Tourism Ireland today reflected on highlights of its promotional activity to promote Northern Ireland around the world this year. 2013 was a good year for overseas tourism, with official figures to the end of June showing growth of +13% in overseas visitors and sentiment is positive for the latter half of the year. Highlights have included Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture, the G8 Summit and the World Police and Fire Games.

Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “Looking back over year I am encouraged by our overseas tourism figures, as our performance indicates that we are making solid progress.

In 2013 Londonderry became the first UK City of Culture and, among many other successful events, hosted the Turner Prize on its first ever showing outside England. The world’s leaders came to Fermanagh for the G8 summit and the World Police and Fire Games brought thousands of international participants and spectators to our shores.

“In 2014 we have events such as the Giro d’Italia to look forward to and our signature tourism products such as Titanic Belfast and Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre continue to attract visitors from near and far. We must maintain our efforts and focus and continue to build on the significant progress local tourism has made over the last couple of years.”

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “I am pleased to see an increase in visitor numbers from overseas this year. Tourism Ireland has had a packed programme of promotions around the world this year – showcasing Northern Ireland and the fantastic calendar of events taking place throughout 2013 to potential holidaymakers everywhere. Our promotions have been highlighting Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture; other major events, like the World Police & Fire Games, were also promoted widely. Tourism Ireland also took every opportunity to capitalise on the hugely successful G8 summit, which placed Fermanagh, and Northern Ireland, in the international spotlight.”

At the beginning of this month, Tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans to promote Northern Ireland in 2014 and beyond, with ambitious targets to welcome over 2 million visitors per year by 2016. Commenting on the plans for the next three years, Niall Gibbons said: “Following a positive 2013, ambitious targets have been set for 2014-2016. We will be pulling out all the stops to capitalise on the hosting of the first stages of the famous Giro d’Italia in May 2014. We will capitalise on the huge worldwide publicity of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ and will also 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.”


Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture

Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture was a major focus of Tourism Ireland’s promotions throughout 2013. The City of Culture programme provided a tremendous ‘hook’ to shine a spotlight on Londonderry and Northern Ireland around the world – particularly high profile events like the Fleadh Cheoil, the Return of Colmcille festival, Lumiere and the Turner Prize exhibition.

Overseas publicity

Working with overseas travel, lifestyle and special interest media is an important element of the overseas promotional programme. In 2013, approximately 2,000 print, online or broadcast articles and stories delivered positive messages about Northern Ireland to potential visitors around the world. Tourism Ireland estimates that this exposure is worth almost £60 million in equivalent advertising value.



Launch of

In January, Tourism Ireland launched its new international website for tourism to the island of Ireland – The site was completely redeveloped, to deliver a transformed web experience for potential holidaymakers around the world. is now live in 22 markets, in seven languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Chinese; and a further three – Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Arabic – are currently in development and will be rolled out in early 2014. By the end of this year, will have attracted a record 13 million unique visits, 22% of which have come from mobile devices. There has also been a +21% increase in page views on the new site.


Derry~Londonderry garden helps tourism ‘bloom’ in Philadelphia

In March, a specially-commissioned Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture garden was the centrepiece of the Tourism Ireland stand at the world’s largest flower and horticultural show – the Philadelphia Flower Show in the United States. Designed to celebrate the special year of Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture, the garden was called ‘The Garden of Culture’. It incorporated a replica of the historic city walls, the two cathedrals, the famous ‘Hands across the Divide’ statue, as well as the Guildhall.

‘Global Greening’ season

Tourism Ireland’s annual ‘global greening’ initiative for St Patrick’s Day was bigger and better than ever before in 2013 – generating over £8 million worth of positive publicity for the island of Ireland across the world. This year, an ancient wonder of the world – the Pyramids of Giza – and a modern wonder of the world – the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – went green for the first time ever on 17 March, joining a host of other major landmarks and iconic sites around the world. English business magnate Sir Richard Branson even joined in the fun – dyeing his beard (and eyelashes!) green and tweeting the resulting pictures to his three million followers!


International golf media swing into action

In April, top golf journalists from around the world arrived in Northern Ireland, to take part in the 2013 Tourism Ireland media golf ‘masters’. The event, organised in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, attracted golf writers from far-flung countries like China, Australia and South Africa, as well as from Great Britain, the USA, Germany and Italy. In addition to experiencing the challenges of Portstewart’s championship course, the journalists also had the opportunity to play the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush, home to last year’s Irish Open. Throughout 2013, Tourism Ireland continued to leverage positive publicity for Northern Ireland as a top golfing destination – with over 14 million potential US visitors seeing Tourism Ireland’s ‘Home of Champions’ campaign on the Golf Channel this year.


