BLEAK prospects facing Dungannon District’s B&Bs have been laid bare by shock figures which show that the borough’s tourism office has not taken a single accommodation booking in the past five years.
The booking rate for Bed and Breakfasts at Killymaddy Tourism Office was the worst among Northern Ireland’s 31 council-run tourist offices, with Strabane’s office the second worst with 13 bookings over the same period.
By comparison, Fermanagh Tourist Office made 1,537 bookings over the five year period.
Other tourism offices in Tyrone such as Omagh’s have experienced a sharp drop in the number of accommodation bookings, from 33 in 2007, to none in the past four years.
SDLP Councillor Anthony McGonnell said that local hotels and B&Bs were struggling because of a lack of investment in the area by the Northern Irish Tourism Board.
“The Killymaddy tourist centre is one of the busiest in Northern Ireland, and the number of visitors still remains exceptionally strong, in spite of the fact that the new dual carrriageway is diverting traffic away from the site”, he said.
“Unfortunately, the tourism board appear intent on treating Dungannon as a place to pass through, rather than a destination to spend a few days.
“In addition, we are in dire need of more accommodation in the local district, with only two hotels and a small number of B&Bs.
“Places such as Fermanagh have many more bookings because they have the infrastructure in place and a good variety of accommodation provision.
“I am not the only councillor to have serious reservations about the role played by the tourism board, and their lack of investment in the local area.
“Their attitude has been less than satisfactory for a number of years, at a time when the council has been investing significantly in toursim with the Castle Hill project, Round Lake at Fivemiletown, and the new cycle track at Blessingbourne Estate.
“A lot of work has been completed on heritage trails at Clogher and Benburb, and angling is also well promoted.
“At a time of economic hardship, we need the boost that increased tourism numbers would provide.
“Unfortunately, it is clear that rural areas away from the Mournes and the Glens of Antrim have been sadly neglected.”