University hosts tourism summit marking industry's success in post-Good Friday Agreement era

Anne Marie McGoldrick Causeway Chamber of Commerce, Helen McGorman, Tourism Ireland, John McGrillen, Tourism NI, Selina Horshi Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, , Professor Paul Bartholomew Vice-Chancellor and President, Ulster University and Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Ulster University
Emma Deighan

A SUMMIT  assessing the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement on tourism in the north has been held at Ulster University’s Coleraine campus.

Leading tourism, food, drink and sporting experts attended the event to reflect on and celebrate the dividends that peace has brought in terms of hospitality and tourism specifically for the Causeway Coast and North West region.

Hosted by broadcaster Mark Carruthers, it looked at the growth and development of tourism made possible through the conditions created by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (BGFA) in the 25th anniversary year of its signing as well as “laying down a challenge for what can and needs to be achieved over the next two decades”.

Ulster University vice chancellor Professor Paul Bartholomew said: “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.”

He praised the addition of new attractions over the past 25 years, including the Giant’s Causeway Centre and Titanic Belfast, as well as the Game of Thrones Tour.

The summit’s aim is to set the blueprint for tourism to continue to thrive, allowing it to make a significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s economy and promoting civic pride.

A line-up of industry speakers at the summit, which was organised by UU in partnership with Londonderry and Causeway Chambers, included those from Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, Visit Derry, City of Derry Airport and Northern Ireland Screen.

John McGrillen, chief executive 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  billion pound 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.”

Helen McGorman, Tourism Ireland’s head of stakeholder engagement for Northern Ireland, said since TI’s inception and between 2002 and 2019 the north has welcomed 32 million overseas tourists who spent £7.2 billion here.

She said: “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.”