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The key agents in the development of tourism in Northern Ireland (NI) since the late 1960s have been working against a backdrop of violence in the province - "the troubles" - which has been exacerbated by media attention and sensationalization. This situation is the attributed reason as to why tourist demand for the locality substantially declined post-1967 and evidenced little growth in the 1970s and 1980s. In effect, these agents have been saying that they have been doing their best, but what can one really expect given the acts of terrorism and the media coverage? Implicit in such an argument is that in the absence of terrorist activity, the demand for NI as a tourist destination would have continued to grow, presumably at a level of parity with the growth achieved elsewhere, for example, as witnessed in other parts of the United Kingdom. This argument reflects parochialism and appears to assume that the prevailing determinants of demand and supply evident in the 1960s have changed little. Thus, "the troubles" serve as a convenient veil, masking more significant and far-reaching trends, for those organizations with vested interests in the promotion of tourism.
It is the contention of this article that for much of the past 30 years, Northern Ireland has been hiding behind such a veil in failing to recognize that the summer of 1967 is not to be repeated. In effect, that its years of being an exciting destination by virtue of being overseas in terms of its primary domestic market, that is, Great Britain, are over. Patterns of consumer demand and supply trends have substantially shifted since those halcyon days. Yet, the primary product has changed little, while product development and diversification have been limited. Tourist demand has been weak, albeit that business tourism and those visiting friends and relatives (VFR) have increased, but these have little to do with the main agents in the province whose primary concern is tourism per se. To develop this theme, the approach adopted is first to present a brief overview of NI and its tourism attractions, then to consider the demand for tourism in the province and the market share accorded to the main categories of tourist. Subsequently, attention is drawn to the approach of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
NORTHERN IRELAND AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM
The province is one of the most peripheral areas of the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU). It covers an area of about 5,500 square miles, 75% of which is in agricultural use, with a population of approximately 1.5 million, which, in comparison to the rest of the United Kingdom, has evidenced a consistently higher rate of natural increase (Leslie 1991). Since the 1960s NI's economy, as elsewhere, has suffered from the decline of traditional industries, reduced levels of employment in agriculture, the collapse of major employers, and periods of recession and inflation. Allied to this, until recently, is a lack of private sector investment. Other related socioeconomic problems include lower income levels, generally higher fuel prices, and a relatively higher cost of living (Leslie 1996). Further recognition of the plight of the economy is evidenced by its designation as a "less favored region" by the EU (Leslie 1994). Exacerbating the effects of these factors have been what is euphemistically termed "the troubles." Significantly, violence flared in the late 1960s and 1970s, declining in comparative terms in the 1980s through to the first official cease-fire in …