Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Suddenly the world wants to visit Northern Ireland

140 tour operators arrive to find out why so many travellers are heading our way

Entrance to the Titanic Belfast Experience
Entrance to the Titanic Belfast Experience
Sunny morning in Ballycastle. Submitted by Anne Kelly
Lough Foyle by night. The constellation Orion is on the left and the the planets Venus and Jupiter as well as the (overexposed) Moon on the right. The lights of Derry and Donegal form the backdrop and Myroe in near darkness is in the foreground. Submitted by Jochen Lueg
Port Moon, Causeway Coast. 14.04.2012. Submitted by Jonathan Thompson
Mussenden Temple as seen from Portstewart Strand. Submitted by Jonathan Thompson
Dawn at Woodburn middle dam. Submitted by Davy Wight
Castleward Estate. Submitted by John Johnston, Jordanstown
Carrickfergus castle. Submitted by Davy Wight
My Beauty Spot is the view of the sun setting over the Donegal Hills every night from my bedroom window. Estelle Russell [Limavady] April 2012
Low tide at Warrenpoint. Submitted by Erik Wikström, Umeå
Bloody bridge in the mourne mountains. Submitted by Alan McDaid
The Silent Valley from the summit of Slieve Bernagh in the Mournes , Sept. 11. Submitted by Wilfred Swain
Lord Drake overlooking Drain's Bay from the Black Arch shoreline, County Antrim. Submitted by Gareth Kirk
View from Dundrum Castle towards the Mourne Mountains. Submitted by Terry Fitzpatrick, Dundrum
Ballycastle Forest and surrounding area. Submitted by Anne Kelly
Sails in the sunset. Submitted by Evelyn McCullough , Portstewart
Sunset on Portrush. Photo by Rex Mercer
Arcadia, Portrush. Photo by Rex Mercer
The East Strand, Portrush. Photo by Rex Mercer
White Rocks, Portrush. Photo by Rex Mercer
Sunrise in Whitehead. Photo by Joanna Kempiak
Views of Newry and south Armagh. Photos by Ferdia Burns, Gap o The North Walking Club
Views of Newry and south Armagh. Photos by Ferdia Burns, Gap o The North Walking Club
Views of Newry and south Armagh. Photos by Ferdia Burns, Gap o The North Walking Club
Kenbane Castle, Antrim Coast. 2012. Submitted by Lindsay Allen
A Peak and A Promise, Slieve Donard. Submitted by kelvin
Mournes at dusk. The Mourne Mountains from St John's Point. 2012. Submitted by Kelvin
Slemish in the Winter. 2012. Submitted by Davy Wright, Carrickfergus
Rainbow halo at McArts Fort, Cavehill. 2012. Submitted by alronacnud
Early morning wakeup at Ballyhaskin, Millisle. 2012. Submitted by tracey705
Ballycastle at sunrise. Submitted By Anne Kelly. February 2012
Rathlin Ferry and a happy duck on the Margy River. Submitted By Anne Kelly. February 2012
Fairhead beach .Submitted by Anne Kelly. February 2012
Ballycastle beach. Submitted by Anne Kelly. February 2012
Sunrise over Knocklayde. Submitted by Anne Kelly. February 2012
The Dark Hedges, Stranocum. Submitted by Shauna Mc Fall. February 2012
The Dark Hedges, Stranocum. Submitted by Shauna Mc Fall. February 2012
Friendly donkey near Armoy. Submitted by Anne Kelly. February 2012
View over Glenarm and the Antrim coast . Submitted by Mark Crothers, Carrickfergus
Rathlin Ferry. Photo by Anne Kelly
Ballintoy Church. Submitted by Anne Kelly
Ballycastle. Submitted by Anne Kelly
