Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC Council) unveiled ambitious plans to bolster its standing as a market-leading heritage and cultural international tourism destination within five years, as part of a major Tourism Conference – a first for the borough – which was held at Navan Centre and Fort with the support of Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

ABC Council Launches 5-year Blueprint For Tourism Growth

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC Council) has unveiled ambitious plans to bolster its standing as a market-leading heritage and cultural international tourism destination within five years.

Attracting more visitors and increasing tourism spend are at the heart of its tourism blueprint which will help in growing the local tourism economy by 10 percent every year to 2022.

The launch of the council’s integrated strategy was part of a major Tourism Conference – a first for the borough – which was held at Navan Centre and Fort with the support of Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

The council’s new and comprehensive five-year tourism development strategy and action plan sets a clear five-year vision and direction for building the borough’s national, regional and international profile as a successful and compelling tourist destination.

Colin McCusker, Chair of Economic Development and Regeneration at the council, said: “Tourism is a crucial pillar in the council’s economic plans and it represents a huge opportunity for further growth and development. To deliver on our ambition, in partnership with Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the private sector, the council has set out a clear and ambitious plan to maximise and drive the opportunities available and to capitalise on the outstanding tourism assets we have.”

The plan outlines a path to further developing cultural visitor experiences for the international market across the borough, taking in its linen and literary history and its success in producing high-quality artisan food and drink.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC Council) unveiled ambitious plans to bolster its standing as a market-leading heritage and cultural international tourism destination within five years, as part of a major Tourism Conference – a first for the borough – which was held at Navan Centre and Fort with the support of Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC Council) unveiled ambitious plans to bolster its standing as a market-leading heritage and cultural international tourism destination within five years, as part of a major Tourism Conference – a first for the borough – which was held at Navan Centre and Fort with the support of Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland.

Further development and greater investment in the already-successful F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio is also earmarked as part of the plan, alongside an enhanced events programme which includes the Home of St Patrick, Food & Cider and Georgian Festivals.

Achieving a significant ramp-up in visitor numbers and, crucially, increased spend, a key focus will be on establishing Armagh City and the orchard hinterland as a destination centrepiece, in addition to pursuing new tourist accommodation development opportunities borough-wide.

The council’s unified plans are aligned with key government plans to drive a greater number of visitors from outside Northern Ireland, to increase tourist spend and better compete in the highly-competitive global tourism marketplace.

John McGrillen, Chief Executive, Tourism NI, said: “Tourism is central to Northern Ireland’s developing economy. It creates jobs, sustains communities and provides exciting opportunities for investment.

“The ABC area is rich in history, culture and heritage and is fast gaining a reputation for the quality of its food, drink and hospitality offer. Working together, we will assist the Council to deliver on its vision for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon so that the area can realise its full potential.”

Speakers at the borough’s inaugural tourism conference included Aubrey Irwin, Tourism Ireland, who addressed delegates on what international visitors expect.

Brian Tyrrell, Senior Executive Officer at Kilkenny County Council outlined how community participation across cities, towns and rural areas were crucial for tourism success and what lessons could be learned from the development of the Kilkenny city’s award-winning ‘Medieval Mile’ visitor experience.

Additionally, Joyce Brownless, proprietor and owner of Blackwell House, a 5-star guesthouse in Gilford, spoke about her experiences within the industry and the avenues available for the borough with the increasing numbers of international visitors.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays and Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport celebrate the launch of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ biggest ever summer programme from Belfast International Airport.

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays Announces Biggest Ever Summer Flights and Holidays Programme

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays has announced its biggest ever summer flights and holidays programme for Summer 18 from Belfast International Airport, with EIGHT BRAND NEW destinations and a Boeing 737-800 aircraft added to the fleet to support a phenomenal 39% increase in capacity.

The leading leisure airline and package holiday specialist will fly to 22 destinations in Summer 18, after adding eight brand new routes from Belfast International Airport. This growth means the creation of approximately 30 new jobs, mostly in flight deck and cabin crew positions.

