Belfast Telegraph

Tourism spending in rebranded Northern Ireland could double to £2 billion a year

At the launch of a new destination brand for Northern Ireland at World Travel Market in London are (from left) artist Colin Davidson, Tourism NI’s chief executive John McGrillen and Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland’s director of corporate services and policy
At the launch of a new destination brand for Northern Ireland at World Travel Market in London are (from left) artist Colin Davidson, Tourism NI’s chief executive John McGrillen and Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland’s director of corporate services and policy

By John Mulgrew

Tourism spending in Northern Ireland could double to £2 billion a year and create up to 25,000 jobs with the help of a major new campaign.

Around £15m a year is set to go in to Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland's new decade-long marketing push, Northern Ireland - Embrace a Giant Spirit.

The new logo has been designed by artist Colin Davidson, best known for painting a host of famous faces such as the Queen, former US President Bill Clinton and Martin McGuinness.

It is putting its weight behind 23 tourism events and attractions, including well-known hotspots such as Titanic Belfast and Hillsborough Castle, but focuses on a host of new experiences.

Among them are the Belfast Traditional Music Trail, Hands-on Belleek - based at Belleek pottery in Co Fermanagh, Men of the Mournes, Unlocking the Walled City in Londonderry and Whiskey on the Rocks in Co Antrim.

It is hoped the scheme - which was unveiled at one of the world's largest travel trade shows, WTM London - will help to double tourism spending in Northern Ireland to £2bn and help create thousands of jobs.

The consumer campaign will launch early next year.

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Mr Davidson told the Belfast Telegraph he "jumped at the chance" to work on the new logo and campaign. He said that, like painting a portrait of the Queen, the job was totally different to his previous works.

The logo brings in three main colours - blue to represent the sea and lakes, green for the countryside and magenta for the "passion and energy of our people".

"A lot of things I think I'm not best suited for. But with this I was really looking forward to getting stuck in to it," he said.

"I was encouraged not to go back with my design hat on and they wanted me to stick to this as a painter ... this was a painting commission.

"It's part of the lovely sequences that have happened in my career. Painting the Queen was totally different from what I have done before, in fact any new portrait is almost like starting again. And with this, it was tackling something where the solution was found through paint."

Asked if the ambitious £2bn tourism target is achievable with this new marketing campaign, Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said it would be a "contributing factor" alongside the growth in other areas, such as the booming golf tourism sector.

He added: "There are a number of things that will contribute to those targets. Golf, business tourism, conferences, but in terms of leisure we are trying to communicate to people the breadth of what we have got."

He said initial research showed a 30% uplift in interest from potential visitors to Northern Ireland, compared to Tourism NI's current campaigns.

Mr McGrillen said it is about creating "more reasons to come and more reasons to stay".

The campaign will target a host of markets, including domestic, GB, Europe, the US and further afield.

Tourism NI has also worked with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey in the creative content and production.

Julie Wakley, who heads up Great Britain for Tourism Ireland, said: "It's 23 brand experiences and (it's about) encouraging our travel trade partners to go and speak to them, find out more, and how they can use them. It's about how they can inspire new things for them to do that are unique and special to Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph

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