Two million visitor target as Tourism Ireland plans for 2016

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell with Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons at the launch
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell with Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons at the launch

Attractions such as the newly refurbished Gobbins Cliff Path and events like the NI Year of Food and Drink will prove prime assets as Tourism Ireland aims to bring 2,000,000 overseas visitors to the province.

The target was revealed as the tourism body laid out details of its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland overseas nest year at an event attended by Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell and tourism industry leaders from accriss the province.

Aiming to build on what it described as this year’s positive performance, the agency said it hoped to generate a spend of £476 million, up five per cent on 2015.

“Building on this year’s success and sustaining growth into the future is at the heart of Tourism Ireland’s strategy for 2016,” said Mr Bell.

“Positive factors contributing to building on our 2015 tourism success include new flights to Northern Ireland and stronger economies in key source markets. I also welcome the opportunity to showcase a new updated advert highlighting our latest tourism experience - The Gobbins Cliff Path. The new ad will launch in January 2016 in 23 markets around the world, reaching 26 million potential holidaymakers in France and Germany alone.”

Tourism Ireland will continue to promote major Northern Ireland themes and attractions around the world next year, the Minister added, including the Causeway Coastal Route, Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and a “world-class” golf offering.

“In 2016 we will also be inviting people from across the world to come here and enjoy a year of culinary celebrations for the ‘Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink’ giving them the opportunity to discover some of the best dining and hospitality on offer.”

Looking at estimates indicating that 1.9 million people will have visited in 2015, five per cent rise over 2014, he said revenues were expected to reach around £454m, up two per cent.

“While I believe we should celebrate this success, we must now set our sights higher on even bigger targets to ensure our tourist industry reaches its full potential.

“I know Tourism Ireland will continue to build on this success and in particular its Game of Thrones campaign in the spring. They will also continue to raise awareness of Northern Ireland as a top class business tourism destination, particularly highlighting the new facilities at the Waterfront Hall.”

Agreeing, Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said: “Throughout the year, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Northern Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere.

“Thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Northern Ireland; Tourism Ireland estimates that this media exposure is worth an estimated £90m in equivalent advertising value.”

“Next year, we will place a major focus on Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, inviting people who love great food to come and enjoy a wonderful culinary celebration where they will discover the best of local produce and have the chance to experience the spectacular scenery and wonderful coastline which makes Northern Ireland so special.

We will highlight The Gobbins Cliff Path around the world, while continuing to place a major focus on other iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and our unique National Trust properties. We will continue to target people of Ulster-Scots descent; and to promote Northern Ireland as a top golf and business tourism destination.”