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Rob on the road Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 16:33 GMT
A new dawn
a view of Londonderry on the River Foyle
Tourism could be the economic future of Londonderry
It will be a long time before Northern Ireland can escape its past.

Thirty years on, the events of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry are being relived at the government inquiry into the incident.

And the names of many towns - Warrenpoint, Greysteel, Enniskillen - have become synonymous with violence.

But as the community tries to move forward politically, so it is taking steps to develop economically.


The murals of Derry's Bogside are as much a past of the city's tourist trail as its famous walls.

With the decline of more traditional industries such as shirt making, tourism is seen as a major source of revenue for the future.

In 2000, more than 105,000 visitors spent 18m in Derry - a 30% increase on the 1995 figure.

But there is concern that Londonderry is missing out.

More than 90% of the visitors to Northern Ireland don't go there.


To combat that, a number of projects have been launched.

One is the Cruise Initiative, aimed at getting ships to stop in Derry.

No cruise ships had called at Northern Ireland for 30 years when the first berthed at Derry's port in 1995.

Since then 85 ships have visited the region and cruises are the fastest growing tourism sector.

Catherine O'Connor from Londonderry's Visitor and Convention Bureau
Catherine: targeting lucrative tourism sectors
"Ships come down the river from various ports," explains Catherine O'Connor from Londonderry's visitor and convention bureau, "but as well as that we're looking at the short break market in terms of developing the city as a brilliant destination."

The tourism chiefs in Londonderry certainly know where the money is - they're also looking at marketing the city as a conference venue.

Guided tours

Derry has responded to growing visitor numbers by recruiting more than 30 tour guides.

The latest eight have just been appointed and some are even looking to take their qualification to degree level.

Carol Lynn O'Hagan runs a bed and breakfast and was among the first to sign up as a guide.

"As the visitor numbers increased, so did the questions, and I didn't really know the answers," says Carol Lynn.

Carol Lynn O'Hagan, Londonderry tour guide
Carol Lynn: "Times change"
"This tour guiding course was advertised in the local press and my husband and I thought it'd be a really good idea if one of us did it so I volunteered. It changed my life."

And while visitors are keen to see the walls and other landmarks of Derry's ancient history, more recent events are also of interest.

"I'm a child of the Troubles, so to speak," says Carol Lynn, " and if you'd have told me that my career path would have taken me as a tour guide showing visitors round the city I just wouldn't have believed it, but times change."


To cope with the tourists - and in a sign of confidence in the city's future - new hotels are springing up in Londonderry.

inside Londonderry's City Hotel
Two major new hotels have opened this year
The City and the Tower have recently opened, offering 230 bedrooms between them and creating 140 jobs.

The ApartHotel, with 21 serviced apartments, is a venture by local businessman Garvan O'Docherty, and is nearly finished.

John O'Mahoney of the City Hotel is upbeat about Derry's prospects.

"The atmosphere in Northern Ireland is so different to 10 or 15 years ago," says John.

"People now have a taste of making money and of doing business in a normal business environment and the future, I believe, is looking very bright."

Work to be done

But some believe that much work needs to be done.

Garvan O'Docherty recently told the city council he thought more than 100m had to be spent to realise the full tourism potential.

He pointed out that Belfast had spent 400m on tourist projects.

Derry had to promote professionally its existing attractions and add things such as a major family leisure centre.

But tourism can be a fickle industry. Just this week Dublin reported a 10% drop in visitor numbers, with a loss of 50m in revenue. Foot and mouth, 11 September and the high prices in Ireland's capital were blamed.

However, rather than fearing knock-on effects, Londonderry sees that as an opportunity to persuade more people to head north.

The city can't be faulted for its positive attitude.

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