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22 Dec 2014

Tourism Ireland looks back on a successful year for overseas tourism (NI version)

2014 was a strong year for overseas tourism, with Tourism Ireland estimating we have welcomed about 1.8 million visitors (+5% growth over 2013) contributing approximately £508 million in revenue to the Northern Ireland economy. Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity around the world in 2014. These have included promotions to highlight the Grande Partenza (or ‘Big Start’) of the Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland and a ground-breaking campaign with Game of Thrones creators HBO.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “I want to encourage as many people as possible to visit Northern Ireland and I will continue to do all I can to highlight everything we have to offer on the world stage.

“Looking back at 2014, our unique tourist offerings, including the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia, Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre, Fermanagh’s Lakes and Londonderry’s city walls, proved to be a big hit with visitors from all over  the world.

“Looking forward, 2015 will be packed full of events which will attract international, national and local visitors. The initial Gran Fondo event will take place in June, in addition to the Tall Ships in Belfast and the Irish Open at Royal County Down. This blend of dynamic events, together with the renowned welcome we offer our visitors will place Northern Ireland high on the list of ‘must see’ holiday destinations.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to report an increase of +5% in overseas visitor numbers to Northern Ireland, over 2013. It has been a good performance and reflects the sentiment we are hearing from our tourism industry partners in the markets and here at home, with our major tourism attractions reporting significant growth in overseas visitors.

“Throughout the year, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed programme of promotions, to bring Northern Ireland to the attention of travellers everywhere. A major focus of our activity in the early part of the year was on highlighting the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia. We also joined forces with Games of Thrones creators HBO, on a ground-breaking advertising and social media campaign, leveraging the incredible success of the hugely popular TV series and its strong associations with Northern Ireland. And, with the biggest Northern Ireland team ever competing in this summer’s Commonwealth Games, Tourism Ireland took every opportunity to maximise the potential of the Games for tourism to Northern Ireland.”

At the beginning of this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland in 2015. The organisation aims to build on this year’s growth and to welcome almost 1.9 million overseas visitors to Northern Ireland (+6%) next year. Commenting on the plans for 2015 and beyond, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a successful 2014, ambitious targets have been set for 2015 and beyond. Next year, we will continue to highlight iconic experiences all over Northern Ireland – including Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and our unique National Trust properties. The Causeway Coastal Route, and driving holidays to Northern Ireland, will also be promoted widely. In 2015, we will working hard to maximise the tourism potential of the Irish Open at Royal County Down and the return of the Tall Ships to Belfast, as well as the opening of the Gobbins Cliff Path. We will continue to target people of Ulster-Scots descent; and to promote Northern Ireland as a top golf destination. And we will highlight the new British-Irish Visa Scheme in China and India, which will enable Chinese and Indian visitors to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country.”


The Causeway Coastal Route – reached audience of 168 million in top markets
The Causeway Coastal Route, and driving holidays to Northern Ireland, have been a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2014. The Causeway Coastal Route has been promoted across a range of platforms including TV, print and online advertising; on and through social media channels; at major international consumer and trade fairs; through familiarisation visits for influential travel agents, tour operators, as well as travel and lifestyle journalists and bloggers from around the world; and through Tourism Ireland’s promotional material, its market guides and brochures – reaching some 168 million people in our top four markets alone (GB, United State, France and Germany).

Overseas publicity
Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2014, thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Northern Ireland. Tourism Ireland estimates that this exposure is worth an estimated £82 million in equivalent advertising value.


Giant Leap for Tourism! Astronaut Chris Hadfield lends a hand to promote tourism
In January, Tourism Ireland enlisted the help of the famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, to showcase some of our top visitor attractions and experiences. He spent several days here as a ‘tourist’ – experiencing our spectacular scenery and some of our attractions including Titanic Belfast, the Armagh Planetarium, Cushendall and the Glens of Antrim – with Tourism Ireland filming him along the way. The film was then promoted on Tourism Ireland’s website,; and shared by Tourism Ireland with its Facebook fans and Twitter followers and on its YouTube channel.

