Belfast Telegraph

Game Of Thrones scenery has star role in Tourism Ireland's £90m marketing plans

by LESLEY HOUSTON

The treasures and topography of Northern Ireland will be used to tempt Asian and Arab tourists as part of an all-Ireland push costing at least £90m.

Tourism Ireland's marketing plans for 2014 to 2016 were unveiled yesterday with pledges to give Northern Ireland its rightful place in Irish tourism brochures.

Stormont Tourism Minister Arlene Foster wants to increase overseas visitor numbers to more than 2m a year by 2016.

Latest estimates from Tourism Ireland indicate that 1.8m people will have visited Northern Ireland by the end of 2013.

Much mileage is to be made from selling points including the worldwide popularity of HBO TV series Game of Thrones, which is partly filmed here.

The fantasy show will sit alongside successful ventures like Titanic Belfast and the Giant's Causeway Visitors Centre as a reason for visitors to the Republic to head north, according to Arlene Foster.

And despite the hammering the economy took over flag protests at the beginning of the year, Mrs Foster said all-important "perceptions" had not been unduly affected globally.

"I always go back to what Jay Roewe, chief executive of HBO said when he was filming Game of Thrones here", she said, revealing he told her that Northern Ireland was "one of the most safe places" he had ever filmed.

Northern Ireland's contribution toward the tourism drive was quoted as £13.8m for 2014. The total cost of the campaign Ireland-wide is to reach £90m.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said a key focus will be to entice more visitors from Britain and further afield, including the Arab Emirates and China.

A further push will be made to capitalise on events like the official start of the Giro d'Italia and the Clipper Yacht race, which are projected to bring in a fresh wave of visitors to this part of the island.

Mr Gibbons said he was looking ahead to year "with a wonderful programme of tourism highlights lined up", notably Giro d'Italia.

"Tourism Ireland will be pulling out all the stops of maximise the tourism potential of the prestigious race," he said.

"Wonderful images of Northern Ireland will be beamed into the homes of millions of people around the world."

Belfast Telegraph

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