View over the Antrim hills/plateau close to Glenarm. Submitted by Mark Crothers, Carrickfergus
Sunset over Lough Foyle - Submitted by Jochen Lueg, Limavady
Bishops Road, Limavady - byJochen Lueg, Limavady
The Roe Mouth - Submitted by Jochen Lueg, Limavady
Grazing on Benevenagh - Submitted by Jochen Lueg, Limavady
Craigavon Lakes - by Jeremy Clifford Craigavon
The black swan, Craigavon Lakes - by Jeremy Clifford Craigavon
Sunny September Day. View West of Torr Head. Submitted by Ruzaffa
Most memorable and exhilarating visitor attraction in N. Ireland . Carrick-a-Rede ropebridge, CausewayCoast. Submitted by Ruzaffa
Sun Trying to break through over Moville. Janice Castlerock Beach
A writer finding her inspiration. Antrim Glens. Submitted by Ruzaffa
Sunny September Day. Torr Head Submitted by Ruzaffa
Sunny September Day. Antrim Coastline
Sunny September Day. North Antrim Coastline. Submitted by Ruzaffa
Sunny September Day. Cushendun Beach
Sunny September Day. Glenariff Glen
Straid hill plantation. Submitted by Sam
Sunny September Day. Sunlight on the Mist in Glenariff
Sunny September Day. Couple enjoying the sunshine on the North Antrim Coastline
In search of Narnia, Silent Valley, County Down
Autumn Saturday, The Mournes from Dundrum Castle
Autumn Saturday, Slieve Gallion looking down on Draperstown
In search of Narnia, Silent Valley, County Down
Autumn Saturday, The Mournes from Murlough Bay
Ballintoy. Submitted by Shauna Mc Fall
Rainbow over Fallcarragh, submitted by Julie Wilkinson, Bangor
Sunset view from Ballintoy. Submitted by Julie Wilkinson, Bangor
Sunflowers at Glenveagh Castle Garden, submitted by Julie Wilkinson, Bangor
Portstewart Sunset. Submitted by Alan Beggs Portstewart
Towpath, River Lagan, 26th June 2011 . Submitted by Monica Vitorino, Belfast
The Argory, Moy. Submitted by Alan, Brussels
Quite evening in cushendun harbour. Submitted by Jack Todd
Glens of Antrim. Submitted by Alan, Brussels
The Dark Hedges near Armoy
Larrybann and Sheep Island near Ballintoy
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Arcadia, Portrush 2011. Submitted by Colin McNally, Holywood
Inishmacsaint Island, Lough Erne. Submitted by Cyril Donaldson, Moira
Car ferry crossing as seen from barred window within the elevated Old Windmill. 'The Narrows' between Strangford & Portaferry
Cushendun beach. Submitted by Jack Todd
Restful day in Ballintoy. Submitted by John McKegney
In Belfast City Hall. Submitted by Gary Henderson, Spartanburg, S. C. USA
North Antrim Coast. Submitted by S McCaughey, Lisburn
Night approaches in Portrush
Portavoe resevoir submitted by Melanie Thompson. July 2011 *** Local Caption *** Portavoe resevoir submitted by Melanie Thompson. July 2011
Ballycastle sunset, by Anne Kelly July 2011
Mallard and duckings, River Lagan, by Melanie Thompson. July 2011
East Strand Portrush, submitted by Neil. July 2011
Lough Salt, Donegal, submitted by Melanie Thompson. July 2011
Kite surfing over Brown's Bay, Islandmagee on Saturday 23rd July. Submitted by Henry Cooper, Newtownabbey
Antrim Coastline. Submitted by Charlie McQuillan
Sunshine Horizon, County Antrim. Submitted by Charlie McQuillan
Excuse me, where's the river Bann? Submitted by Evelyn McCullough, Portstewart Strand