Tourism Ireland reaches 2 million Facebook fans – now 2.65 million!
At the end of January, Tourism Ireland reached two million fans on Facebook around the world. The organisation is now the fourth most popular tourism board in the world on Facebook (about 2.65 million fans at the last count), number three on Twitter and number two on YouTube.

Sales blitz kicks off in the US
Tourism Ireland’s 2014 series of ‘Jump into Ireland’ sales blitzes across the United States kicked off in February – in Atlanta (Georgia), Tampa and Sarasota (Florida). Subsequent ‘Jump’ events took place during the year in Fort Worth, Houston and Austin (Texas); in Chicago and Boston; and in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Partners participating included Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, Belleek Pottery, Titanic Belfast, the National Trust and St Patrick’s Country. The ‘Jump’ schedule included a B2B event in each city for the delegations, showcasing Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland via a special travel TV show format to the influential American travel professionals in attendance. Each event also included an opportunity for networking with influential travel and lifestyle media.

Global Greening season
Tourism Ireland’s annual Global Greening initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2014 – generating more than £8.6 million worth of positive publicity for the island of Ireland across the world. This year, the iconic Great Wall of China became the ‘Green Wall of China’, going green for the first time ever to celebrate St Patrick. Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative has truly gone from strength to strength, with more than 100 landmark buildings and iconic sites around the world taking part this year, including the famous Moulin Rouge which became the ‘Moulin Vert’, the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland® Paris and even Scott Base in Antartica.

Winter is coming! Tourism Ireland announces major campaign with HBO’s Games of Thrones
In April, Tourism Ireland joined forces with HBO and its smash hit TV series Game of Thrones to promote Northern Ireland around the world in a brand new way. Timed to coincide with the return of the long-awaited fourth season of Game of Thrones, a brand new advertising and social media campaign was rolled out by Tourism Ireland through ads on Facebook and Twitter in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, leveraging the incredible success of the HBO brand and the huge global popularity of Game of Thrones and its strong associations with Northern Ireland – the physical and spiritual home of the series, where much of the filming takes place. The campaign ran for 11 weeks, until mid-June, and was hugely successful – generating one million clicks, comments and shares and reaching about 100 million fans across the world.

New strategy unveiled to boost tourism from France and Germany
Also in April, a new three-year plan, ‘Germany and France – A Strategy for Growth’, was unveiled by Tourism Ireland, setting out challenging and ambitious targets to grow the number of visitors from Germany and France, our third- and fourth-largest tourist-generating markets. The strategy – developed in close co-operation with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Fáilte Ireland, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), as well as commercial industry and travel trade partners, in Northern Ireland and overseas – will drive accelerated growth from both markets over the coming years.

Giro fever hits Northern Ireland!
The Grande Partenza (or ‘Big Start’) of the Giro d’Italia came to Northern Ireland in May – presenting an unprecedented opportunity to promote Northern Ireland to millions of cycling enthusiasts, people who enjoy the great outdoors, as well as general holidaymakers everywhere. Tourism Ireland rolled out an extensive programme of promotions, to capitalise on the tourism potential of this event. ‘Giro’ promotions were a major focus for Tourism Ireland in nine markets – including in Italy, the home of the famous race, as well as in Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the Nordic region and Australia. An extensive programme of activity included advertising (on and offline), publicity and public relations, e-marketing, social media, as well as consumer and trade promotions. Tourism Ireland’s publicity activity alone generated global media exposure worth an estimated £12 million in equivalent advertising value.

ITV’s Good Morning Britain comes to Belfast
As the final preparations for the Giro d’Italia were taking place, Tourism Ireland invited ITV’s flagship breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, to come to Belfast – to broadcast live to hundreds of thousands viewers across GB.

Rory McIlroy’s victory at The Open helps boost golf tourism
In July, Rory McIlroy was the deserved winner of The Open at Royal Liverpool – placing our world-class golf to the forefront of everyone’s minds once again. Tourism Ireland worked hard to capitalise on his fantastic victory – in GB, the United States and in our other golf markets around the world, inviting potential holidaymakers to come and visit the ‘Home of Champions’. It was certainly an extraordinary few months for Northern Ireland golf, with Rory’s win coming on top of the news that Royal Portrush had been invited to join the rota to host The Open, the most prestigious tournament in the global golf calendar.

