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£26 MILLION REVAMP FOR CITY CENTRE STREETS Belfast’s most popular streets are to get a £26 million makeover. Work to transform Ann Street, Castle Lane, Corn Market, Arthur Street, Callendar Street, Arthur Place, Castle Place, Donegall Place, Castle Street, Fountain Street and Queen Street will begin in February 2007 and will cost £14 million. New lighting, street furniture, paving and a new piece of public art at £500,000; possibly a fountain or statue; is aimed at encouraging pride in the city centre. It is due to be completed in October 2009. In addition, the Department for Social Development (DSD) and Belfast City Council will run an international design competition later this year to revamp Donegall Square, after it emerged at a recent DSD conference that 15% of shop units in the city centre are lying vacant. The scheme is estimated at £12 million and is subject to securing additional funding beyond 2008. THE SOMME, 90 YEARS ON Commemorative events will take place across the Somme area of France on Saturday 1st July to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Somme Heritage Centre outside Bangor in County Down examines Ireland’s role in the First World War with special reference to the cross-community involvement in the 3 local volunteer divisions. Guided tours bring the visitor back in time to 1910 where they can learn about the Home Rule Crisis and life in the trenches. For details go to: or telephone: 028 9182 3202.

HISTORIC BALLYEASTON WINS ‘BEST KEPT TOWN’ Ballyeaston, near Ballyclare in County Antrim, recently scooped the top prize in Ireland’s Best Kept Town Awards. The small town, which has just 50 or 60 houses, also won the award of Best Kept Village. Ballyeaston has had a long and colourful history and has been linked to Saint Patrick, who spent many of his early years nearby and is believed to have founded a church in the village. The town has won six awards in the Northern Ireland Best Kept Town Awards since 1982, but this is the first year it has won the all-Ireland status. 1

£10 MILLION UPGRADE FOR OMAGH PUBS Omagh is in line for a £10 million investment as part of a major revamp of various pubs and restaurants. A number of establishments including McElroy’s, Sally O’Brien’s, McGurk’s, The Hogshead, The Clock Bar and The Terrace Bar will be refurbished, creating dozens of new jobs. Meanwhile, the Boaz company which has been investing in Omagh for decades, has also unveiled plans for a £6.5 million spend in a bid to bring evening and night-time culture back to the town centre. It recently submitted a planning application to create a new traditional bar and restaurant in the Main Street complex, with special consideration in the design to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers. The company is also hoping to soon start work on a new hotel, based near the Great Northern Retail Park.

GENERAL BOUND FOR BELFAST Eight of the world’s most magnificent tall ships will dock at the River Lagan on the 1st July as part of Belfast’s Maritime Festival. The ships will be open to the public during the first weekend in July at Clarendon Dock as part of the Celebrate Belfast year, giving the people of Northern Ireland a chance to connect with these amazing vessels and explore their wonderful history. For details visit TROUBLE OVER TAXI PICK-UP Taxis are no longer allowed to pick-up passengers at the front door of Belfast International Airport. Instead, taxi drivers have been instructed to move to the short stay car park at the Aldergrove site. A spokesman for the airport said the aim was to cut down on traffic congestion, but taxi drivers say it will mean an increase in fares and could make collecting passengers more difficult. QUEST FOR NORTH WEST The City of Derry is to be promoted as a tourist destination through a new ‘north west desk’ in Dublin. The new information desk will be situated at Dublin’s Suffolk Street tourist office, Ireland’s busiest access point. This latest venture is seen as a good opportunity to influence visitors to visit the north west. TRAVEL & TRANSPORT DUBLIN IN 90 MINUTES Plans for a high-speed rail service that would cut the journey time between Belfast and Dublin to 90 minutes are being negotiated by rail companies both North and South of the border. Translink has revealed it is working with Irish Rail on an outline plan which would provide a non-stop 90 minute service departing at hourly intervals. The cost of the service, which would require 125mph trains and an upgrading of the track, would be around £500 million. A preliminary report delivered by Translink recently confirmed that a high speed, high frequency service could be economically viable. However, whether or not the plans for the service go ahead will depend on funding. 2