Whiterocks from Dunluce Castle. Submitted by Allyson Hutton - Portballintrae
Surfing paradise at the Whiterocks. Submitted by Allyson Hutton - Portballintrae
Dreaming spires, Armagh. Submitted by Maureen Robinson, Belfast.
Slemish Mountain. Submitted by Robert Moffett, Antrim
Whitehead Viewed From The Gobbins. Submitted by Norman Lindsay, Whitehead
White Rocks. Submitted by Roy Goudie
Woodburn Dams. Submitted by Roy Goudie
Mirrored image in Lough Neagh. Submitted by Norman Lindsay
St Johns Lighthouse, Co.Down. Submitted by Steven Hooks, Co.Armagh
Contented - the shore of Lough Neagh. Submitted by David McFarland, Dollingstown
Early morning, Shaws Bridge, Belfast.
Sunset Lough Swilly. Submitted by John Toland, Killea, Derry
Sunset Portmuck, Co Antrim by Joan Wilson
Causeway Stones by Michael McLean, Glengormley
Ballydorn lightship near Killinchy by J.W.Kane Portadown
Most memorable visitor experience - crossing 'Carrick-a-Rede' rope bridge by Trevor Moffet - Newtownards. July 2011
Skerries, Portrush by Robin Harper, Randalstown
Scrabo by Michael Graham, Bangor
The Dee Lighthouse by Michael Graham, Bangor
Bangor Marina in the Mist by Michael Graham, Bangor
Antrim Coast by Dennis Carter
Scarva Village in bloom by J.W.Kane Portadown
Napoleons Nose, CaveHill by Michael McLean, Glengormley
The Mournes by Victor McCabe July 2011
Ballycastle bird and boat. Submitted by Anne Kelly. July 2011
Reflections of Craigavon lakes. Submitted by Jeremy Clifford.
Ballycastle Beach. Submitted by Anne Kelly. July 2011
Ballintoy Harbour. Submitted by Anne Kelly
Causeway Face - submitted by David and Alison Flanagan. July 2011
Damselfly - submitted by David and Alison Flanagan. July 2011
Errigal Donegal - submitted by David and Alison Flanagan. July 2011
Beach Patterns Castlerock - submitted by David and Alison Flanagan. July 2011
Noctilucent cloud display over Belfast - July 2011. Submitted by Andy McCrea, Carnalea, Bangor
Sunrise in Cushendun. Submitted by Seamus Fyfe. July 2011
Watertop Farm, Ballycastle - submitted by Kirsty McMurray. July 2011
Sunrise in Craigavon. Submitted by Jeremy Clifford. July 2011
Historic ruins, Ballyclog Co Tyrone. Submitted by James, Melbourne, Victoria
Beauty in Colour, Hillsborough Forest. Submitted by Gerard Morgan.
Ballintoy Harbour, Aug 2010. Submitted by Robin Jeffers, Perth, W Aust
Spring Splash at Ballintoy Harbour. Submitted by Norman Lindsay
Glenoe Waterfall in May. Submitted by Norman Lindsay
White Rocks. Submitted by Roy Goudie
Woodburn Dams. Submitted by Roy Goudie
Divis & Black Mountain. Submitted by Keith J. Reilly
Scarva. Submitted by David Berry
Sunset over Portballintrae. Submitted by Pearl Davison, San Diego, California
Waves at Portballintrae. Submitted by Pearl Davison, San Diego, California
Waves at Portballintrae. Submitted by Pearl Davison, San Diego, California
Waves at Portballintrae. Submitted by Pearl Davison, San Diego, California
Beaghmore Stone Circles. Submitted by Doris
Castleward. Submitted by Lesley Martin, Banbridge
Downpatrick Cathedral from Inch Abbey. Submitted by Lesley Martin, Banbridge
Newcastle. Submitted by Brian, Craigavon
Murlough. Submitted by Brian, Craigavon
Carrickfergus Castle. Submitted by Vic Anton, Alpharetta, GA USA
Sperrin Mountains, Co Tyrone. Submitted by Colin Hamilton, Belfast