Spotlight on Northern Ireland at Glasgow 2014
The highly-anticipated Commonwealth Games took place in Glasgow this summer and with Northern Ireland sending its largest-ever Commonwealth Games team to take part – 117 athletes competing in 14 sports – Tourism Ireland took every opportunity to maximise the tourism potential of the Games for Northern Ireland. The organisation produced a new online film, specially created to highlight Northern Ireland and its “extraordinary athletes from an extraordinary place” to the organisation’s international audience – on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on The two-minute film featured some of the competing athletes – including swimmer Sycerika McMahon, boxer Steven Ward and triathletes Emma Sharkey and Harry Speers, describing how Northern Ireland inspires them. The video also starred our golfing heroes and featured spectacular aerial footage of the Causeway Coast (including the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway), the Sperrins, as well as the Belfast skyline – giving people a flavour of what to expect on a short break or holiday here and encouraging prospective travellers everywhere to put Northern Ireland on their ‘wish-list’.

Northern Ireland provides backdrop for top Canadian fashion magazine
Tourism Ireland in Toronto invited Chatelaine – the number one lifestyle magazine in Canada – to do two different fashion photo-shoots in Northern Ireland, for the autumn and winter editions of the magazine. The resulting two, eight-page stories – with fabulous images of Northern Ireland – reached almost 540,000 readers across Canada. One story featured locations along the Causeway Coast, including the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Mussenden Temple and Dunluce Castle. The other eight-page spread featured the grounds and gardens of Glenarm Castle.

New online film promotes Fermanagh and Happy Days Festival
Tourism Ireland launched a new online film, specially created to highlight Enniskillen, the Fermanagh Lakelands and the hugely successful Happy Days International Beckett Festival. The short film was produced by Tourism Ireland to highlight Beckett’s special connection with Fermanagh and to showcase Enniskillen and Fermanagh to potential visitors around the world.  It featured wonderful images of this part of Northern Ireland – including Enniskillen Castle, Devenish Island and Lower Lough Erne, the Marble Arch Caves, Blakes of the Hollow and even The Jolly Sandwich café – giving people everywhere a flavour of what to expect when they visit. It also included interviews with festival director Seán Doran, actor Adrian Dunbar and writer Roy Foster.

Autumn campaign with a festival focus
Tourism Ireland launched a £9.5 million promotional blitz in September, to boost late-season travel to Ireland from around the world. The campaign highlighted the many festivals and events taking place in Northern Ireland and around the island – from the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s including the ‘From Bolshoi to Belfast: The Theatre of Costume’ exhibition at the Crumlin Road Gaol, to Culture Night, MTV Crashes and the Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival in Londonderry, as well as the Belfast Comedy Festival and the CS Lewis Festival.

#PictureBelfast social media campaign targets social energisers
Tourism Ireland in Britain unveiled a new film as part of a novel social media campaign to showcase Belfast to prospective visitors in Great Britain. The film – #PictureBelfast – was specially designed to create a unique visual challenges showing off the best of the city. It was designed to appeal to ‘social energisers’, a key audience for Tourism Ireland – typically young couples or adult groups looking for excitement, new experiences and fun, social holidays in a new and different destination. To date, the film has been seen by almost 280,000 people around GB.

On Location with Phil Spencer!
Tourism Ireland teamed up with Phil Spencer, co-presenter of the hit Channel 4 TV series Location Location Location, and Classic FM, one of GB’s largest radio stations, in a novel promotion to showcase Northern Ireland as the ideal ‘location’ for an autumn break. A film fronted by Phil Spencer – featuring places like Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Titanic Belfast, Queen’s University, the Botanic Gardens, the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge – was promoted on the Classic FM website in September, reaching about 6.5 million people across GB.

