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Tourism awards will celebrate Northern Ireland's top performers

John Lavery, owner of Fish City in Ann Street
Gail Bell

A FISH and chip shop will compete directly with one of the finest show caves in Europe in an unlikely head-to-head in this year's Northern Ireland Tourism Awards.

Tourism NI's annual awards, held in association with Diageo Northern Ireland, recognise outstanding performers in the tourism industry, with this year's initiative including 12 different categories, including hotel of the year, unique tourist accommodation and best festival/event.

While cultural experiences, restaurants, food, service and accommodation are all important for local tourists and overseas visitors, the category of sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly high up their tick-list.

And competing for the sustainable tourism award this year are unlikely rivals - Fish City in Belfast and the Marble Arch Caves in Co Fermanagh.

Fish City owner John Lavery said growing numbers of European and Asian visitors to his shop in Ann Street showed "particularly strong" environmental awareness.

"Sustainable tourism has come to us as result of our strong ethical beliefs, ensuring we provide sustainable seafish and local produce at all times," he said.

"As a result, we ensure that we are aware of every link in the chain – from catching the fish to the name of the boat and crew."

Best event/festival experience is now open for public vote and includes the popular Balmoral Show, Belfast Christmas Market, Carnival of Colours in Derry, the Sunflowerfest in Hillsborough and an Ulster Rugby match (Ulster v Clermont Auvergne).

The Northern Ireland Tourism Awards take place on Thursday May 18 at Enniskillen Castle. To view the short list, buy tickets or vote for the best event/festival, visit www.nitourismawards.com

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