Dunlewey Church Donegal. Submitted by Donal McCullaugh from Banbridge
The Giants Ring, South Belfast. Submitted By Paul Muldoon
Dawn at Corbet Lake Banbridge. Submitted by Donal McCullaugh from Banbridge
Dusk at Kernan Lake Banbridge. Submitted by Donal McCullaugh from Banbridge
White Park Bay taken by Alan Warnock from his microlight aircraft
Sunrise in Banbridge on 20/09/2010 at 6.59am. Submitted by Stephen Bickerstaff
Ben Crom Reservoir from the summit of Slieve Corragh in the Mournes. Taken and submitted by Donal McCullaugh from Banbridge.
Silent Valley Reservoir from the summit of Slieve Binnian in the Mournes. Taken and submitted by Donal McCullaugh from Banbridge.
The Trees. Submitted by David Berry, Gilford
Rossknowlagh beach, Co Donegal. Submitted by Thomas Brazil
Mt Errigal, Donegal. March 2011. Submitted by Brendan
Belfast Telegraph readers' Ulster Beauty Spots Gallery
Rosemary Cunningham Annalong - Spelga at twilight
Spelga in the mist - by Rosemarry Cunningham
Sunflowers near Moira. Submitted by Robert Wilkinson
Crawfordsburn Country Park. Most people guessed this was the South of France. Submitted by David Scott, Manchester
Readers' Pictures: Ulster beauty spots
Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Portstewart Sunset. Submitted by Alan Beggs
Botanic Gardens. Submitted by Geraldine Wilson (Western Australia but just back to NI for holiday)
Craigavon Bridge,Derry. Submitted by Frank Fleming - from Derry
Readers' Pictures: Ulster beauty spots
View form Dundrum Castle
Boa Island Fermanagh - sunset jetty. Submitted by DjTrev
Bunbeg Bliss. Submitted by Brian Morton / Straid
Room with a view - Dunlewey. Submitted by Brian Morton / Straid
Cliffs, Portrush - Carrick a Rede
Mountstewart. Submitted by Geraldine Wilson - Western Australia
Carrickfergus Marina. Submitted by Barbara Downie
Craigavon lakes. Submitted by Jeremy Clifford
Upper Lough Erne. Submitted by Paul Kennedy
Red bay. Submitted by Sian Johnston, Belfast
Black and White Beach, Ballywalter
The beautiful 'Glens of Antrim'. Submitted by Linda King - Kells
The lake at Mountstewart. Submitted by Geraldine Wilson (Western Australia but just back to NI for holiday)
"Anyone For Tennis?" Portstewart Strand
The Gardens at MOunt Stewart
Belfast Castle. Submitted by Jane McLaughlin Newtownabbey
Birds enjoying the morning sun at Wildlife Park, Carrickfergus
A sunny sail at the Causeway. Submitted by Michelle Myles Maghaberry
Narrow Water Keep, Nr Warrenpoint. Submitted by Jennifer Campbell, Newry
View of the Mournes over Barley fields, taken on one of my favourite walks. Submiited by Bernadette Daly, Acton, Poyntzpass
Summer at Crawfordsburn Country Park. Submitted by Artur Pawlowski
Coast Rd Aug 2003. Loney NJ USA
Glenariff Aug 2003. Loney NJ USA
Framed at Glenarm Harbour. Submitted by Michelle Myles Maghaberry
Donaghadee Lighthouse at Sunrise. Submitted by Adam Shaw, Bangor
Killynether Forest toward Belfast. Submitted by Robert.Brampton.Canada
Waterfall at Glenariffe. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Greyabbey. Submitted by Garry Steele, Bangor
Whitepark bay.co.Antrim. Submitted by Rod Mulholland.Tobermore
Calm After the Storm, Rathlin Harbour. Submitted by Ken Wooster

