30/05/2008

Tourism Builds NI Economy: Dodds

As Belfast prepares to welcome its second visit by the world famous 'Tall Ships', the NI Tourism Minister, Nigel Dodds has recognised the central role that tourism now plays in the Northern Ireland economy.

The Minister announced that 2007 had seen a strong performance across all markets with a forecasted 28% increase in holiday visits to Northern Ireland.

Speaking to an audience of over 350 tourism industry representatives, at the 30th annual Northern Ireland Tourism Awards in Belfast, the Minister congratulated the award winners and said: "Over the past 12 months we have seen great progress in the numbers of visitors to Northern Ireland from all our key markets.

"We are forecasting an overall 28% increase in holiday visits with particularly strong performances from Europe and the USA. Closer to home, we are estimating the Irish Republic had a 10% growth, and that there has been a strong return of holiday visits from Great Britain."

The Minister continued: "The Executive has placed the development of tourism as a key component of sustainable economic growth. Some £141million will be invested in product and marketing by NITB locally, in the Irish Republic, and in global marketing by Tourism Ireland."

Winners celebrated their success across a variety of categories in the NI Tourism Awards included the Bushmills Distillery - recently visited by Prince Charles - which was recognised for its outstanding contribution to tourism.

The visitor centre at the distillery welcomed more than 135,000 visitors in 2006, making it one of Northern Ireland's most popular attractions.

Meanwhile, Belfast's close links with the sea will once again be celebrated at the end of next month, when the city hosts the third annual Belfast Maritime Festival, organised by Belfast City Council and the Port of Belfast.

As part of the build up to next year’s Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge, some of Europe's most spectacular ships will be sailing into the heart of Belfast over the weekend of Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 June.

The ships will be berthed on both sides of the River Lagan, at Clarendon Dock and Queen's Quay (beside the Odyssey Pavilion). A free shuttle bus service will operate between the two sides of the river.

All the ships will be open to the public between 11am and 5pm each day - although, for operational reasons, access to all of the ships will be subject to certain restrictions.

(BMcC)

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