FREE TRAVEL FOR THE ELDERLY Both the British and Irish Governments are planning to offer pensioners unlimited free travel both sides of the border. It is believed the scheme could be in operation by April 2007. Under the new system, pensioners from the south could travel free of charge in the north and vice versa. The elderly can currently travel from point to point, but the new proposals would mean that the system would be expanded to operate in a more fluid way across Ireland for all pensioners.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND JURY’S INN NOT FOR SALE Jury’s Doyle Hotel Group has denied reports that it plans to sell its Jury’s Inn chain in 2007. A recent report in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times claimed the Doyle and Beatty families who own the company had put a value of more than €700 million (£482 million) on the budget chain of 14 hotels. However a Jury’s Doyle spokesperson said the company was not actively looking for buyers and did not know where the “rumours” had originated. GREAT BRITAIN HOTELS SHOW BEST MAY FIGURES SINCE 2000 According to the latest figures by PFK hotel consultancy services, hotel performance figures throughout the United Kingdom reveal that hotels had their best May since the millennium. Hotels in the capital and in all regions across the United Kingdom excelled in all 3 performance indicators: rate; occupancy; and yield. In London, the average room yield was £92.98, a 15.2% increase on May 2005. This was sustained by a 7.1% increase in room rate to £112.98 and a room occupancy boost of 7.5% to 82.3%. Figures for hotels in the rest of the United Kingdom were also promising. This success has been attributed to the Chelsea Flower Show, the FA Cup final in Cardiff, and the Sri Lankan Test Series, as visitors flocked to these events, undeterred by the bad weather. VIRGIN ATLANTIC IS THE BUSINESS Virgin Atlantic has announced that a large increase in the number of business travellers helped to boost profits and achieve record sales in the last financial year. The company recorded a revenue of £1.91 billion for 2005/2006, up 17% on the previous year (£1.63 billion). The launch of the new Upper Class Suite helped to attract more premium-paying passengers, with a 10.1% increase in business travellers compared with the year before. A total of 4.9 million travellers chose to fly Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Nigeria, an increase of 11% on the year before (4.4 million). NEW ROUTE LINKS LONDON AND SHETLAND Atlantic Airways has launched the first ever direct service between London and Shetland. The service will operate twice weekly with a journey time of less than 2 hours. Flights for the first month of operation are already 75% full, with some flights completely sold out.


SCOTLAND PUBS NOT HIT BY SMOKING BAN A quarter of people in Scotland are likely to visit pubs more often since the introduction of the smoking ban, according to a survey by Cancer Research UK. The poll revealed that only 10% of over-18s are less likely to visit a pub since the ban came into effect 3 months ago. The charity said the net result indicated the smoking ban would not lead to losses for the pub trade. The Scottish Licensed Trade Association said it was far too early to tell if business had increased. GLASS BAN LIFTED Licensing officials have withdrawn the blanket ban on glass which was to be enforced on all licensed premises in Glasgow. The proposed ban would have meant that all licensed premises would have to use plastic or tempered glass instead of real glass. However after much discussion, the ban has been revised and will now only effect licensed premises open after midnight, primarily clubs or premises with a history of problems with glass-related incidents. The Glasgow Chamber has welcomed the compromise, believing the ban would have suggested that Glasgow was a dangerous place, having a negative impact on the city’s bid for events such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games and damaging the city’s £700 million per annum tourism industry. WALES CARDIFF MUSIC FEST Two major music festivals will take place in Cardiff this summer bringing a host of charttopping acts to the city. The annual Admiral Cardiff Big Weekend returns to the capital from 4-6 August headlined by former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews. Other confirmed acts appearing at the free event include The Stereo MCs, The Alarm and Welsh acts The Automatic and Crimea. After two years of sell-out events in London, the popular Metro Weekender festival is also heading to Wales this year to Cooper’s Field in Cardiff. 15,000 people are expected to flock to the 2 day August bank holiday weekend event which will feature bands such as Snow Patrol and Badly Drawn Boy, as well as top name DJs and dance acts Carl Cox, Judge Jules and Pete Tong.

AUSTRALIA GAME ON FOR MELBOURNE HOTELS The Commonwealth Games, held in Melbourne in March 2006, was not only the biggest event ever staged in the city, but the biggest revenue earner for Melbourne hotels to date. According to a survey by Deloitte, the hotel group achieved its highest ever revenue per available room at AUD$183 in March 2006. Following the resounding success of the Games, which enhanced the city’s image as a great place to visit, Melbourne is determined to make the most of the renewed interest from international tourists and build a brighter future for the city.


EASTERN EUROPE RITZY RUSSIA The Russian city of Moscow has surpassed Tokyo as the world’s costliest city, according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s annual report. The survey ranked 144 cities on transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment costs. Mercer attributed Moscow’s ascent to a surge in property values, with the recent property boom driving up rental prices. After Moscow, the world’s next most expensive cities are Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London. Over the past 12 months, London has dropped 2 places in the rankings, primarily as a result of a decline in the value of the UK pound against the US dollar. The cheapest city in the world is still Asuncion in Paraguay.

For more information visit or contact: Agnes Carville Tel: 028 9044 1645 Fax: 028 9044 1615 Email Pamela Baird Tel: 028 9044 1550 Fax: 028 9044 1615 Email

European Union Structural Funds


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