International tourism buyers shown Northern Ireland in its best light

At the event at the Belfast Waterfront are (from left) Jill Grant (A Walkers World New Zealand), Naomi Waite (Tourism NI), Louise Finnegan (Tourism Ireland) and Matthew Sebastian from (Al Tawfeeq in the Middle East)

MORE than 200 individuals representing 165 tour operator businesses from 22 global markets have converged on Belfast's Waterfront for Northern Ireland's largest travel trade platform event, Meet the Buyer.

With tourism seen as a key driver for the local economy, the event provides a platform for businesses to showcase their products to a global audience and secure future opportunities.

And not only was this year's Meet the Buyer the biggest ever, it also saw an increased number of first time buyers from new and emerging markets like China, India, Japan and the Middle East, with additional countries represented including the USA, UAE, Germany, Italy and France.

Organised by Tourism NI in association with Tourism Ireland, the large international business contingent was joined by 19 buyers from the Republic of

Ireland and 179 northern tourism representatives, and 5,000 one-to-one sales meetings took place over the course of the day.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said: “Meet the Buyer is an intrinsic part of our sales efforts and leads to millions of pounds of business for local companies. I'm thrilled to see so many buyers here for the first time as well as many local businesses seeking to capitalise on the opportunity Meet the Buyer presents.”

He added: “Between January and September last year more than two million holiday trips were taken in Northern Ireland, an increase of 20 per cent. Visitors to Northern Ireland last year spent on average £2.7 million a day.

"We are seeing growth across all our markets and I'm confident tourism will soon break through the highly anticipated annual £1 billion figure.”

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, added: "This event presents such an important opportunity for our local tourism partners. The high attendance of buyers from around the world is a strong indication that interest in visiting Northern Ireland remains high and that it is competing with the best destinations in the world.”

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