Hundreds of students from 27 different schools around France took part in a competition this spring to produce a winning tourism project about Titanic and Northern Ireland.
This week, 28 students from the successful school, Lycée Max Linder near Bordeaux, were invited by Tourism Ireland to travel with their teachers to Northern Ireland – visiting Titanic Belfast, the Causeway Coast, Londonderry and the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.
The promotion kicked off last autumn, when Tourism Ireland invited schools around France to develop an innovative project focusing on Titanic and Northern Ireland’s ship-building heritage, to be in with a chance to win a class trip to Northern Ireland in 2012. The objective was to raise awareness of Titanic and Northern Ireland as an ideal destination for French school trips and to encourage the teachers to include Northern Ireland in their future itineraries.
The students were challenged to think not just about highlighting Northern Ireland to their fellow-students, but to also try to spread the word about Northern Ireland to their wider communities. Activities undertaken by students included creating special websites, blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube clips, exhibitions, videos and writing articles for local newspapers. Most of the students involved their city or town councils, local tourist offices, libraries and various ‘Comptoir Irlandais’ (Irish goods) shops. Tourism Ireland estimates that about 2 million people across France heard messages about Northern Ireland through this special ni2012 school competition.
Billy Condon, Tourism Ireland’s manager for Southern Europe, said: “We were delighted with the response and interest in our Titanic project in schools right around France and extremely impressed by the high standard and creativity of the projects we received. Tourism Ireland has been working hard to promote Northern Ireland in France as an ideal destination for school group trips. As well as Belfast and the Titanic story, we know that Northern Ireland has much that appeals to the teachers and their students, including dramatic scenery and coastline, rich culture and heritage and, above all, friendly and welcoming people.”
The winning school class, from Lycée Max Linder, created a special Facebook page entitled ‘Découvrez l’Irlande du Nord avec la 1èreS5’ (Discover Northern Ireland with class S5), produced a DVD and generated media coverage in local newspapers, including the popular Sud Ouest. Their Northern Ireland video playlist on YouTube has received over 90,000 hits to date.
This schools competition is just one element of Tourism Ireland’s exceptionally busy programme of activity to highlight Northern Ireland and ni2012 in France this year. Over the winter months, Tourism Ireland undertook a number of promotions about Titanic and ni2012 to build awareness of the competition. A special schools brochure – Voyages Scolaires – highlighting Titanic and Belfast was mailed to 12,000 English teachers around France. A dedicated page was created on Tourism Ireland’s website with plenty of helpful information for the students about Titanic and Northern Ireland. Other initiatives included an eNewsletter to English teachers around France and Tourism Ireland’s Facebook page was also used to spread the word.