Tourism Industry Celebrates Award Winners

The local tourism industry gathered in force this week for the NI Tourism Awards at the Ramada Hotel, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Organised by the NI Tourist Board (NITB) in partnership with Diageo Northern Ireland, the awards celebrate and showcase the very best of local tourism.

Addressing over 270 guests, Stormont Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said that she was privileged to return as Tourism Minister to oversee Northern Ireland's year of opportunity in 2012, the UK City of Culture title for Londonderry in 2013, as well as a host of other exciting tourism developments over the next two years.

The Minister said: "2012 and 2013 will be our chance to shine. The opening of the world class Titanic visitor attraction and the state-of-the-art Giant's Causeway centre, together with the UK City of Culture title in 2013 for Londonderry will give Northern Ireland huge competitive advantage.

"The challenge lies with all of us in the tourism sector to fully maximise the potential and really put Northern Ireland on the map," she said.

"This year's award winners are already leading the way in terms of quality, customer service and putting the visitor at the centre of everything they do. I am confident that with businesses and organisations such as these at the forefront of the industry, Northern Ireland tourism is poised to significantly contribute to the economy in the years ahead."

Awards were presented in a variety of categories, including Excellent Events, Taste of NI and Best Visitor Experience.

In the NI 'Heroes' Award category, which acknowledges an individual's involvement and impact on local tourism, tributes were paid to the late Frank O'Neill of the Londonderry Arms Hotel, Carnlough, who passed away in February this year.

Belfast City Council received an award for its Outstanding Contribution to Tourism over the past 12 months.

Other award winners included Rayanne House in Holywood, for best Serviced Accommodation, The Parson's Nose in Hillsborough for Taste of Northern Ireland and the Killyhevlin Hotel and Health Club in Enniskillen for Marketing and Sales Excellence

NITB Chairman - who is also MD of the Hasting's Hotels' Group - Howard Hastings said: "Tourism has had a massive £300million investment from the headline projects in Belfast, Londonderry and the Causeway, to smaller scale improvements from the Glens to Fermanagh.

"We expect to boost visitor numbers, attract an additional £140million in revenue and create over 3,000 new jobs as a result of activity in the next two years.

“Over the next 12 months as we emerge from recession many tourism businesses will have to evolve their plans, diversify their options and work in partnership as there are signs that consumers plan to spend more on short breaks and leisure than last year.

"I would urge Northern Ireland tourism businesses to be flexible, and to adapt and seize all opportunities as a way to ensure future growth," he said.

Michael McCann, Head of Diageo Northern Ireland said: "Diageo is delighted to support the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards for a third year running. The tourism sector continues to have an increasingly important role in our future economic success and I believe tremendous potential exists for growth."


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