Three-year plan unveiled to boost tourism numbers in Northern Ireland

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By Rebecca Black

A new plan has been launched to increase the number of tourists visiting Northern Ireland to 2.57 million.

It is part of a three-year strategy by Tourism Ireland to grow overseas tourism revenue to £658 million - an increase of 15% - and visitor numbers up 13% to 2.57 million by 2022.

It will see a new destination brand for Northern Ireland - Embrace a Giant Spirit - rolled out across the world, as well as maximising the impact of the hosting of The Open at Royal Portrush in the summer.

Phase two of the global campaign - Fill Your Heart With Ireland - is then set to showcase lesser visited attractions, including Hillsborough Castle, Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the walled city of Derry.

The 2020-22 strategy will also see the cross-border body transform its digital platforms and redevelop its suite of Ireland.com websites.

Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons said 2019 is set to be another record year for overseas tourism to Northern Ireland, with latest estimates indicating 2.2 million visits, a 2% increase on last year.

Revenue generated by international visitors is expected to reach £570 million, also a 2% rise, which helped sustain 65,000 jobs across Northern Ireland.

Mr Gibbons said 2020 presents challenges, particularly around Brexit, but said the agency believes the growth in overseas tourism can be achieved.

"We're delighted to roll out Northern Ireland - Embrace A Giant Spirit in our key markets around the world in 2020, through an extensive programme of trade, media and consumer communications," he said.

"It's a really exciting time for Northern Ireland tourism and this new brand presents us with an excellent opportunity to get real 'stand-out' for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Our message is that there has never been a better time to visit Northern Ireland.

"Looking to 2020 and beyond, it is not enough to simply target growth at all costs and our new, three-year strategy is built on a set of sustainable destination marketing principles.

"These principles will underpin all of Tourism Ireland's activities and are reflected in our renewed emphasis on driving business beyond the cities and established tourism 'honeypots' and ensuring the benefits of tourism growth are distributed right around Northern Ireland, on a year-round basis.

"By applying these principles and through working with our partners on wider sustainability issues, we are confident that overseas tourism will help communities to prosper, while our overseas visitors continue to enjoy a great holiday experience."

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