Gearing up for Giro d’Italia 2014

The famous Giro d’Italia cycling race took place in May. Tourism Ireland in Italy kicked off a busy programme of promotions to maximise the tourism potential of the hosting of the first stages of next year’s Giro d’Italia – which will take route competitors around Belfast, along the spectacular Causeway Coast and down to historic Armagh. Tourism Ireland had a very visible presence in the start and finish villages of each of the 21 stages of this year’s race, where brochures and information about holidays in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland were distributed. More than one million Giro and sports enthusiasts saw Tourism Ireland’s ads during the race on the website of La Gazzetta dello Sport, the principal sports newspaper in Italy; and a busy programme of social media activity in Italy, Great Britain, Germany and Spain was undertaken, to leverage the huge interest in cycling and the massive media coverage around the Giro – with regular posts on Twitter and Facebook. At the end of this year’s Giro, Tourism Ireland hosted a press briefing in Vicenza in Northern Italy, the venue for the 17th stage of the race, to highlight to about 70 influential Italian and international sports and lifestyle journalists that the Grande Partenza will take place in Northern Ireland for the first time ever in May 2014.


Fermanagh welcomes world leaders for the G8 Summit

The arrival of Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders for the G8 Summit offered an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Fermanagh and Northern Ireland – through the international media – to potential visitors across the world. Tourism Ireland’s promotional programme and publicity drive was stepped up considerably before, during and after the G8 Summit to capitalise on the opportunity. The organisation undertook a targeted PR campaign to maximise the potential of the G8 Summit, generating positive publicity in Great Britain and other key markets overseas and ensuring the destination was showcased to international media covering the Summit. Activity involved familiarisation visits for leading travel and lifestyle media in advance of the summit; extensive social media activity and engagement with international media during the G8; and ‘follow in the footsteps’ familiarisation visits for media and travel trade contacts specialising in business tourism and golf following the G8.


Bollywood producers and scouts check out Northern Ireland

Building on the success of Ek Tha Tiger in 2012, some of Bollywood’s top names travelled to Northern Ireland on a scouting mission in July, to explore numerous locations and scenic spots for their next big Bollywood blockbuster. During their time here, they checked out locations in Belfast including Belfast Castle and Titanic Belfast, before travelling along the Causeway Coastal Route to visit the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Ballintoy Harbour, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Mussenden Temple and the Dark Hedges near Ballymoney. Tourism Ireland in India worked closely with Northern Ireland Screen to secure the visit. In 2012, the Bollywood film shot on location in Dublin – Ek Tha Tiger – became one of the biggest-grossing movies ever in India and was seen by an estimated 100 million cinema-goers.

Northern Ireland focus for 2.2 million Daily Telegraph readers in GB

A series of articles in the prestigious Daily Telegraph newspaper showcased Northern Ireland to an estimated 2.2 million people across Great Britain during July. The four-part series of articles was developed by Tourism Ireland in conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland and other partners to shine a spotlight on Northern Ireland as a wonderful place to visit and do business. Each article in the four-part series was read by an estimated 542,000 readers. These focused on the regeneration of Northern Ireland, covering our world-class tourism product – including new attractions like Titanic Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, as well as our superb golf and major festivals and events. Other topics included the growing success of film and TV production in Northern Ireland – and in particular HBO’s Game of Thrones in which our scenery is so spectacularly showcased, whetting appetites among viewers to come and experience the locations and the destination for themselves.


Rock legend Feargal Sharkey lends a hand to promote his hometown

In August, over 4 million potential GB visitors were urged to visit Derry~Londonderry during its UK City of Culture year – by Northern Ireland rock legend, Feargal Sharkey. A series of radio interviews with Sharkey, encouraging radio listeners to check out Derry-Londonderry’s plethora of cultural offerings, aired on ten GB stations, including BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Newcastle, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio Three Counties, BFBS, City Talk, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Humberside – reaching a combined audience of over 4 million people.

‘Friendliest ever’ World Police & Fire Games

Another ‘stand-out’ event in 2013 was the World Police and Fire Games – when 7,000 athletes, together with their friends and families, descended on Belfast and Northern Ireland for ten days at the beginning of August. Deemed the ‘friendliest games ever’, events like this help to keep Northern Ireland in the global publicity spotlight for the very best reasons, helping to change perceptions and position Northern Ireland as a top holiday and business destination.


Autumn campaign with a festival focus

Tourism Ireland launched a £15.7 million promotional blitz in September, to boost late-season travel to Northern Ireland. The campaign highlighted the many festivals and events taking place around Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland – from the Belfast Festival at Queens and the Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival in Derry~Londonderry to Belfast Music Week.

On your bike for Giro d’Italia 2014!

