10/05/2002

Potential for NI tourist industry’s best ever year

Tourism in Northern Ireland has never been in a stronger position to achieve real growth, Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, has claimed.

The Minister made his remarks as he addressed the opening of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s twelfth annual Tourism Marketing Workshop at Belfast's Waterfront Hall, on Friday morning.

Addressing the largest number of representatives of international tour companies ever to visit Northern Ireland, the Minister said: “Northern Ireland is welcoming over 170 tour companies from 23 countries who are here to meet with more than 200 delegates from the Northern Ireland tourism trade.

“They are finding out about Northern Ireland’s best kept secret and, hopefully, when they return home they will become ambassadors for our tourist industry and spread the word about the quality of our product and the variety of activities, we have to offer international travellers.”

At the Workshop, Sir Reg also announced the Northern Ireland visitor figures for 2001. He said that because of September 11 and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, 2001 was a difficult year for tourism in Northern Ireland. However, total visitor performance during the year remained similar to that in 2000, with almost 1.7 million visitors coming to Northern Ireland, while overall visitor revenue increased by 4% in real terms. Business traffic and those visiting friends and relatives also grew by 8% and 4% respectively.

The Minister added: “Visitors from Great Britain increased by 11% in 2001, reflecting in part, the positive impact of new air routes, and increasingly competitive fare structures. Within the Great Britain growth we saw 16% more Scottish visitors. Following strong performances in 2000, however, in markets further afield there was some decline. On a positive note, Scandinavian and Dutch markets enjoyed significant growth; direct access from Amsterdam no doubt impacting on the 50% growth from the Netherlands.

“As we enter the main season, there is growing confidence that there will be a strong recovery for tourism in Northern Ireland in 2002. With Tourism Ireland up and running, we can look forward to reaping the rewards of an increased distribution and marketing presence in 23 countries internationally, and a more focused marketing effort in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

The Minister congratulated the Northern Ireland Tourist Board who, he said, had worked tirelessly to ensure that tour operators had a productive visit to Northern Ireland.

On Thursday evening, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board played host to 170 European and Asian tour operators at a specially organised gala event staged at Belfast’s Odyssey complex.

The dinner and entertainment laid on for the tour operators' representatives signalled the start of a busy weekend as they visited Belfast to discover Northern Ireland’s latest and newest tourism destinations and holiday venues.

The record number of tour operators attending the Marketing Workshop event included companies from Japan, Guatemala, Peru, and Brazil.

(MB/AMcE)

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