Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Campaign urges Commonwealth Games fans to visit Northern Ireland

Vanessa Markey, Tourism Ireland's head of Great Britain

Tourism Ireland, the cross-border body set up to attract visitors to both sides of the border from Britain and further afield, has travelled to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in a bid to sell Northern Ireland to potential visitors.

Tourism Ireland will be marketing Northern Ireland as a destination to spectators, athletes and even visiting media during the 11-day event.

There will be a potential audience of 4,500 athletes and 2,000 officials from 71 nations in Glasgow for the Games.

Vanessa Markey, Tourism Ireland's head of Great Britain, said: "The proximity of this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow presents a unique opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland – to the visiting athletes, visitors and the significant number of international media attending the games.

"We have put in place an extensive programme of activity, to maximise this opportunity for Northern Ireland, in advance of and during the games."

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "We want to steal a bit of the limelight to showcase how close Northern Ireland is and what a wonderful place it is to visit."

She said Northern Ireland could be set apart from other UK regions for its positive attributes.

"It has a unique culture and lots to offer because it's that little bit further away. We are able to pitch it differently and get a bit of space from places like Scotland and Cornwall."

She said people in Northern Ireland also had a unique sense of humour, while its landscape was also attractive.

The relative proximity to Belfast of areas like the Causeway coast and the Glens of Antrim was an added attraction, she said.

There had been investment in tourist attractions like Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Visitors' Centre.

Ms Markey added: "There isn't anything comparable with those places in the rest of the UK."

Visitor numbers from Britain were up 8% year-on-year during the first quarter of 2014., according to the latest figures.

Holiday visitors from Britain were up 15%, friends and relative visitors were up 13% and revenue from all Britain visitors was up 17%.

Tourism Ireland does not maintain separate figures to show the numbers of Scottish visitors to these shores.

But Ms Markey said that Tourism Ireland worked with the Ulster Scots Agency on using shared connections to help attract visitors.

But use of Ulster Scots links was confined to more niche campaigns rather than broad consumer campaigns, such as the concept of a weekend away in Belfast.

Tourism Ireland has also produced a new film about Northern Ireland, highlighting its "extraordinary athletes from an extraordinary place" to international sports fans at the games, which are set to continue until August 3.

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