.
Arguably, Mid Ulster contains the richest seam of archaeological, historic and heritage sites and facilities in Northern Ireland, stretching from Mesolithic, Neolithic, pre Christian, early Christian and medieval times to the plantation era and up to the 2nd World War.
The authors of the report found that the sites suffer from a lack of visibility and limited understanding by residents and visitors.
The report also found that the two destinations classified by Tourism NI and linked to the area– Tyrone and Sperrins and Lough Neagh and its Waterways – were the weakest of NI’s 9 destinations. It warned that Mid Ulster’s tourism market had not fulfilled its potential to contribute to economic growth.
The report went on to say: “The uniqueness of Mid Ulster to exploit the history of the O’Neills,
the Flight of the Earls, and the development of the plantations contribute to this potential.”