Belfast Telegraph

Ulster entrepreneurs 'must seize tourism future'

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland entrepreneurs have been urged 'not to sit and wait for things to happen' in order to embrace and benefit from tourism potential.

Rohit Talwar, from research and consultancy firm Fast Future, was one of a number of guest speakers addressing a Northern Ireland Tourist Board conference aimed at exploiting the potential provided by the Titanic anniversary, Londonderry being named UK City of Culture and other events happening in the next three years.

"Demographics are driving economics - there will be two billion more people on the planet in 40 years time," he said.

"You want to attract tourists from India? Do a cricket tour. You want to attract people from China? Train your chefs to cook proper Chinese food and get your staff to learn the language.

"The next few years will be very turbulent, budgets will be tight, but if you look carefully you can see where the areas of growth will be, by looking at our technology.

"Look at people's phones - everything is personalised, it's what I want, when I want, all configured on a phone.

"People need to be building applications for these phones, it doesn't cost much, what about a 3D pop up of the Giant's Causeway? Digital overlays on your historical buildings.

"In Jordan, they have done away with star ratings for hotels and are judging it all on sites like Trip- advisor.

"People with 200-room hotels or four bed B-amp;Bs - sit your guests down and get them to write a review on Tripadvisor. It takes two minutes and is the widest reaching medium there is for people picking places to stay."

Mr Talwar said that it was important to tailor trips for people.

"Do not undervalue the potential of conferences," he said.

"Studies have shown that business visitors spend six times as much as other types of visitors. Integrate your business packages - target the world's maritime industries, get them to conferences at the new Titanic Signature Building but host them in small boutique hotels with homegrown menus, so they get a real taste of Ireland and send them off on a tour - target the high end growth.

"Or look at a city like Berlin, which has marketed itself very cleverly as a hip city with cheap nightlife, a cool arts scene. You have unrivalled natural heritage here. People love to have hobbies and interests, even in difficult times. Combining hobbies and holidays is a winner."