Today on Ulster University’s Coleraine campus, leading tourism, food and drink and sporting experts are coming together for the first Tourism Summit. They will not only reflect on and celebrate the dividends that peace has brought in terms of hospitality and tourism for Causeway Coast and North West region but lay down a challenge for what can and needs to be achieved over the next two decades.
Hosted by renowned broadcaster Mark Carruthers, the summit will look at the growth and development of tourism made possible through the conditions created by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (BGFA) in this 25th anniversary year of its signing.
Ulster University Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew explains the rationale for the conference:
“Northern Ireland is a tourism success story. It has evolved from an industry which previously had to operate in an extremely challenging environment, not least due to the portrayal of Northern Ireland in international media which was often not conducive to attracting global visitors. Post BGFA, tourism has not only developed and grown here, it has flourished. It has reached significant new heights with state of the art visitor attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway Centre, Titanic Belfast and the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, to the hosting of internationally renowned sporting events such as the 148th Open Golf championship at Portrush, to an increasingly multi-cultural and award-winning food and drink offering.
“Ulster University’s unique regional, multi-campus footprint, in Derry~Londonderry, Coleraine and Belfast, means that we can play a critical role in the region to protect, develop and promote our unique locations, alongside world renowned natural features, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site.”
The summit aims to set the blueprint for tourism to continue to thrive, reaching even newer heights in terms of success and as such making a highly significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s economy and developing an enhanced civic pride that so many visitors from all around the globe want to visit, experience and share what this magnificent place has to offer.
The conference will focus on three themes: fair winds, fairways and fine fayre, through an excellent line up of industry speakers, including those from Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, Visit Derry, City of Derry Airport, NI Tourism Alliance, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Northern Ireland Screen, Royal Portrush Golf Club, Food NI, Hospitality Ulster, Walled City Brewery and a host of others. They will be joined by academic experts from Ulster University in the fields of peace, tourism and international travel and tourism management.
Organised by Ulster University in partnership with Londonderry and Causeway Chambers, this is the first time the two Chambers have come together to examine the challenges and opportunities ahead for tourism in a holistic way.
John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism NI, said:
“Since the Good Friday Agreement visitors numbers to Northern Ireland have doubled and with this, has come significant job creation. By 2019 tourism had become a £1bn industry and one of the largest export sectors of our economy. We are now on the road to recovery following the devastation of the Covid pandemic. This conference will allow us to explore how we can grow our tourism economy whilst enhancing our natural and built environments and sustaining local communities.”
Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, University Provost at Ulster University commented:
“As we will hear from some of the speakers today, Northern Ireland is a magnificent place to visit but it is also an incredible place to study and a hotbed for research. Thanks to the powerful tourism offer we’ve been able to develop due to the legacy of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, combined with our low population density and our ranking as one of the lowest cost places to live for students in the UK, the University is able to attract students from near and far – some 70 countries internationally.”
Helen McGorman, Tourism Ireland’s Head of Stakeholder Engagement for Northern Ireland, said:
“Tourism Ireland is delighted to participate in today’s Tourism Summit, which recognises the importance of overseas tourism to Northern Ireland. Since Tourism Ireland came into existence – between 2002 and 2019 (before the pandemic) – we have welcomed 32 million overseas tourists to Northern Ireland, who spent £7.2 billion during their time here.
“Tourism Ireland sees a bright future for overseas holiday visitation to Northern Ireland. We continue to work closely with Tourism NI, as well as with our Northern Ireland industry partners, to ensure that we maximise the benefit of overseas tourism for the Northern Ireland economy. As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to work together, to ensure we develop and promote a sustainable offering that is attractive to future visitors and benefits communities across Northern Ireland.”
President of Causeway Chamber, Anne Marie McGoldrick, commented:
“Causeway Chamber is delighted to partner with Ulster University and Londonderry Chamber to deliver the first Tourism Summit which reflects on the growth and development of tourism in the region post-Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
“As a region we host internationally renowned events from the 148th Open Golf Championship to the NW200. We are increasingly being recognised for the award winning food and drink offering. However we don’t want to stand still – we’re collectively looking ahead to address the challenges and opportunities in order to achieve a truly sustainable future for tourism along the Causeway Coast and into the North West over the next 25 years.”
President of Londonderry Chamber, Selina Horshi, added:
“The Londonderry Chamber is delighted to be supporting Ulster University’s Tourism Summit. Tourism and hospitality are industries which are vital to the economic success of the North West, generate millions of pounds for our regional economy, and sustain jobs and households. Events like these are important in bringing key partners together to map out the future path for success in tourism in the North West and ensure our region remains an attractive location for global tourists, business visitors, and world-class events for years to come.”
For more information about the Tourism Summit, visit: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/bgfa/events/tourism-summit