The 2019 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards in association with Diageo Northern Ireland have tonight honoured achievement across Northern Ireland’s tourism industry.
Held in Armagh for the first time, at the Palace Demesne, the awards brought hundreds of industry professionals together to recognise and celebrate the industry’s excellence and innovation.
Hosted by BBC broadcaster and presenter Jo Scott, the black tie dinner and awards night featured a Georgian-themed marquee in the grounds of the Archbishop’s Palace.
Winners revealed included Derry International Hallowe’en Festival, which scooped the Best International Experience, and the Balmoral Show, which lifted the Best NI Event or Festival Experience award.
Derry~Londonderry was also a winner in the coveted ‘Best Stay’ accommodation category, with the Bishop’s Gate Hotel earning the title of NI’s Best Hotel Stay. Completing the category were Peartree Hill B&B near Dundonald in County Down, which won NI’s Best Guesthouse/B&B Stay, and Ballygally Holiday Apartments in County Antrim, which took the title of NI’s Best Self-Catering Stay.
There were two awards up for grabs in the Authentic NI Experience of the Year. The site based award was won by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council for Antrim Castle Gardens, while the tour, trail or immersive award went to Armagh Cider Company.
In a great year for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council contested in three categories, gaining the top step in the NI Food & Drink Experience of the Year for its Armagh Food and Cider Festival.
In other categories, Gareth Murphy of We Are Vertigo in Belfast was awarded the title of Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year and Limavady’s Stendhal Festival lifted the Most Promising Authentic NI Event or Festival Experience.
National Museums NI was given an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award for its long-term commitment to growing the quality of the cultural and tourism offer across Northern Ireland.
Another special award went to Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours, who earned the title of Tourism Hero for his exceptional efforts to support the widow of a man who tragically passed away while visiting Northern Ireland.
The awards, now in their forty-first year, have had a hugely positive impact on the tourism and hospitality sector, providing a benchmark for all businesses to aspire to and delivering significant benefits to shortlisted and winning businesses alike.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Tourism NI Chairman Terence Brannigan said:
“Tourism is now one of Northern Ireland’s most important export industries with almost 3 million people visiting from out of state, spending some £2.5 million per day and supporting 65,000 jobs”.
“The energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the hundreds of businesses, large and small, that make up our tourism eco-system is outstanding. They make us all proud of where we live and make Northern Ireland a better place in which to live.”
Paddy McKenna, Commercial Manager, Diageo Northern Ireland, said; “It has been a fantastic evening for the tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland and a fitting occasion to acknowledge and celebrate the individuals, businesses and initiatives helping to put us firmly on the tourism map. On behalf of Diageo, congratulations to all the winners, indeed to everyone shortlisted for awards. I think we can feel extremely positive and excited about the future of tourism in Northern Ireland.”
The full list of 2019 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards winners is:
Authentic NI Experience of the Year – Site Based – Sponsored by Diageo NI
Winner: Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council for Antrim Castle Gardens
Highly commended: RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre
Commended: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for Armagh Georgian Festival
Authentic NI Experience of the Year – Tour, Trail or Immersive – Sponsored by Diageo NI
Winner: Armagh Cider Company for Tours of Armagh Cider
Highly commended: Causeway Coast Foodie Tours for Catch and Sea Tour
Highly commended: DC Tours, Belfast
Best Digital Marketing Campaign – Sponsored by Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council
Winner: W5 – Dinosaur Encounter
Highly commended: Nerve Centre in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council – Derry Halloween
Commended: Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, Seasonal Digital Marketing Campaign
Best International Experience of the Year – Sponsored by Tourism Ireland
Winner: Derry City and Strabane District Council for Derry International Hallowe’en Festival 2018
Highly commended: National Trust NI – Giant’s Causeway Visitor Experience
Commended: Odyssey International –Leaders of Excellence
Best NI Event or Festival Experience – Sponsored by Tourism Ireland
Winner: The Balmoral Show, Royal Ulster Agricultural Society
Highly commended: Féile an Phobail for Féile 30 – A Community Celebration of Global Culture
Commended: Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2018
Best Use of Digital Technology to Improve the Visitor Experience
Winner: Belfast City Council and Titanic Foundation for Hello Maritime Mile
Highly commended: National Trust for Introduction of online timed ticketing system for Carrick-a-Rede
Most Promising Authentic NI Event or Festival Experience
Winner: Stendhal Festival
Highly commended: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for Armagh Food & Cider Festival
Highly commended: Open House Festival, Bangor
Commended: Outdoor Recreation NI for Giants Causeway Coast Sportive
NI Food & Drink Experience of the Year – Sponsored by Yellow Door
Winner: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for Armagh Food & Cider Festival
Highly commended: Hughes Craft Distillery/The StillHouse Moira for Distillery Gastropub and Gin School
Commended: Country Lifestyle Exhibitions (CLE) Ltd for The Food Festival, Shane’s Castle
NI Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year – Sponsored by Ulster University
Winner: Gareth Murphy, We Are Vertigo
Highly commended: Albert Titterington, Country Lifestyle Exhibitions (CLE) Ltd
Commended: Sean McLaughlin, Fullerton Arms
Commended: The Wilson Family, Montalto Estate
NI’s Best Guesthouse / B&B Stay – Sponsored by Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council
Winner: Peartree Hill B&B
Highly commended: Baytree Boutique B&B
Commended: Rooms at Rue
NI’s Best Hotel Stay – Sponsored by Robb Brothers Wine Merchant
Winner: Bishop’s Gate Hotel
Highly commended: Bullitt Hotel
Highly commended: Bushmills Inn
NI’s Best Self Catering Stay
Winner: Ballygally Holiday Apartments
Highly commended: Larchfield Estate
Commended: Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel and Lodges
Outstanding contribution to tourism – Sponsored by Diageo NI
Winner: National Museums Northern Ireland
NI Tourism Hero
Winner: Mark Rodgers, Dalriada Kingdom Tours