The battle to make Northern Ireland one of the world’s top tourism destinations, sitting alongside the likes of Prague and Paris in holiday brochures around the world, is hotting up.

More than 140 tour operators from across the globe were in Belfast yesterday as the cream of our hospitality industry promoted Northern Ireland’s many attractions.

Some companies at the event — the first international business gathering at Titanic Belfast — are putting the finishing touches to brochures for their home audience.

And the response of those businesses — from Germany, America and Australia, as well as less traditional markets like India, Japan and China — means Northern Ireland can look forward to being much more than a mere footnote.

In fact, many said they were in awe of how Belfast has changed in the course of just 12 months.

Chris Hagan from Superbreak in York said that after years of tagging Northern Ireland on to the end of UK or Ireland breaks, his firm is now marketing the province as a short break destination in its own right, alongside other chic European capitals.

“The difference between visiting this year and last year is huge,” he added.

“I think it started with the MTV awards; the whole atmosphere changed. The buzz about the Titanic in the media has been massive, you cannot pick up a paper or watch the news anywhere in the world without mention of it in the past few weeks.

“We used to include Northern Ireland as part of our UK or Ireland tours, but now we are marketing the province as a short break destination alongside the likes of Paris or Prague.

“The Titanic building alone is a huge draw for tourists. As an attraction there is nothing else like it in the UK, it is superb and really makes you feel part of the story. It is a landmark that will bring people to Belfast, and then once they are here they can see what the rest of Northern Ireland has to offer.” It was a first visit for some of the international tour operators, meaning the message about what the province has to offer will reach a far wider audience than ever before.

Heidi Burkhardt from Isle Inn Tours, which has been bringing visitors from the USA to Ireland and Scotland for 25 years, said that the feeling of excitement on the streets is palpable.

“We bring people who are interested in history and heritage and the tourism industry in Northern Ireland has really upped its game in terms of what it can deliver,” she said. “Even outside of Belfast the accommodation and restaurant provision and visitor attractions are so much better.

“A lot of Americans are still sceptical about travelling up north when they come to Ireland, but with what some of the traders are offering now, it will be so much easier to bring them here.”

Susie McCullough, director of marketing and events with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, said that more than 5,000 ‘appointments’ would be made between tour operators and traders during the event.

“Everybody has mentioned the buzz and the air of confidence in Northern Ireland. Those who have attended in the past have remarked on how there seems to be a change for the better,” she said.

“This event is not just about Belfast, there is also a huge interest in the Londonderry City of Culture events in 2013 and the opening of the new Giant’s Causeway visitor centre.

“We have been set the challenge to double tourism revenue by 2020 and when you see some of the connections which are being made between tour operators and traders at these events, it seems all the more achievable.”

Among the traders showing off the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer was Aileen Martin from Hastings Hotels.

“There is so much interest in what we have to offer. We aim to make at least 30 sales, and to make 30 sales in any other way would require phonecalls and meetings all over the world that would cost a fortune,” she said.

“The operators want to come here now and see it for themselves, and they seem genuinely impressed.”

Key facts about our tourism industry

1 Overseas visitor numbers to Northern Ireland rose by 6% to 1.2m in the first nine months of 2011 compared with 2010. Tourism income rose by 20% to £291m.

2 Last year Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster outlined plans to increase the income earned from tourism to £1bn by 2020.

3 Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are currently in India with Arlene Foster to promote Northern Ireland. The trio have also visited Dubai and Canada in recent weeks and plan to visit China before the end of the year.

4 Belfast Welcome Centre has just recorded its most successful two weeks in terms of visitor numbers and tourist enquiries. Total walk-in visits by tourists at its key city centre location at Donegall Place jumped by 96% in the first 14 days of April compared with the same period last year, while phone enquiries increased by 163%.

5 Last month a tourism conference was told that potential visitors from North America are confused about Northern Ireland because they don’t understand that there is a border.

6 The NI 2012 — Our Time, Our Place advertising campaign from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is costing an estimated £2m and includes television and cinema adverts, online videos and billboards.

7 Last year low cost holiday comparison site TripAdvisor announced that Belfast was the best value UK city for tourists.

8 Belfast was recently voted one of the world's top destinations for 2012 by The National Geographic Traveller magazine. The magazine called the city a “treasure” with an “incredible atmosphere”.

9 Travel guide Lonely Planet said this year that Belfast has shed its troubled past and been transformed into a “hip and hedonistic party town”.

10 Fodor’s Ireland — which sells around 50,000 copies annually — also named Belfast as one of the top 21 places in the world to visit in its new edition.

