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18 May 2015

New Tourism Minister Jonathan Bell launches Northern Ireland Year of Food in the Netherlands

‘Flying high’ with new Amsterdam flight

Newly-appointed Tourism Minister Jonathan Bell launched Northern Ireland’s Year of Food 2016 in the Netherlands yesterday (Sunday, 17 May) – at an event organised by Tourism Ireland in Amsterdam, attended by leading Dutch food writers and tour operators.

Minister Bell told the Dutch audience about our world-class ingredients, talented chefs, wonderful restaurants and cookery schools, as well as our rich food heritage. Joery Castel, originally from the Netherlands, and now head chef at the Boat House Restaurant in Bangor, also addressed the guests – describing our fresh produce and his own food experience in Northern Ireland.

2016 will be Northern Ireland’s Year of Food – giving more tourists an appetite to visit Northern Ireland. Tourism Ireland will be taking every opportunity to highlight and celebrate our wonderful food scene, promoting Northern Ireland food in the Netherlands and elsewhere around the world.

The launch in Amsterdam was organised to coincide with today’s inaugural KLM flight from Amsterdam to Belfast which will undoubtedly help boost leisure and business travel from the Netherlands to Northern Ireland. It is also good news for tourism from other countries, as Amsterdam is a key European hub, with KLM offering excellent connections via Amsterdam from other European countries, North America, Asia and the Middle East – making it easier than ever before for prospective holidaymakers in those markets to get to Northern Ireland.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland is increasingly synonymous with culinary excellence, where our overseas visitors can enjoy a truly memorable food experience. It is therefore timely that in 2016 we will celebrate Northern Ireland’s world-class food scene. Tourism Ireland will take every opportunity to shine a spotlight on Northern Ireland on the international stage as a destination for people who love great food.

“The Netherlands is an increasingly important market for tourism to Northern Ireland. Our natural landscapes and coastline, our culture and heritage greatly appeal to Dutch travellers, who also enjoy opportunities to engage with local people. The new KLM flight is really good news for tourism and a major opportunity to grow visitor numbers – not only from the Netherlands, but from other important tourism markets, including North America, Asia and the Middle East. We are working closely with KLM to maximise the promotion of this new service. As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism.”

Finola O'Mahony, Tourism Ireland’s head of Europe; Joery Castel, originally from the Netherlands and now head chef at the Boat House Restaurant in Bangor; and Jonathan Bell MLA, newly-appointed Tourism Minister, at the launch of Northern Ireland’s Year of Food 2016 in Amsterdam.

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.
  • In 2014, we welcomed an estimated 1.8 million overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, delivering revenue of about £508 million.
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, available in ten different language versions for over 30 individual markets around the world. In 2014, attracted about 14.25 million visitors.