Food and drink at the core of tourism drive towards £1bn target
Tourism NI has announced a new initiative to promote food and drink in Northern Ireland as it strives to become a £1bn industry.
The agency is promoting Taste the Island during September, October and November, and the campaign is being run with all-island tourism body Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland.
Tourism Ireland is responsible for drawing international visitors and visitors from Great Britain to both Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Tourism NI aims to draw visitors from the Republic to NI, as well as encouraging people living here to holiday at home. Failte Ireland is the equivalent body in the Republic.
It's estimated that tourist visitors spent £968m here during 2018 - close to the target of £1bn - with around one-third of their expenditure going on food and drink.
And Northern Ireland also won the title of Best Food Destination in 2018 at the International Travel and Tourism Awards. Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said: "Research tells us that our visitors position food and drink as one of the top five factors when choosing a destination and they value local produce highly.
"We have been working with our industry partners to bring our food story to the world.
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"Taste the Island will celebrate the quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship within our industry and offer a compelling programme of authentic food and drink experiences to motivate visitors to travel to Northern Ireland," he added.
Taste the Island will promote events in Northern Ireland over the next few months, including the Armagh Food and Cider Festival and during Belfast's Culture Night.
Siobhan McManamy, Tourism Ireland's director of markets, said: "Taste the Island is a truly exciting initiative, shining a spotlight on the superb culinary experience on offer right around Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland.
"Food and drink are vital elements of today's holiday experience and our Taste the Island promotions will raise awareness of our rich food culture overseas.
"Tourism Ireland will encourage prospective visitors around the world to come and experience our award-winning local produce, dine in our excellent restaurants, visit our fantastic distilleries and breweries, or perhaps take in a food trail or festival.
"Our message is that there has never been a more exciting time to come and discover the food scene in Northern Ireland."