Over 100 international buyers from more than a dozen key tourism markets have arrived in Belfast for a Meet the Buyer event organised by Tourism NI in association with Tourism Ireland.
The international operators, from Northern Ireland’s priority tourism markets in the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain, North America and Europe were welcomed to a gala dinner showcasing local produce at Belfast City Hall this evening.
The two-day Meet the Buyer event is a significant one in the annual tourism calendar, as it gives local tourism providers the opportunity to strike deals with international buyers who can drive visitors to Northern Ireland.
Addressing the delegates at the gala dinner, Tourism NI Chairman Terence Brannigan said Northern Ireland’s 2016 Year of Food and Drink had got off to a “really sizzling start, and is celebrating in style all that is good about our distinctive local produce.”
“I am quite certain that the superb local food and drink that you will savour tonight, together with a host of special Northern Ireland attractions, will provide a tasty and exciting experience that you will want to tell your respective markets about,” he added.
“Tourism NI is proud of the achievements of our destination in recent years and we are well on the way to meeting government targets to become a £1 billion industry by 2020.
“In fact, in parallel with the position in the Republic of Ireland, 2015 shows all the signs of being the best tourism year we’ve ever had.
“This event is therefore a crucially important occasion, one that gives us a great opportunity to make a further positive contribution to our industry and indeed the wider economy.”
Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland said “Tourism Ireland is delighted to bring over 100 top international tourism buyers to Northern Ireland for Meet the Buyer 2016 – including 22 buyers who are here for the first time – which provides such an important opportunity for our local tourism partners. The high attendance of these buyers from around the world is a strong indication that interest in visiting Northern Ireland remains high and that it can, and is, competing with the best destinations in the world.
“Tourism Ireland has an extensive programme of promotions under way across the world, to highlight Northern Ireland and grow tourism in 2016 and beyond. As well as highlighting Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, we continue to promote the Causeway Coastal Route and The Gobbins Cliff Path, as well as other iconic experiences such as Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and, of course, our world-class golf. And our new, upcoming Game of Thrones campaign will showcase Northern Ireland once again in a unique way on the global stage. With our spectacular scenery, world-class visitor attractions and good value accommodation, Northern Ireland truly is a ‘must see’ destination. Our message to all the tourism buyers is that there has never been a better time to come and visit Northern Ireland.”
The Meet the Buyer event includes a series of face-to-face sales meetings between the buyers and almost 100 industry representatives from across the local tourism sector at Belfast’s St George’s Market tomorrow, 13th April.
The buyers were also briefed about Northern Ireland’s top products and main attractions, while Tourism NI will facilitate a series of familiarisation visits to a number of key attractions and significant demand generators.