High quality signing of attractions and facilities helps visitors orientate themselves when in unfamiliar surroundings and it can play a significant role in the quality of the visitor experience in Northern Ireland.
White-on-brown tourist signs constitute one part of the overall range of direction signs. Tourist signs are directional traffic signs shown as white letters on a brown background and may include symbols relating to the type of destination being signed.
The role of tourist signs
Tourist signs are generally used to direct visitors to harder to find destinations. The signs are provided to help visitors on the last stage of their journey to a tourist destination, and to help drivers navigate via the most appropriate route, particularly where destinations are hard to find. The primary purpose of tourist signing is to assist in the management of traffic and to ensure the safe operation of the road network. They are not intended to be used as advertising and will not be permitted where they would provide an advantage to a one commercial enterprise at the expense of another. Signs are intended to complement, but not replace, the pre-planning of a journey and the use of navigational aids such as verbal instructions, maps, road atlases, websites, satellite navigation systems and mobile phone applications.
What can be signed?
In Northern Ireland, tourist destinations are split into ‘facilities’ and ‘attractions’ for signage purposes. Tourist facilities may be signed from the nearest main road. Tourist attractions (meeting certain criteria) may in exceptional circumstances also be signed from motorways.
The list below is an example of the types of tourist destinations which may be eligible for signing from the strategic road network.
Caravan and Camping Parks
For further information on eligible tourist destinations, click here.
What can't be signed?
Utilities i.e. places or services which are of use to tourists but would not constitute tourist attractions are not eligible for tourist signage. Utilities would include shops, shopping centres, restaurants, art galleries, garden centres and sports facilities.
What is eligible for tourism signage?
It is not possible for every tourist destination to be signed, as there is such a number and variety of these. Whilst it is NITB’s role to promote tourism, it is recognised that providing a large number of signs with a lot of information in an uncontrolled manner, has the potential to confuse visitors and detract from the main purpose of the sign which is to direct traffic in a safe and efficient way.
A new tourist signing policy was adopted in October 2014. The policy uses criteria, which has been developed after extensive consultation, to determine which tourist destinations should be eligible for signage.
Under the new policy, new categories of tourist facilities and attractions are eligible for signage, including activity centres; theatres/arts centres; motor home hire companies; aires de service; and gardens, subject to certain criteria being met. In addition, more flexibility has been introduced to include NITB funded tourism products and NTIB Quality Graded tourism providers.
A summary of the key changes introduced by the new policy is available here.
Even where a destination is eligible for tourist signage, signage cannot be guaranteed. The final decision will be taken by TransportNI, taking into consideration road safety and traffic management issues.
How do I apply for tourist signage?
For information on tourist signing and brown sign applications or to apply for a brown sign, please contact your local council.
Local Council Authorities are responsible for promoting tourism in the local area and coordinating applications for tourism signage in each respective area. In assessing an application the Council will liaise with NITB on the eligibility of tourist destinations and with TransportNI in relation to the design, location and extent of signing. Requests for inclusion on information panels at tourist information points should also be made to Local Councils.
To download a signage application form please click here.
How much will it cost?
The applicant will be responsible for bearing the costs of all signs provided on the road network. Costs include design, installation, temporary traffic management, and future maintenance. Applicants will have to make payment to the Council in advance of any signs being provided.
The cost of providing tourist signs is influenced by a number of factors, including size, number of signs required, and road type, etc.
After an application has been submitted, your Local Council will liaise with TransportNI to ascertain estimated costs.