Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Study set to examine feasibility of introducing water taxis on Lough Neagh
A feasibility study for the introduction of water taxis on Lough Neagh is to be carried out this summer, Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have been told.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee, tourism manager Mark McGrann told members of a Lough Neagh Partnership agreement for collaboration on the development of the lough as a key tourism attraction.
Lough Neagh Partnership was established in 2003 to help manage and protect Lough Neagh.
During a recent presentation to the borough council, Lough Neagh Partnership reported “substantial investment” through the lough worth almost £4m for Antrim and Newtownabbey.
Gerry Darby, manager of Lough Neagh Partnership, said at the time: “A lot of money goes out of the lough but not much comes into it.”
Mr McGrann spoke of working with Lough Neagh Partnership to “develop specific experiences” on the lough by August 2023.
Meanwhile, councillors have been told of plans by the local authority to create “unique itineraries and tours for the large group and independent visitor making the borough an easy destination for them to access”.
The council is working with Belfast International Airport to promote the borough with an eye on the American market and Visit Belfast with digital screen and promotional material in place as well as hotel packages and a billboard outside George Best City Airport advertising the borough.
The authority has been working with hotels and the hospitality sector to create packages for flagship events such as Garden Show Ireland and Enchanted Winter Garden which take place at Antrim Castle Gardens.
This spring, a campaign is planned to target domestic visitors and those from the Republic of Ireland assisted by £20k funding from Tourism NI.
The local authority will also be working with Translink and Department for Infrastructure to strengthen bus and rail links, especially access from Belfast International Airport.
Commenting on the tourism development plans, Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop BEM said: “I am delighted you have seen potential in Lough Neagh. How it has never been utilised before I will never know.”
Referring to the water taxi study, he questioned the suitability of docking facilities at Antrim lough shore and highlighted a need for a new marina.