Six of the routes will be exclusive to Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, including:

  • Antalya – one service every week to Turkey’s turquoise coast
  • Madeira – one service every week to this famous island, known for its green and rugged landscape
  • Crete – one service every week to Greece’s largest island, famed for its varied terrain, which ranges from fine-sand beaches to the White Mountains
  • Costa de Almeria – with two services every week, Costa de Almeria offers Blue Flag beaches and white washed villages. Customers can take their pick from the family friendly resort of Roquetas de Mar or the historic village of Mojacar for authentic Spanish charm
  • Naples – one service every week to one of Italy’s oldest, most artistic and most delicious cities, known for its culinary delights and access to the stunning Amalfi Coast
  • Paphos – one service every week to Paphos, famed for its archaeological sites relating to Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs and mosaic-tiled villas

In addition to these exclusive routes, there are two other new destinations to Malta and Rhodes for Summer 18, with a weekly flight operating to each destination.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays and Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport celebrate the launch of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ biggest ever summer programme from Belfast International Airport.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays and Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport celebrate the launch of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays’ biggest ever summer programme from Belfast International Airport.

In total there will be over 400,000 seats available (over 110,000 more seats than Summer 17) for Summer 18, with more than 75,000 seats across the eight new destinations, meaning Northern Ireland holidaymakers are spoilt for choice when it comes to where and when they would like to get away.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “This will be our biggest ever summer programme from Belfast International, with 8 brand new destinations, 400,000 seats and more hotels than ever before with our award-winning airline and package holiday operator. We have made a huge investment in Belfast, creating new jobs and putting in an additional aircraft to allow holidaymakers to fly to more destinations than ever in Summer 18. Such sustained growth is only possible by looking after customers, which shows that our continued investment into offering real package holidays and family friendly flights is working.”

Graham Keddie, Belfast International Airport managing director said, “Coming on the back of hosting the Routes Europe event in Belfast we are thrilled that Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are increasing their range of destinations at Belfast International Airport. This 39% increase in capacity not only brings the total number of routes served by Jet2.com to 22 but will also mean a jobs boost for the local economy with the addition of a fourth based aircraft. Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are clearly responding to customer demand for services to popular holiday destinations at affordable prices.”

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays has also extended its flying programme to other key destinations including Faro, Ibiza and Fuerteventura so customers can really maximise the summer at the start and the end of the season. Flights to Fuerteventura alone will be increasing by 63% in Summer 18 and with the destination boasting over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year it is the perfect place to jet off to escape the gloomy Northern Ireland weather.

For more information and to book please visit www.jet2holidays.com.

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2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship at SSE Arena

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston, opened the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship at the SSE Arena.

Six countries – Team GB, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Japan – will battle it out on the ice this week to be crowned champions in the major tournament, hosted by Ice Hockey UK.

Belfast City Council is supporting the tournament – the first in a number of key international sporting events taking place in the city this year. The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship (Division 1 – Group B) is hosted by Ice Hockey UK for the first time in 25 years

The Lord Mayor was joined by Henrik Nielsen, Tournament Chairman and Eric Porter, Chairman of the Odyssey Trust, to officially open the event before the first match got underway between Japan and the Netherlands.

Alderman Kingston said: “As First Citizen of Belfast, I’m truly delighted that this prestigious tournament is taking place in our city. Belfast City Council is honoured to support the event and proud that the International Ice Hockey Federation chose Belfast as the host city.

Ice Hockey World Championship 1

“This is a unique opportunity to see some of the finest ice hockey talent from across the world on display. With teams from six countries competing, this will lead to a great competition that will enhance the profile of ice hockey not only in our city but within the UK and of course lead to greater successes for our already successful local team –the Belfast Giants.

“I wish all the competitors every success and would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our visitors this week whether they are competitors, officials or spectators.”