Northern Ireland was also in the spotlight in September, at the Tour of Britain. The Tour of Britain is GB’s biggest professional cycling race and the largest free-to-spectate live sporting event – making it an ideal platform for Tourism Ireland to highlight next year’s ‘Big Start’ to cycling enthusiasts across Great Britain. In addition to highly visible advertising at key locations around London and footage of cycling here on the official race website, Tourism Ireland arranged for RampRage, a Belfast stunt bike team, to take part in the festivities as The Tour of Britain finished in London – to highlight Northern Ireland’s involvement with Giro d’Italia 2014. The RampRage team was in action at the popular Spitalfields market – targeting the estimated 40,000 people who visit the market each Sunday.


Tourism Ireland – over 1.9 million Facebook fans and number one on YouTube

A new report in October placed Tourism Ireland at the top of a European league table for national tourism organisations and their use of digital marketing. The Digital Tourism Brand Index is a benchmark report which measures 45 national tourism organisations in Europe and evaluates their use of digital marketing to promote their destinations. The Index ranked Tourism Ireland in the number one spot for its use of Facebook (the organisation now has more than 1.9 million fans), the most popular and influential consumer-facing social media platform used by national tourism organisations. Tourism Ireland was also ranked in the number one spot for its use of YouTube, with more than 10 million video views; and number three on Twitter.


Food glorious food

In November, Tourism Ireland launched the second in its series of new online films specially created to entice ‘foodies’ from around the globe. Starring celebrity chef Noel McMeel, the film showcases some of the wonderful food gems produced mainly in the Fermanagh area – demonstrating the passion of local farmers and artisan producers for growing, rearing and producing food of the highest standard. The film shows the stunning, unspoiled landscape of the Fermanagh Lakelands and how it directly impacts the high quality of local food produce. Beginning with Pat O’Doherty, whose award-winning bacon comes from his own herd of saddleback pigs reared on Inish Corkish island, the film also features Kettyle beef, Tickety-moo ice-cream and Broighter Gold rapeseed oil (made in Limavady) – with Noel preparing dishes which include all of these products. The films is being promoted around the globe on Tourism Ireland’s website,

Tourism Ireland leads largest-ever sales mission to China

The largest-ever Tourism Ireland sales mission to China took place in November, with tourism partners including Visit Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and Stena Line travelling to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – to meet and do business with more than 450 top travel agents and tour operators, as well as key travel and lifestyle journalists, in the three cities.

Christmas by the Hearth with Sean Keane and Friends

Sean Keane invites you to join him for an evening of song dance and music by the hearth during this Christmas season at the Alley Theatre on Wednesday 18th December.

Sean shares traditional songs and stories of Christmas with his audience as he brings his unique voice and interpretation of some traditional carols hymns and classic Christmas songs to this concert tour. This will be Sean’s first National tour in over six years. His ” Christmas by the hearth ” tour will coincide with the launch of his new three cd box set titled “Never alone” The Box set includes many of his classic songs that has made him a household name in Ireland and internationally, with 45 songs in total you get to enjoy the vintage Sean Keane as well as hear his new material. New songs include the title track ‘never alone’ his recent single “paint me a picture of Ireland” Dylan’s “make you feel my love” as well as a beyonce’s Ava Maria. Also included is his unique version of “bury me beneath the willow” and an American hymn “Beautiful star of Bethlehem. With 15 tracks per cd this is a great opportunity for new fans to have all his greatest hits in one package

So relax in the comfort of the setting of the hearth and immerse yourself in your own memories of Christmas and create a new memory by joining Sean Keane at The Alley Theatre. Get into the festive season with music, traditional mummers, recitations, and Sean’s unique interpretations of songs we all grew up singing.

As well as some Christmas favourites you will also get the opportunity to hear some new songs and some less well known that have been treated to the Sean Keane philosophy i.e.words and music mean little unless they are united with feeling This is a show for all the family and an opportunity to introduce some younger members of the family to this master of song.

Tickets are £20 and available from the Alley Theatre Box Office on 028 71 384444 or online


The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has put together a list of 10 exciting things to do in Northern Ireland over the next week (December 9 – 15).

  • Colmcille’s Spiral, The London Street Gallery, Co. Londonderry, December 1 – 15.  A present day re-imagination of ideas from the distance past, stemming from the rich legacy of the sixth-century monk, through an ambitious collaboration of artists, writers and academics.
  • Santa in the Barn, Orchard Acre Farm, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, December 1 – 15.  A Victorian Santa will welcome children into the cosy Eco Barn where they will have an opportunity to meet Santa as he relaxes in his homely surroundings.  There will also be a chance to help Mrs Claus in the kitchen and enjoy Christmas crafts.  