Promotional blitz in the ‘Deep South’ of the United States
A group of Northern Ireland ‘ambassadors’ travelled to the United States with Tourism Ireland in October, on a promotional blitz in the southern states of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Award-winning chef Noel McMeel, musician and composer John Anderson, genealogy specialist Gillian Hunt and noted historian Alister McReynolds, together with Tourism Ireland, brought positive stories and great news about Northern Ireland to key media and travel contacts in the southern US cities of Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville, Belfast’s ‘sister’ city. The promotional blitz was part of Tourism Ireland’s ongoing programme of activity in the US to target people of Ulster-Scots descent and will include participation once again at this year’s Stone Mountain Highland Games, north-east of Atlanta. The two-day Stone Mountain Games attract more than 80,000 people of Scots-Irish and Scots descent – and presents an ideal opportunity each year to highlight Northern Ireland as a wonderful holiday destination to people with strong ancestral links to the province.

New British-Irish Visa Scheme launched to boost visitor numbers from emerging tourism markets
The new British-Irish Visa Scheme was launched on behalf of the Irish and British Governments, by Frances Fitzgerald TD, Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, and by Theresa May MP, British Home Secretary, at the Irish Embassy in London. The new joint visa programme will enable visitors from China and India to travel freely between Ireland and the United Kingdom using the same travel documents i.e. using either an Irish or UK visa. This is a significant step, as it will mean Chinese and Indian visitors will be able – for the first time – to visit both Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a single visa of either country.

Northern Ireland provides backdrop for top German outdoor magazine
In October, Tourism Ireland in Germany invited Weitblick – a popular magazine produced by top outdoor equipment and clothing company, McKinley – to undertake a photo-shoot in Northern Ireland to showcase the McKinley spring 2015 collection. The resulting extensive spread will appear in the March 2015 edition of Weitblick. The magazine will be distributed through 800 Intersport stores around Germany, as well as in sports hall, cafés and gyms, and will be seen by almost 250,000 German sports enthusiasts – or potential holidaymakers for Northern Ireland. Iconic sites along the Causeway Coast which are set to feature in the magazine include the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and Mussenden Temple. The spread will also feature various locations in Belfast, as well as Slieve Donard, Newcastle and Downpatrick in Co Down.

Online film highlights Northern Ireland’s International Appalachian Trail
In November, Tourism Ireland launched a new online film, specially created to highlight a new section of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), a 2,200-mile long route which begins in the United States and spans the terrain of the once-shared mountain ranges of North America and Europe. The trail covers almost 300 miles here and begins at Donegal’s Slieve League cliffs, continues through the Blue Stack Mountains and across into Co Londonderry, where it connects with the Ulster Way along the Causeway Coast, before finishing at the port of Larne in Co Antrim. The short film was produced by Tourism Ireland to highlight the spectacular scenery and some of the many things to do and see along this newly-signposted walking trail. It features wonderful images of Northern Ireland – including the Sperrin Mountains and the Ulster American Folk Park. It also highlights the Causeway Coastal Route, noting places of interest such as Mussenden Temple, the Giant’s Causeway and the beautiful Glens of Antrim.

Popular American radio show broadcasts from Northern Ireland
One of America’s most respected travel gurus, Rudy Maxa, broadcast his prime-time radio show, Rudy Maxa’s World, live across the United States at the end of November from the Guildhall in Londonderry. Over 700,000 listeners tuned in, on 170 local radio stations in the US, and heard all about Northern Ireland. An additional programme, which is set to air in December, was recorded at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, with the show’s co-presenter Bob Carey hearing all about the wonderful food on offer in this part of Northern Ireland from Noel McMeel, executive chef at the Lough Erne Resort, and from award-winning, local butcher Pat O’Doherty.


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 5.2% of GDP in Northern Ireland and supports approximately 43,000 jobs.
  • By the end of 2014, Tourism Ireland estimates that almost 1.8 million overseas visitors will have visited Northern Ireland, delivering revenue of approximately £508 million.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, available in ten different language versions for 30+ markets around the world this year.

Previous Press Release

18 Dec 2014

Ireland’s double win in American Travel Awards