The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship has been supported through funding by Belfast City Council. Other key international sporting events the Council is backing are the 24 hour World Running Championships in July; the UEFA Women’s Under 19 European Championship and Women’s Rugby World Cup in August; the NI Connections Friendship Four Ice Hockey Tournament in November and the NCAA Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournament in December.

For further information on the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, visit http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events/Event-72030.aspx  and http://wmib2017.iihf.com/

Tickets are currently on sale for the tournament and can be purchased through various outlets such as online via Ticketmaster, from the SSE Arena Box Office in person or by calling 028 9073 9074.

Art of Craft Exhibition Returns To Market Place Gallery

The 2017 Art Of Craft Exhibition at The Market Place Gallery will run until Saturday 17th June, and this year showcases the work of artist Bernie Leahy in her exhibition ‘Elements’.

Leahy’s artworks seize passing moments, capturing altered time and emotion. These moments reminisce on the space of discomfort, awkwardness or deep joy, poking at its familiarity.

Her work frequently uses the human figure, now exploring themes through a wider palette of colours and range of media than previously seen. Expression and movement are conveyed through the sensibilities of the materials. Stitch carries the work. Synaesthesia informs the collaborative video installation of manipulated stitch with original sound, composed by Oisin L Furlong.

Leahy studied in DLSAD (now IADT) & NCAD. She has represented Ireland in International Fiberart Biennales in Venezuela and Philadelphia. She has also exhibited internationally in Chicago, New York, China, Rome, London, Liverpool and Ireland. Her work is held in private collections in the USA, UK and Ireland, and in public collections in Ireland. She is a member of DCCOI Portfolio since 2004.

New work includes drawing, painting, video installation & sound, intrinsic with stitch.

Admission to the exhibition is free. For further information, bookings and to download the full programme go to www.marketplacearmagh.com. You can also follow developments on Facebook (www.facebook.com/marketplacearmagh) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/mptarmagh) for the latest information and video previews.

 

The Blooms with over 2000 flowers will make for a stunning sight

Magic at Merry May Day in Holywood

Monday 1st May will see Holywood transform into the magical wonderland of colourful street theatre and local delights which Merry May Day is known and loved for.

From 10am High street and Church Road will be buzzing with charity stalls, food and festivities. Come and find vintage and preloved treasures, delicious treats and handmade crafts.

Holywood District Community Council will host traditional favourites Bonnie Baby Competition, held in Queen’s Leisure Complex at 10.30am and the Fancy Dress Competition at the Maypole at 12.15pm. This year’s themes for fancy dress are Superhero’s, Princess’s, Disney character’s or a favourite character from a book.

Great fun from field to plate with Grow Your Own one of the fant

This year’s May Queen is Holywood native, 17 year old Leah Ross who will be crowned at 10.45 at the Maypole. Leah was a Bonny Baby competition winner and has now come full circle to be crowned May Queen.

The ever-popular Maypole Dancing will take place at 11am and 1pm. At 12 noon, McElhinney School of Dance Holywood Rhythms will perform Irish Dancing while young children can get their chance to dance around their own Maypole with Jump, Jiggle and Jive from 12 noon – 4pm.

From 12 noon there will be Spectacular Street Theatre including the UK’s first free spinning aerial hoop act La Luna. Comedy duo, Grow Your Own and stunning floral acts, In Bloom. Enjoy traditional puppet fun with Punch and Judy at 12pm, 1.30pm, 3pm.

Look out for character’s from Midsummer Night’s Dream such as the King and Queen of the Faeries and the ever mischievous Puck. You may even spot a Unicorn!

Holywood’s history will come alive on the Discover Hollywood Heritage Walk from 10am-12 noon, (Tickets £4 and booked in advance)

Don’t forget if you fancy some shopping or a bite of lunch, most of Holywood’s shops and eateries will be open throughout the day.

