Belfast Telegraph

Time is right to put Northern Ireland on global tourism map, says NITB

2012 is Northern Ireland’s year "to shine and emerge as an international must-see tourism destination", according to Susie McCullough, Director of Marketing and Events of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Speaking at a NITB briefing event to update on its ‘ni2012: Our Time Our Place’ campaign, Ms McCullough urged everyone to play their part in making this a year to remember for Northern Ireland.

“This really is our time and our place to change global perceptions of Northern Ireland and put ourselves firmly on the global tourism map,” she said

“So much has changed here over the past decade and now, in a year packed with major developments and international scale events, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise the profile of Northern Ireland as a must see destination which will drive visitor numbers, boost the local economy and create jobs.

“Almost £300 million has been invested in the tourism infrastructure in the last three years, including the £97million Titanic Belfast attraction, as well as the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, the Ulster Museum, the MAC, the Lyric Theatre and many others. Over 100 tourism-related capital projects, from the Mournes to the Glens and right across Northern Ireland, have been supported by NITB, through the Tourism Development Scheme,” she added.

“Now, with so many projects coming to fruition this year, the stars have aligned at once to create a programme of activity and events of such significance that the eyes of the world will undoubtedly be focussing on Northern Ireland. The key is to keep them focussed here.

“This is a time for all of us to be proud of where we come from, what we’ve achieved and where we’re going. We have an extraordinary opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland as a brilliant place to work, invest, study and visit. I believe that everyone has a role to play and I would urge the people of Northern Ireland, from government departments and tourist organisations to taxi drivers and the people on the street, to grab this opportunity with both hands and catapult Northern Ireland onto the international stage,” Susie concluded.

Ms McCullough’s comments were echoed by Britain’s leading travel commentator Simon Calder, a familiar face on TV and voice on radio, who flew into Belfast this morning to support the NITB 2012 campaign.

“You know and I know that Northern Ireland is a fascinating, friendly corner of Europe that has been off the map for far too long,” said Calder. “Thankfully, 2012 looks like the year when Northern Ireland may finally be recognised as Europe’s next great destination.

“Titanic Belfast will, I hope, achieve for Northern Ireland what Bilbao’s Guggenheim managed to do for northern Spain. Judging from the remarkable advance bookings, this landmark will become the catalyst for a city with a proud ship-building history to transform itself into a destination on every wish-list.

“Once the traveller gets here, of course, they will discover there is so much more to Northern Ireland – diverse cities, countryside and coast united by the warmth of the welcome they give to visitors,” he added.

NITB’s new £2 million marketing campaign, spearheaded by a fast-moving up-tempo new TV ad highlighting the exciting year ahead, was launched across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland two weeks ago and is already proving a big success, according to the Board’s Chief Executive Alan Clarke.

“The reaction to our all-Ireland marketing campaign in the first two weeks has been phenomenal,” said Alan, “with the new TV advert proving to be a huge success, not only on TV but also on YouTube where it has picked up more than 30,000 views already. This is unprecedented for one of our television ads.

“Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as 2012 heralds the most important 12 months for tourism in a generation and offers us an unprecedented opportunity to build on the progress of the past decade and take our story to a global audience.

“The opening of the world’s biggest Titanic exhibition in Belfast will give us a truly world class attraction that I believe will become a must see for ‘Titanoraks’ and tourists from all over the globe.

“The Titanic Belfast Festival kick starts a remarkable programme of historic events that also includes the opening of the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre and FLAGS art installation, the Clipper Homecoming Maritime Festival, Peace One Day music concert, Land of Giants spectacular show, the 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens and an extraordinary series of coastal art installations by world renowned opera and theatre director Deborah Warner. And the return of the Irish Open golf tournament after a wait of more than 60 years to Royal Portrush at the end of June is the icing on the cake,” he added.

“As well as highlighting these high profile events, our 2012 campaign will of course continue to promote the many other world class attractions, hidden gems and unique stories that we have to offer , encouraging people to visit different areas of Northern Ireland and stay longer than before.

“This promises to be a Titanic year for tourism here and for the wider Northern Ireland economy, assisting the growth of the private sector, promoting employment and creating greater wealth for this community,” he concluded.

The first phase of NITB’s all-Ireland 2012 marketing campaign will run until the end of March across a range of media including TV, radio, outdoor, press and online advertising as well as PR and promotions in key shopping centres. A new website www.ni2012.com will feature everything visitors need to know about 2012.

Prior to the addition of the Irish Open in June, the ni2012 Our Time Our Place programme featuring seven world-class events was projected to draw an additional 150,000 visitors to Northern Ireland, create over 600 new jobs and provide a much needed £24 million additional revenue for the economy in 2012.

By 2020, NITB is targeting 4.5 million visitors with tourism contributing £1 billion to the economy and employing 50,000 people in Northern Ireland.

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