13 May 2022

Tourism Industry Ambitious for Return to Sustainable Growth

Tourism NI is holding its first face to face annual conference in two years at the ICC Belfast today on the theme of innovation and sustainability.

NI Tourism Conference

Headline speaker Alex Polizzi, the Hotel Inspector, will be joined on stage by Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Championship Director of The Open, Dr. Paul Redmond, employment trends expert, sustainability experts Professor Xavier Font and Tina O'Dwyer and Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen.

Commenting on the conference Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said:

“Over the last two years we invested £31million of Covid recovery funding in a range of activities to respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic. This included a number of heavyweight marketing campaigns delivered by Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland across the UK and Ireland which have helped to boost consumer confidence and stimulate much needed demand”.

“There are few industries which have embraced the digital revolution quite like the travel and tourism industries and the evolution of new tourism experiences right across the country shows that innovation continues to be at the forefront of the development of the industry here.”

“We do however require an innovative approach to the skills crisis and I want to work across Government to address this issue and I am committed to the development of a Regenerative Tourism Strategy to meet these challenges”.

Commenting on her visit Alex Polizzi said;

“I am very excited about meeting with talent from across the tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s tourism journey over the last decade has been inspirational and owes much to the hard work of hospitality businesses who roll out the red carpet on a daily basis to welcome their visitors from across the UK and Ireland and further afield.

“I hope that sharing my own experiences of working in business and in the media proves valuable. Here’s hoping also that I’m adopted as an honorary Derry Girl while in Northern Ireland!”

Speaking at one of his last engagements as chairman of Tourism NI, Terence Brannigan added;

“During my time as chairman I have witnessed real passion and pride in presenting Northern Ireland’s best face to the world as we began to reap the benefits of sustained investment in developing a world-class product. We have been helped in no small part by events like The Open and the huge success of Game of Thrones and more recently, Derry Girls in raising Northern Ireland’s profile internationally. I am hugely proud of how the industry responded to the challenges presented by the pandemic – with steadfastness, adaptability and a willingness to innovate, in order to survive and recover”.

“We are now beginning that recovery work in earnest and there will be further challenges in the years ahead, not least in the way the cost of living crisis will affect visitors’ spending power. As I step down my very best wishes go to my successor, to John McGrillen and his team, and most of all to the tourism industry”.

Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen added;

“Innovation has helped drive our recovery. We have adapted to new ways of working, embedded a new brand and are working closely on the planned City and Growth Deal tourism related projects. A myriad of new experiences, attractions and activities have also helped achieve real stand out, particularly in the Republic of Ireland market”.

“Industry data continues to paint a positive outlook pointing to strong accommodation performance and positive visitor spend from the Republic of Ireland. There is also a growing sense of excitement across Northern Ireland as live events and conferences return. Air access is also crucial to the recovery of tourism and by summer 2022 it is anticipated that 92% of seat capacity will have returned”.

“I also wish to thank and pay tribute to Terence Brannigan as he steps down as Tourism NI chairman next month. He has been tenacious in fighting tourism’s corner for the last seven years. While the pandemic has been a huge challenge, our partnerships across tourism and hospitality have deepened and will continue to play a key part in the recovery and innovative regrowth of our industry thanks in no small part to Terence’s efforts. On behalf of all the staff and board of Tourism NI we offer Terence our very good wishes for the future.”

Caption: Pictured at ICC Belfast today (13 May) at Tourism NI’s annual flagship conference (L-r) are Tourism NI’s CEO John McGrillen, hotelier, businesswoman and The Hotel Inspector presenter Alex Polizzi, presenter Sarah Travers and Economy Minister Gordon Lyons.

Watch highlights of our NI Tourism Conference below