30/09/2011

Sunny NI Launches 'World Class Events'

As the last of the late September sunshine fades behind approaching Atlantic rain - and more seasonal weather sets in - the NI First Minister Peter Robinson and the [acting] Deputy First Minister John O'Dowd have launched a unique programme of world-class events and activity taking place in Northern Ireland in 2012.

While lucky visitors to NI have this week been able to enjoy the local scenery with stunning summer temperatures topping 23C and blue skies, a range of events and 'inspiring destinations' are being promoted for the coming tourist season.

'Our Time, Our Place' will put Northern Ireland on the global tourism map, it is hoped.

The DUP First Minister was on hand to help as the launch of the new 'iconic' visitor attractions of Titanic Belfast and the Giant's Causeway visitor centre, loom large for next year.

Also, a series of high profile events including the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and celebrations such as the 50th year of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's are to boost next year.

The programme kicks off even earlier too, with the MTV European Music Awards in Belfast's Laganside this November providing a launch pad for the 2012 series of spectacular events.

Speaking at the launch in Belfast Harbour Commissioners office, the First Minister said: "We launch an exceptional year of opportunity for Northern Ireland, an unprecedented chance to create a new experience of this place and its people, the opportunity to differentiate our offering to the world and take our story to a global audience.

"Investment in the Signature Projects has not only created a new sense of civic pride but compelling reasons for visitors to choose to visit Northern Ireland.

"I have no doubt this initiative will deliver growth, and go beyond tourism to help change perceptions of Northern Ireland in our own minds, in the minds of families and friends living abroad and in the hearts and minds of all potential visitors from closer to home or overseas," he said.

Sinn Fein's Acting Deputy First Minister John O'Dowd said: "What we must ensure is that the excitement and momentum generated next year runs on strongly into future years.

"That means developing good strategies to optimise the longer-term value of tourism; it means instilling a culture of continuous improvement; it means encouraging innovation in our tourism offerings.

"The eyes of the world will be upon us as we host this prestigious 2012 programme and gives us an unrivalled opportunity to position ourselves as a world class destination," he said.

"The positive effects will last far beyond the year itself and provide a great lead in to 2013 when Derry embraces the role as the City of Culture and Belfast plays host the prestigious World Police and Fire Games," the MLA concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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