aTP- Arab tourism portal– Dubai, – Tourism Ireland, CEO, Niall Gibbons made a very special visit to the United Arab Emirates as part of the drive to encourage more international tourists to visit the island of Ireland.
Speaking to around 60 tour operators who attended the Tourism Ireland event, Niall Gibbons announced another record breaking year for Tourism Ireland and the launch of some key themes for 2016 including Northern Ireland Year of Food 2016.
The event served to launch Northern Ireland Year of Food 2016 showcasing the wonderful culinary scene across Northern Ireland and encouraging individuals to visit the wonderful attractions as well experience the variety of local specialities and culinary treats which the destination offers.
During his visit Niall Gibbons also met with Zhora Quershi an influential Northern Ireland artist with Emirati connections, Zhora Qureshi is putting Northern Ireland food on the map in Dubai with a creative art installation event in 2016, showcasing the links between Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
Niall Gibbons said: “Tourism Ireland welcomed exceptional +14% growth in 2015 which is equivalent to more than 1 million additional overseas visitors from the previous year. We estimate that around 55,000 visitors came from the GCC to the island of Ireland in 2014 which is a 10% increase from the previous year and we are really pleased to see that we have received double digit growth for the last 5 years.
Our focus now is on the year ahead. We aim to surpass the success of 2015 and grow overall tourism to the island of Ireland by 4% in 2016 and spend by 5%. We feel that in this region in particular, there are really good opportunities for growth and we expect tourism to grow between 5 – 10% this year. We have an extensive programme of promotions in the GCC showcasing major new attractions such as Ireland’s Ancient East which encompasses 5,000 years of history and the year’s signature events including Northern Ireland Year of Food 2016.”
Niall continued: “Screen tourism is also a huge drive in 2016.
Most people know that ‘The Game of Thrones’ TV series is filmed in Northern Ireland, attracting visitors from across the world who want to see where the iconic scenes are set. We’ve been working with TV network HBO who have given us permission to use their logo in our adverts which is very significant as they have a huge social media following and will help us further in attracting even more visitors.
Equally exciting, was the filming of Episode 7 of the record-breaking movie franchise Star Wars which was released at the end of 2015.
Unveiled in the film’s closing minutes, the ending to the movie was filmed on the iconic Skellig Michael Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located along the Wild Atlantic Way. We’re pleased to announce that we will continue to work closely with Lucas Film as they plan to film scenes for Star Wars Episode 8 on the island of Ireland which we anticipate will attract even more visitors.”
Key events like the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as well as city breaks to Belfast and Dublin will also be a key focus. Tourism Ireland will build on the success of its existing attractions this year and will exploit ‘new news’ – including Northern Ireland Year of Food 2016 and Ireland’s Ancient East.