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.”