ANTRIM COAST AND GLENS

The long-awaited new visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site, is due to open in July. Visitors can also take in the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Whitepark Bay and the ruins of Dunluce Castle. Sports fans will also thrill to the sight of the world’s best golfers taking part in the Irish Open, which will be staged at Royal Portrush for the first time since 1947 from June 28 to July 1. Fantasy fans could also be enticed to the area thanks to the county playing host to filming locations for hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

ARMAGH

History is at the heart of tourism in Co Armagh. Alongside Co Down, the area’s links to Saint Patrick are a major selling point, with two Cathedrals named after him (St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral left) and the Saint Patrick's Trian Visitor Complex. The Navan Centre comprises an ancient fort and an interactive audio-visual show telling of the myths and legends of the Ulster Cycle. Armagh also boasts an observatory, several National Trust properties, a museum and Armagh Gaol, which played a prominent role in Northern Ireland’s history. And, of course, fans of the country’s most famous snack can visit Tayto Castle. Walkers can also visit Gosford Forest Park outside Markethill, and Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

BELFAST

As well as the opening of the already hugely successful Titanic Belfast building, which has attracted visitors from around the world, there are plenty of other attractions to entice visitors to Northern Ireland’s capital city. Music is a big draw, with venues like Waterfront Hall and the Odyssey Arena, home of the 2011 MTV Music Awards. Big festivals this year include Tennent’s Vital and Belsonic in the city centre this summer. Arts fans will enjoy visiting the new MAC arts centre, which opens this week, while there is also the newly refurbished Ulster Museum, the City Hall, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and Botanic Gardens to see. Belfast will host the World Police and Fire Games in August 2013.

DERRY/LONDONDERRY

2013 will see Londonderry become the UK City of Culture. This year the Cultural Olympiad will see events staged in the city before the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A major concert, Peace One Day, will also take place at the former Ebrington Barracks. The Clipper Round The World Yacht Race will finish in the city in July 2012 with a festival to mark the final transatlantic stage of the 40,000-mile race. In 2013 Derry will also host the Turner Prize, the most important event in the UK's contemporary art calendar.

DOWN

One of the biggest draws to this area are the Mournes, some of the best-known mountains in Ireland. An area of Outstanding Natural Beauty immortalised by Percy French’s song ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ in 1896, it is said to be the inspiration for the writer CS Lewis's Narnia. Slieve Donard, at 2,796ft, is the highest peak in Ulster. As well as climbing and walking, the area is also well known for horse riding, fishing and golf and is also a wildlife hotspot. Visitors can also enjoy a trip to Newcastle and nearby beaches and the St Patrick centre, Down Cathedral and the saint’s grave in Downpatrick. There are large forest parks at Tollymore and Castlewellan.

FERMANAGH

The Fermanagh lakelands have always been a big draw to staycationers — people who holiday at home — but now the drive is on to showcase this corner of Northern Ireland to the world. The county is also hoping to capitalise on the public love affair with period costume dramas, after news that a new BBC comedy starring Jennifer Saunders and Timothy Spall has started filming at Crom estate. Blandings is based on the celebrated stories by PG Wodehouse and will be transmitted in the autumn after 40 days of filming. The area also has a growing reputation for fine dining with cookery schools at Belle Isle and The Kitchen Academy, while history fans will lap up Enniskillen Balfour and Tully castles as well as some of Northern Ireland’s best stately homes, Florencecourt and Castle Coole.

TYRONE

The Sperrins in Co Tyrone play host to hill walking festivals, mountain biking and also attract gold prospectors, archaeologists and even gliders. The Ulster American Folk Park, where visitors can trace the story of emigration across the Atlantic, is also a big draw for those seeking their roots. Visitors can follow the emigrant trail and journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster, aboard a full scale emigrant sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier. The Alley Arts and Conference Centre in Strabane is garnering a reputation as a leading venue for entertainment in the west. Stone circles and historic castles could also prove a draw.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz