China trend set to continue
News of the North Coast is spreading fast. Campaigns promoting the local area in China have resulted in a surge of Chinese visitors over the last three years and tourism industry professionals are optimistic the trend will continue.
‘The aim is to secure a greater share of the 4 million Chinese visitors to Europe each year,’ said James Kenny, manager of Tourism Ireland China. Tourism Ireland, which has offices all over the world, focuses on promoting Ireland as a holiday destination to both existing and emerging markets. ‘We aim to grow the number of Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland to 50,000 per year by 2017.”
While Tourism Ireland and the National Trust - the UK's largest conservation charity - have been at the helm promoting Ireland in China, the next step was to showcase Ireland's tourism offer to Chinese industry professionals at home.
Chinese tour operators enjoy north coast
Choosing Northern Ireland as their base in the UK and Ireland, one hundred tour operators and media recently spent the day on the North Coast. Among those visiting for the first time was the editor of 'People's Daily China', China's largest newspaper.
The group travelled the scenic route by coach from Belfast to the North Coast, with a stop at Portnareevy view-point for a bird’s eye glimpse of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. They continued their journey around the coast to the Causeway Hotel where they enjoyed a seasonal lunch. There was time to shop for souvenirs in the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre before grabbing an audio guide and hiking the short distance to the world-famous causeway stones.
Increase in visitor numbers
The Giant’s Causeway has seen a 68% increase in Chinese visitors from 2014 to 2015, and an audio guide and essential visitor information in Mandarin has been on offer since the opening of the Visitor Centre in 2012.
‘Overwhelmingly the tour operators and media were very enthusiastic about recommending Northern Ireland to their clients and readers at home,’ said Giant’s Causeway Site Manager, Ali Walker. ‘The fact that they used Northern Ireland as their base speaks volumes’.
In May, Tourism Ireland and a representative from the Giant's Causeway will undertake a week-long sales mission to China, targeting top travel agents and tour operators, as well as key travel and lifestyle journalists, in the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong,
With tourism accounting for over 40,000 jobs and 5% of Northern Ireland’s GDP it’s easy to see how this emerging market could mean good news for the local economy.