So come on down to Holywood on Monday, 1 May from 10am – 4pm for a fun-filled day at this FREE EVENT!

For further information, check out: www.visitardsandnorthdown.com.

BUSHMILLS® Irish Whiskey To Discover Northern Ireland’s Literary Talent

#AnswerTheCall sees Bushmills® Irish Whiskey working with local creators, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs and adventurers to celebrate their stories and inspire others to fulfil their true calling.

Keen to celebrate local talent, #AnswerTheCall has teamed up with David Torrans of No Alibis to offer undiscovered writers in Northern Ireland the opportunity to have their work published. Writers are invited to compose an ode for the fearless, spirited and defiant amongst us and submit it to answerthecall.co.uk. A selection of the submissions that embrace the Bushmills spirit of fearlessness and determination will feature in a publication exclusively available at No Alibis.

The Old Bushmills Distillery has been handcrafting whiskey for over 400 years, and is one of the first distilleries in the world to make both single malt and blended Irish whiskey. This innovation and fearlessness to forge a new path is something David Torrans can identify with.

Fighting off the giants of the books industry is a tall order but cultural hotspot, No Alibis has confidently owned its place in the market since 1997. Like Bushmills Irish Whiskey staying true to its recipe throughout the malt tax of the 1850s, No Alibis has been persistent in fighting off the books industry, refusing to be intimidated by bigger industry players. For over 20 years, David has defied the rise of digital publishing and the never-ending march of national book chains to create a unique book buying experience for Belfast’s literature lovers.

David once only dreamed of owning his own bookstore and worked the 9-5 slog as a mushroom picker, barman and civil servant. Until he answered his call. With expression his passion and literature his tool, David established No Alibis to serve as a cool, interactive medium between readers and writers. His vision was to create much more than a bookshop, rather a cultural hotspot to nurture visitors’ passions and talents for literary arts – everything from spoken-word to song-writing to reading.

Now, No Alibis represents a success story, each chapter filled with challenges and accomplishments and each page packed with ambition.

Some of the other talent collaborating with Bushmills Irish Whiskey to host and curate #AnswerTheCall events include; Whitehead based tattoo artist Willy G who in his second year of tattooing won 6 awards and has countless celebrity clients on his books, one of Belfast’s best known street artists, Visual Waste who has attracted thousands of tourists to Belfast through his expressive and unpredictable murals and Kevin Pyke, owner of Derry based Pyke ‘n’ Pomme, an acclaimed street food style eatery.

To submit creative words for consideration for the #AnswerTheCall publication, visit www.answerthecall.co.uk.

To join in the conversation and keep up to date with the #AnswerTheCall series, follow Bushmills on social media @BushmillsUK.

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Blog Post: #AnswerTheCall with No Alibis

In the new ‘Little Burch’ blog post, Ulster Tatler assistant editor Kellie Burch attended the latest event in the Bushmills® Irish Whiskey #AnswerTheCall campaign, which shone a light on local entrepreneur David Torrans whose No Alibis bookstore has created a cultural hub in Belfast for the past 20 years.

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Today is the one year anniversary of when I started this blog and so it seems very fitting that on this day I attended the #AnswerTheCall with No Alibis event, which was held at the Black Box, Belfast. It is fitting because the #AnswerTheCall series sees Bushmills® Irish Whiskey partnering with creators, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs and adventurers to celebrate their stories and inspire others to fulfil their true calling.

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Ian Sansom in conversation with David Torrans.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to write. As a child I had a notebook bursting with weird and colourful short stories. As I got older, I always wanted a career than incorporated working with words, and so I was over the moon when I got a job at Ulster Taler magazine. Although my daily work involves writing and editing, I found that as I have gotten older, writing in my spare time has seriously dwindled, and so I started the blog a year ago with the aim that it would help me find a discipline to write on a regular basis; a year and 89 posts later, I am very proud to say Little Burch is still growing and that I have stuck to my goal of at least one post a week.

