Tracing the footsteps of St Patrick, ten Italian tour operators specialising in religious tourism spent time discovering the rich Christian heritage of Armagh and Downpatrick recently.
Carefully selected and invited here by Tourism Ireland in Italy, the tour operators enjoyed a visit to Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, including a tour of the city’s two cathedrals. In Downpatrick, the Italians met Dr Tim Campbell, director of the St Patrick Centre, who enlightened them on the life and times of St Patrick and the rich Christian heritage product of this part of Northern Ireland. After a visit to the 12th century Down Cathedral, the group enjoyed a scenic drive through the majestic Mourne Mountains before travelling on to Dublin.
The aim of the visit was to encourage the influential tour operators to include Northern Ireland in their future programmes and to recommend it as a destination of choice for their clients. Niamh Kinsella, Tourism Ireland’s manager in Italy, said: “It is very important for influential tour operators such as these to experience for themselves the high standard of the tourism product on offer in Northern Ireland; our aim is that when they return to Italy, the tour operators will include Northern Ireland in their programmes and itineraries.
“With the superb programme of new attractions, events and historic anniversaries taking place in Northern Ireland this year, including the opening of Titanic Belfast and the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, 2012 presents us with a significant opportunity to highlight to Italians why they should choose to come here. Tourism Ireland’s promotions are capitalising on this unprecedented opportunity, showcasing the strengths of Northern Ireland – iconic experiences, warm, friendly people and value for money.”
Italian tour operators with Dr Tim Campbell, director of the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, Co Down (front, left), with Siobhán Wright, Tourism Ireland (front, right) and Sarah Dillon, Down District Council (far right).
For further information:
Elaine Moore/Clair Balmer Tourism Ireland
Tel: 028 7035 9260 Mob: 07766 527719
Notes to Editors:
• Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
• Tourism is responsible for in excess of 4.9% of GDP in Northern Ireland and supports approximately 40,000 jobs.
• In 2011, approximately 1.51 million overseas visitors came to Northern Ireland (+6% on 2010), delivering revenue of approximately £340 million.
• Tourism Ireland’s international website is www.discoverireland.com; there are 42 different websites, providing information in 14 different languages covering every continent. In 2011, discoverireland.com attracted almost 12 million unique visitors.