Orange Order bids to attract more tourists to Twelfth
A Twelfth of July fit for tourists is the hope for this year's marching season, according to the Orange Order.
Portadown and Kilkeel have been selected as flagship tourist parades for the biggest day in the institution's calendar.
The initiative was introduced in 2006 in cooperation with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in an attempt to attract more foreign visitors.
A total of 18 marches are planned in across the region on Tuesday, July 12, following the traditional Rossnowlagh parade in the Republic on the preceding weekend.
The Orange Order said it wanted the parades in Portadown and Kilkeel to broaden the appeal of the Twelfth.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Edward Stevenson insisted that he was confident of attracting an "increasing number of visitors, tourists and families".
He said: "Both venues are worthy ambassadors as Twelfth tourist flagships, and we are delighted that they will be working closely with us this year to ensure equally successful events.
"The flagship programme, which has been constantly evolving for over 10 years, has been an enormous success.
"The organisers of both parades are working on a programme of events leading up to the big day and there will be plenty for people to enjoy.
"As part of our cultural tourism offering, visitors will also be welcomed to each of the parades by fully accredited welcome hosts."
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton welcomed the Orange Order initiative.
"The tourism industry in Northern Ireland is hugely significant as both an economic driver and in supporting and creating employment," he said.
"It has been recognised that cultural tourism has an important role to play in helping visitors select their short break and holiday destination. Increasingly, we are seeing more and more international visitors coming to Northern Ireland keen to experience the biggest day in the Loyal Orders' parading calendar on the Twelfth of July."
Darryl Hewitt, District Master of Portadown Orange Lodge, described how being named as one of the flagship tourist parades was "a great honour".
"Co Armagh demonstrations are always family-orientated, and Portadown District is seeking to build on this," he said.
Mourne District Master Trevor McConnell added: "The Mourne Twelfth is always a very enjoyable day for families, and we wish all visitors a hearty welcome. This Twelfth will be particularly poignant as we remember and respect the Fallen of the Somme."
Where the main parades will be
The full list of venues for Orange Order demonstrations on Tuesday, July 12 is:
A Twelfth demonstration will also be held in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal, on Saturday, July 9