Tourism Ireland looks back on a record year for overseas tourism to Northern Ireland

Photo: Tourism Ireland

Photo: Tourism Ireland

Almost 2.1 overseas visitors to Northern Ireland contributing £527 million in 2016

2016 looks set to be the best year ever for overseas tourism to Northern Ireland, with almost 2.1 million visitors (+6% over 2015) contributing more than £527 million (+9%) in revenue to the economy.

Since Tourism Ireland came into operation in 2002, some 25.3 million overseas visitors have come to Northern Ireland, generating £5.5 billion for the economy.

Highlights of Tourism Ireland’s activity around the world during 2016 have included promoting Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, Belfast and Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route, as well as Tourism Ireland’s award-winning Game of Thrones campaign in the spring and a successful campaign to capitalise on Euro 2016.

Earlier this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland in 2017 and beyond, with a target to welcome 2.15 million visitors to Northern Ireland. This figure will represent growth of +3.4% over 2016 and deliver £557 million to the Northern Ireland economy (+5.6%) next year.

Commenting on the year ahead, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland said: “We are heading into 2017 in a position of some strength, based on the success of 2016.

“Tourism Ireland will create ‘stand out’ for Northern Ireland, highlighting iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route. We will also promote Belfast, in particular for shoulder and off-peak travel.

“We will continue our successful partnership with HBO, to highlight Northern Ireland – through the exciting events of Game of Thrones – on the global stage. And, Tourism Ireland will also leverage the tourism benefits of major sporting events, including the Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club in July and the semi-finals and final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which will take place in Belfast in August 2017.”

SOME HIGHLIGHTS FOR OVERSEAS TOURISM IN 2016

Destination Delicious! Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016
Throughout 2016, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of activity to highlight Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink around the world, working closely with Tourism NI, Food NI and other partners. Tourism Ireland invited people everywhere to come and discover the very best of local produce – and to experience the wonderful landscapes and coastline which make Northern Ireland so special. The programme included a partnership with Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, showcasing food producers in Fermanagh, Antrim and Londonderry; a presence at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham; articles in major publications like The Daily Telegraph and Time Out in GB; as well as visits by influential food journalists, such as New Zealand TV and radio cooking personality Annabelle White.

Game of Thrones campaign – reached 61 million people worldwide
This spring, Tourism Ireland joined forces once again with HBO and its smash hit TV series Game of Thrones,to promote Northern Ireland around the world. Timed to coincide with the return of the sixth season of Game of Thrones, an exciting feature of our 2016 GoT campaign was a series of 10 intricately carved doors, depicting moments inspired by this season, the ‘Doors of Thrones’. Tourism Ireland unveiled the doors each week as season six unfolded – referencing key scenes and events from the latest episode and incorporating some of the iconic symbols of the show. The doors were carved from the trees blown down last winter in Storm Gertrude at the Dark Hedges in Co Antrim – which serves as the backdrop for the Kingsroad, perhaps the most iconic Game of Thrones location in Northern Ireland. The campaign reached 61 million people worldwide and generated international media coverage worth an estimated £11.3 million.

The Causeway Coastal Route – reached millions of potential holidaymakers in top markets
The Causeway Coastal Route, and driving holidays to Northern Ireland, have been a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2016. The Causeway Coastal Route has been promoted across a range of platforms including TV, print and online advertising; on Ireland.com and through social media channels; at major international consumer and trade fairs; through familiarisation visits for influential travel agents, tour operators, as well as travel and lifestyle journalists and bloggers from around the world; and through Tourism Ireland’s promotional material, its market guides and brochures.

Overseas publicity – worth £104 million
Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2016, thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Northern Ireland. Tourism Ireland estimates that this exposure was worth an estimated £104 million in equivalent advertising value.

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