Ballymena loses out to Carnlough over tourism route

Carnlough. INLT 03-309-PR
Carnlough. INLT 03-309-PR

Mid and East Antrim councillors have expressed concerns that Tourism Ireland’s new move to boost visitor numbers in Carnlough could impact on the number of tourists visiting Ballymena.

Earlier this month, Sinn Fein MLA Olver McMullan expressed concerns after the tourism body omitted the village from its Causeway Coastal Route itinerary online.

The website had advised tourists heading to the north coast to travel inland through Broughshane and Ballymena, rather than driving through coastal villages such as Carnlough and Cushendall.

Following a meeting, Tourism Ireland agreed with Mr McMullan’s recommendation to include both Carnlough and Cushendall in the itinerary for the Causeway Coastal Route.

The organisation’s website has already been updated, and the information will be included in any future publications.

However, the move has not been welcomed in Ballymena, where UUP Councillr Stephen Nicholl has called for a meeting between the council and the tourism body to “re-establish Ballymena as a tourism destination within Tourism Ireland.”

Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Anne Donaghy told councillors at a meeting in The Braid on July 6 that Tourism Ireland had arranged a meeting with her to discuss the route being changed this summer.

She stated: “They are starting promotional material around it.”

Councillor Nicholl added: “I want businesses in this town to get the same opportunity regarding tourism at the end of the month as they did at the beginning.”

Independent Ballymena Councillor Jim Brown commented: “If they have directed the route so that Ballymena is not on the tourists’ route then that is something we need to take up with them and encourage every penny to be spent within Mid and East Antrim.”