  • NI Photographic Association Annual Print Exhibition, Ballymoney Town Hall, Co. Antrim, December 2 – 21.  This exhibition comprises of 75 prints featuring a wonderful variety of subjects including portraits, natural history, landscapes and seascapes, architecture, sport and many others in both monochrome and colour.
  • A Christmas Trilogy, Space CRAFT, Belfast, December 5 – 24.  An annual exhibition incorporating framed pieces, handmade decorations, ornaments and much more.  Take this chance to treat someone you love to a locally made gift or to invest in a distinctive piece for your home. 
  • Santa’s Magical Grotto, The Burnavon, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, December 6 – 21.  Enjoy a special visit to Santa’s magical workshop where there will be an opportunity to write and post a letter to Santa, meet Santa and receive a gift.
  • Santa Experience, Mount Stewart House & Gardens Co Down, various dates December 6 – 21. Visitors will travel through the grotto, meet the Elves in their workshop, and will be served complementary refreshments before the group visit Santa and Mrs Claus. 
  • Lapland Express, Downpatrick and County Down Railway, Co. Down, December 7 & 8, 14 & 15, 21 & 22.  Board the Christmas train at Downpatrick Station and take a trip to Inch Abbey before meeting Santa at his special North Pole workshop where the children will receive a present from Santa.
  • Hidden History in the Belfast Hills, Falls Road Library, Belfast, December 11.  An interactive presentation on the heritage of the Belfast Hills including the history, wildlife and all who have walked upon them.  It also includes information on the recent archaeological finds that stretch back to the Neolithic age. 
  • Magical Christmas at Castle Coole, Castle Coole Estate, Co. Fermanagh, December 14 – 22. Castle Coole will be home to Santa and Mrs Claus as they busily prepare for Christmas.  Grown-ups can enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie from the kitchen range as the children meet Santa and Mrs Claus.   
  • Gingerbread Alley, Market Place Theatre, Co. Armagh, until December 24.  Tis’ the season for all things gingerbread so why not come along and see festive gingerbread creations in all their glory.  Local businesses have put their hearts and souls into making incredible, edible creations from churches to castles. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as Jacqueline from shares her pick of family events taking place this week across the North!


Have a magical time at Castle Espie this Christmas. This Saturday and Sunday you can meet Santa in his magical grotto, enjoy story-telling, have a go at making Christmas crafts between 10am and 4.30pm, follow the Christmas trail, enjoy toasted marshmallows in the Crannog and send your Christmas wish list to Santa through our post room.


The Festive Food Fair at the Burnavon on Saturday 7th December will be open from  10am to 5pm this Saturday 7th December,  bringing together a host of quality food producers and distributors in the one location and you are invited to drop by. The Festive Food Fair is your ideal opportunity to stock up with all those special goodies – puddings, cakes, bakes, chutneys and preserves – as well as to sample and order fresh produce from local suppliers in time for Christmas.


Anything Goes, presented by Enniskillen Light Operatic Society at the Ardowen Theatre, 5th to 14th December is a giddy explosion of escapist romance, combining old fashioned farce, extended dance breaks and light, breezy songs. Set in 1934 with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, the action takes place on the S. S. American, sailing from New York to England. With such  memorable songs such as; ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’, ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’, this show will definitely turn up the heat on dark December days!


Santa is coming to Springhill Moneymore on 7th-8th and 14th-15th December.  Visit Santa and Twinkle-Boots in the grotto and see the house festively decorated for Christmas.   With children’s crafts, mulled wine and mince pies, this will be a magical Christmas you will never forget. Booking essential


Begin your Christmas celebrations in style with Armagh City Choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah on Friday 6th December in St Malachy’s Church, Irish Street, Armagh.  Handel’s masterpiece has become a Favourite particularly at Christmas time with pieces such as “Unto us a Child is Born” and of course the rousing “Hallelujah Chorus”.   Joining the choir are brilliant local soloists and a guest orchestra to make this a moving performance in the majestic setting of St Malachy’s church. Please join us for a memorable night of music.

Step inside a magical, twinkling wonderland of light as the Large Parterre in Antrim Castle Gardens is transformed into an Enchanted Winter Garden.  Follow the captivating reindeer trail for your chance to win a prize.  Indulge in some Christmas shopping in the Garden Gift Shop and warm your tingling hands around a comforting coffee in the Garden Coffee Shop.  Open daily from Thursday 5th to Tuesday 24th December from 3-8pm.  Closes 6pm on Tuesday 24 December.


Follow the magical Elf Trail to Santa’s secret hideaway in the depths of Belfast’s Belvoir Park Forest this Sunday.  Get the grandparents out and get the woollies on. You’re all in for an afternoon treat on Sunday 8th December.  Bring your letter to Santa and meet Mrs Claus with her famous mince pies.  Get crafty in our Elf workshop and have an afternoon to remember this Christmas!

For more details on these and other events across Northern Ireland, news and competitions see, follow us @whatsonni and like us at and remember to add your  events FREE OF CHARGE at www.whatsonni.