Like my inspiration to start a blog, all ideas, no matter how big or small, need to start somewhere and once upon a time, 400 years ago, the Old Bushmills Distillery™ was also just starting out on its own journey, which was to be one of the first distilleries in the world to make both single malt and blended Irish whiskey. This innovation and fearlessness, which has saw the distillery grow, evolve and stay true to its roots, has inspired the launch of the #AnswerTheCall campaign. Not only does this campaign shine a light on Bushmills’ superior produce, today for example, guests were treated to a delectable serving of BLACK BUSH® and white lemonade as well as a smooth and rich BLACK BUSH® Old Fashioned cocktail, but it also aims to showcase the talents and stories of those who have defied convention to boldly answer their call and create a legacy of their own. True to this mission, today’s event in the #AnswerTheCall series, entitled Whiskey & Words, could not have found a better subject than David Torrans, owner of No Alibis Bookstore.

To read the full blog post visit: http://bit.ly/2q9RHTG.

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NIFDA Awards 2017

The 14th Northern Ireland Food & Drink Awards served up a celebration of innovation, quality and export success as leading local food and drink companies were recognised at an awards ceremony in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast. A total of  11 awards were presented at the event, which was attended by over 350 guests including major retailers, government officials and industry leaders.

Winners on the night included Dale Farm, Linden Foods, Scott’s Bakery, Pop Notch, Kettyle Foods, Linwoods, Dunbia, Punjana, Moy Park, Suki Tea, and Professor Chris Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Safety at Queen’s University Belfast.

For more coverage of this event, check out our May issue, on sale now. 

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Returns

Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts festival hits its landmark birthday with all the bravado and naïve swagger of a typical 18 year old. Yes, the Cathedral Quarter Arts FestivalBelfast returns from the 27 April – 7 May to transform Belfast’s city centre with an exuberant riot of live music, comedy, spoken word and visual arts plus a host of other eclectic, electric tidbits.

The full programme for The 18th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival was unveiled at the world famous Duke of York pub in the heart of the quarter. Launch guests were amongst the first to discover a festival programme with over 150 events across 30 venues – an electrifying mix of the big and the brash, the up and coming and the weird and wonderful.

Music headliners include Booker T Jones, The Handsome Family, Divine Comedy, Sugarhill Gang, Kevin Rowland, Cara Dillon, Robert Cray, Breathe – The Pink Floyd Experience, Dana Masters, Interskalactic, Chip Taylor, Kíla, Brix and the Extricated, The Parrots, Madison Violet, Duke Special and Ulaid, Ryan McMullan, The Comet is Coming, Keith James singing the songs of Leonard Cohen, Tir na Nog, Wreckless Eric, Josienne Clark and Ben Walker, Christine Bovill singing Edith Piaf, Harlow Fair, and introducing our festival artist in residence, the sublimely talented Rosie Carney.

The CQAF comedy line-up is stronger than ever, featuring the likes of Tony Law, Rich Hall, Sofie Hagan, Jeremy Hardy, Bridget Christie, Kieran Hodgson and Richard Herring. Elsewhere in the programme, the highlights include former Spider from Mars Woody Woodmansey talking about his turbulent, exciting years as one of Bowie’s most famous backing band, glorious verse from legends Roger McGough and Linton Kwesi Johnson. Food writer “a girl named” Jack Monroe and  a red hot theatre programme including Prime Cut’s award-winning Scorch, the Irish premiere of Omnibus Theatre’s acclaimed “Peru 2” production Mule and Splodar Theatre’s delicious Joycean homage Young Stephen. The film programme includes the first NI screening of Lost in France – the celebrated documentary on the startling rise of Scotland’s indie music scene of the 90s, Bang! – the tale of Bert Berns – the most famous 60s songwriter that you’ve never heard of, and folk horror mayhem with SingalongaWickerman!

