By Brendan Nolan
MORE than 60% of people in the hospitality and tourism industry in Northern Ireland do not get any qualifications after their sixteenth birthdays, recent research has shown.
Now Bord F ilte, the Republic's tourist board, and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board are to pump £250,000 into a training network in South Armagh where a five-year plan has a target of an extra 2,000 trained staff by the year 2000.
The hospitality industry must constantly struggle against bad publicity arising from terrorist activity in the region. Recent acts of terrorism have fuelled fears that the situation could worsen again (Caterer, 8 January, page 5).
"The best year that anybody had was during the previous ceasefire in 1995," said Gerard Mills, co-ordinator of the new initiative. "The present ceasefire only started on 15 July last year, so it was too late to improve this year's figures. But we still had a record year in this area."
Published figures for the whole of Ireland show that Irish people spent £410m on home holidays and £1.37b on overseas holidays in 1996. Earnings from incoming visitors were in excess of £2b.
"We have proven that if the product is right it will sell," said Mills. "In our minds, the border does not exist, we just get on with it. As we become more successful, we need more skilled people to work in the hotels and restaurants. The new programme will provide us with those people."