A new Ambassador Circle has been launched to promote Northern Ireland as a leading international business and events destination, and Tourism NI has given a Tourism Recovery Action Plan update.
A statement about the new Ambassador Circle said, "A new initiative, the Ambassador Circle, was launched today to target and significantly grow the number of international business events hosted in Northern Ireland and promote Northern Ireland as a leading business and events destination.
"The Ambassador Circle will bring together business and academic leaders in advanced manufacturing, technology, life and health sciences, food and drink and financial, professional & business services to help identify, target and attract key business events and conferences to the region.
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"It is a joint initiative between Invest Northern Ireland, Visit Belfast, Tourism NI and Visit Derry.
"Speaking about the Ambassador Circle, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, said, 'My department's 10X Economy Vision and the Tourism Recovery Action Plan set out bold ambitions for the economic recovery and future growth of Northern Ireland. International meetings and events play an important part in this.
"'Business events and conferences generate mid-week, year-round demand to our venues, hotels and hospitality sector. They also have the unique ability and power to showcase the amazing, world-leading skills, knowledge and innovation that exist in Northern Ireland, putting the region on the map as an exciting place to visit, do business and invest in.
"'I therefore welcome the efforts of Invest NI, Visit Belfast, Tourism NI and Visit Derry in establishing The Ambassador Circle to harness the support of the local leaders across business, research and academia to attract more business and conferences to Northern Ireland.'
"John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism Northern Ireland added, 'International research commissioned by Tourism NI indicates that the number one factor in attracting a conference or a meeting to a destination is the destination’s international reputation for expertise in that sector.
"'I am confident that by working closely in collaboration with The Ambassador Circle, and playing to our undoubted strengths in Northern Ireland, we can harness the support of Northern Ireland's business, education and research talent to attract even more national and international business events to the region, boosting visitor numbers and spend, and supporting the long-term recovery of our tourism industry.
"Following on from the recent announcement of our enhanced conference support, today's launch is another important milestone and is one of a range of new initiatives we are planning to launch in partnership with our industry and stakeholders over the coming months to rebuild and grow business events.
"Despite intense competition, our research clearly shows there is much untapped potential for business tourism, with opportunities across Northern Ireland.'"
"In supporting the new initiative, Kevin Holland, CEO, Invest NI, added, 'As well as providing immediate economic benefits, business events provide a high-profile opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland as a place to invest and do business. This can lead to legacy benefits such as helping to grow trade, stimulate innovation and attract investment in our key industries.
"'The Ambassador Circle includes five new advisory panels made up of nominated business and academic leaders. They are specifically focused on the key sectors where Northern Ireland has existing and growing strength. Those on the panels will play a central role in identifying business events that could be hosted in Northern Ireland.
"'We are delighted to be a key partner in the delivery of this new initiative, and I look forward to working with the new ambassadors.'
"Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast, added, 'Around 80 percent of business events come to Belfast and Northern Ireland through the support of an ambassador - a business or academic leader who can help us to attract events to the region within their sector. The original Belfast Ambassador programme was established by Visit Belfast over 20 years ago and has been key to our success in attracting conferences to the city region.
"'The launch of the Ambassador Circle marks a new era of collaboration between tourism, economic development, education and research which will be a game-changer for tourism recovery and development.'
"For more information on how we can help you bring your conference, meeting or event to Belfast, or on how to become an Ambassador, please contact Sarah Gribben at Visit Belfast [email protected] and for more information visit www.meetbelfast.com/ambassadorcircle."
Tourism NI Tourism Recovery Action Plan Update
In a statement published on its website, Tourism NI said, "Tourism NI today hosted a live online event to update on progress against the Tourism Recovery Action Plan, six months after its launch.
"Entitled Tourism in Action, and hosted by TV presenter Jo Scott, the event covered the Plan's eight themes aimed at supporting the tourism business base, stimulating consumer demand and bringing much needed business through the doors of visitor attractions, hotels and hospitality venues.
"Tourism NI's heavyweight marketing campaigns over the last eighteen months have brought a buoyant staycation market and many new visitors from the Republic of Ireland.
"The We're Good to Go initiative has also been central to instilling public confidence in tourism facilities and, more recently, a wide range of support schemes have included the Kick Start Programme, a Market Led Product Development Scheme in partnership with Councils and a Business and Financial Planning programme to support tourism SMEs and larger businesses.
"Working in partnership with Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI has also delivered a Market Access Programme to support participation on sales platforms across the globe and funding has been provided to support the recovery of the cruise market and conference and business tourism.
"Tourism NI's new Experience Development Programme is supporting providers to invest in new or enhanced offerings while, along with DAERA, the agency has been successfully running a Website Development Programme to allow attractions and experience providers to improve their ability to secure business online.
"Commenting on progress, Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen said, 'A significant body of work has been undertaken since recovery plans were launched in May and I wish to thank all involved across Government, industry and our partner tourism agencies for their tireless efforts. In addition to work to date, we are also excited to be involved in the ambitious tourism plans under the City and Growth Deals in support of world class experiences across Northern Ireland including the Mourne Mountain Gateway Project, the Derry North Atlantic Museum, The Gobbins Phase II, Hillsborough Village and the Belfast Destination Hub.
"'Attracting and developing a highly skilled and engaged workforce is also critical to recovery plans, and Tourism NI is working towards a major recruitment and awareness campaign to promote the range of opportunities and career pathways in the sector, and help address some of the skills shortages facing businesses which I look forward to launching with our partners in early 2022.'
"Mr McGrillen added, 'After what has been a very challenging eighteen months the announcement that the Open will be returning in 2025 is also a great vote of confidence in Northern Ireland by the R&A. This is something to truly look forward to and we will be working closely with the tourism industry to maximise benefits across Northern Ireland.'
"Following updates from Tourism NI, the Tourism in Action event included a panel discussion with guest panellists Joanne Stuart, Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, Janice Gault, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland.
"For more information on how Tourism NI can support businesses visit: www.tourismni.com/contact-us/covid-19-business-support-helpline/
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