Speaking at the launch, Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival continues to invigorate the cultural life of Belfast city centre through its highly creative programme of music, theatre, literature, comedy, visual arts and talks.  It also provides an important platform for showcasing local artists alongside world-class national and international performers and brings people and communities closer together through a shared enjoyment of the arts.”

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston, commented:

“The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival can truly be described as one of the jewels in our cultural crown, having grown from its relatively modest roots to one of our most vibrant and best loved arts events. It also is one of the most accessible festivals of its kind, especially in relation to its policy of keeping ticket prices as low as possible, using the widest range of venues and staging a wide variety of events to suit all tastes.”

Festival director Sean Kelly said he was thrilled to be able to offer audiences such an impressive array of quality, affordable acts: “To say we’ve hit our 18th birthday seems slightly surreal! And to be still putting on a festival that not only grows its audience with each passing programme, but upholds the joyous, progressive spirit of the quarter from which it takes its name, is a thrill and a privilege for us! I think we’ve delivered the goods once again with this programme which has some of my favourite musical heroes, including the mighty Kevin Rowland as well as Booker T Jones,, Robert Cray, the Handsome Family, Divine Comedy and Cara Dillon. I invite people to check out the programme and I guarantee them that there’ll be plenty to whet their appetite!”

To see the full line-up and to buy tickets go to www.cqaf.com.

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‘On Yer Bike’ For Charity

Belfast born Chris Baird, alongside friends Tom Whittle and Leo Harris, whom he met whilst studying Law at Warwick University, are taking the term ‘on yer bike’ quite literally in a fundraising mission which will see the trio cycle the length of South America. The journey, which begins and finishes in Cusco, Peru – hence the name Cusco2Cusco, will cover 13,000km and will take the boys approximately nine months to complete. Whilst the boys are currently undertaking this mammoth task, to date they have already raised a staggering £40,000 for their three nominated charities: Alzheimer’s Society (chosen by Chris), Kidney Cancer UK (chosen by Tom) and RightToPlay (chosen by Leo).

If you would like to donate, visit the Cusco 2 Cusco fundraising page at: www.cusco2cusco.com.

Visit Belfast has said that its plans for the year ahead will deliver new and sustained tourism growth across the city, lift visitor numbers to new highs and secure fresh multi-million-pound payback for the economy.

Visit Belfast’s Plans For 2017-18 Will Deliver New and Sustained Tourism Growth

Visit Belfast has said that its plans for the year ahead will deliver new and sustained tourism growth across the city, lift visitor numbers to new highs and secure fresh multi-million-pound payback for the economy.

Unveiling a new annual plan of action which will help it to contribute to the Northern Ireland-wide pledge to create a £1 billion tourism industry by 2020, Visit Belfast also pledged to build on its record-breaking 2016.

In the year to end-March, Visit Belfast’s bid to drive tourism success across three key areas – business and leisure tourism, and visitor servicing – generated an above-target £122 million for the city’s economy, 25 percent more than last year and an all-time high for Belfast.

With almost 80 new conference wins seized for the city, 12 city-break campaigns deployed in its key markets of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Europe, 88 cruise ships carrying 150,000 passengers and crew secured and over 750,000 visitor enquiries taken care of, Visit Belfast said it was determined to help create new milestones for the year ahead.

At a major tourism industry event attended by key stakeholders, partners and funders, Visit Belfast chair and Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, Howard Hastings said: Visit Belfast’s plans are quite rightly ambitious and with the support of our industry partners, we believe that we can achieve them.

“Tourism is a key pillar in Belfast’s developing economy and a mainstay for its success in many areas. Strategic spending on our tourism infrastructure has helped the city to flourish and grow, generating wealth and further investment while sustaining jobs and adding many more.

“Our tourism product is also increasingly attractive. We’re competing well and that success is recognised internationally. Belfast is currently the UK’s best city-break destination and through Titanic Belfast we’re home to the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction.

Titanic Belfast Building and SS Nomadic

“Visit Belfast’s success is down to our partnership approach which energetically connects the public and private sectors, providing support for the private industry and real, tangible value for money for tax and ratepayers.”

Detailing its operational plans for 2017-18 which form part of its strategy to deliver 1.4m bednights, 680,000 cruise visitors, three million visitor enquiries and more than £390 million to the local economy between 2016 and 2020, Visit Belfast’s strategy focuses on securing a greater balance in business and leisure sectors, increasing visitor numbers overall and encouraging them to spend more.

Visit Belfast Chief Executive Gerry Lennon also pledged new growth across both the business and leisure tourism areas this year, generating 340,000 hotel bednights.

In the key visitor servicing area, and through its network of tourist information centres, Visit Belfast expects to handle more than 800,000 tourist enquiries.

Gerry Lennon said: “Belfast, as well as being the gateway to Northern Ireland for visitors, has now established itself as the engine room of the Northern Ireland tourism economy, welcoming up to half of all visitors, guest accommodation arrivals and up to half of all tourism spend.

“Growing visitor numbers continues to drive greater confidence in tourism investment, helping to drive more than £1 billion in infrastructure development across the city which includes new hotels, world class visitor attractions and an increasing number of inbound air access opportunities.

“Tourism generates wealth, jobs and exports and, above all, a proud Belfast which sits comfortably on the global tourism stage.”

Councillor Matt Garrett, Chair of the People and Communities Committee,  enjoys tea with nine-month old Maisie McErlean, her sister Ella and Paul the scarecrow as they launch the Spring Fair that takes place at Barnett Demesne on Saturday/Sunday 29-30 April between 1.30pm-5.30pm.

An Entertaining Spring Fair at Barnett Demesne

Roll up! Roll up! for fun as Belfast’s annual Spring Fair unleashes a feast of family entertainment in the grounds of Barnett Demesne over the weekend of Saturday, 29 April and Sunday, 30 April.

Surrounded by a colourful pageant of spring flowers including glorious daffodils children can view the scarecrow display or try to score a bullseye having a go at archery. They can take pony rides, dance, climb, get a caricature drawing, use junk to create artistic masterpieces, meet the larger than life characters ‘Himself’ and ‘Herself’ or just sit still and enjoy the fun going on around them.

Bees, bugs and butterflies are on the agenda in the environmental areas while the Park Life education programme will have activities related to the harmless Hoverfly and his pollinator pals.

Councillor Matt Garrett, Chair of the People and Communities Committee,  enjoys tea with nine-month old Maisie McErlean, her sister Ella and Paul the scarecrow as they launch the Spring Fair that takes place at Barnett Demesne on Saturday/Sunday 29-30 April between 1.30pm-5.30pm.
Councillor Matt Garrett, Chair of the People and Communities Committee, enjoys tea with nine-month old Maisie McErlean, her sister Ella and Paul the scarecrow as they launch the Spring Fair that takes place at Barnett Demesne on Saturday/Sunday 29-30 April between 1.30pm-5.30pm.

Everyone can enjoy the plants and craft stalls while a fun fair zone with the biggest inflatable assault course in the world will be on offer for £1.00.

Councillor Matt Garrett, Chair of the People and Communities Committee, who launched the Spring Fair said: “Be adventurous that’s our message for the weekend try out something you haven’t done before alongside those old favourites.

“The Spring Fair is always a great family event with thousands of people of all ages coming through the gates. I hope everyone will take advantage of what’s on offer.”

Visitors are encouraged to use public transport with a bus service from Donegall Square East as only limited parking, including disabled parking, is available at Belfast Indoor Bowls Club, Milltown Road. A park and ride service will operate from here between 1.30pm – 5.30pm each day.

Only assistance dogs only are allowed in the park.

More information is available from www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events or pick up a leaflet, which are also available in braille, from local centres or visitor attractions.