More than 100 leading Chinese tour operators have been visiting Northern Ireland.
Following an itinerary devised by Tourism NI, the group – all members of the European Federation of Chinese Tour Operators – spent time in Belfast, where they visited Titanic Belfast and City Hall. They also visited Co Down, taking part in a tour of St Patrick’s Country around Downpatrick, as well as enjoying a Game of Thrones-themed visit to Castle Ward. The following day, the group travelled along the Causeway Coastal Route, stopping off at Ballygally, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Distillery and Galgorm Resort & Spa, before heading back to Belfast for a special Chinese banquet.
James Kenny, Tourism Ireland’s Manager China, said: “We are delighted that these top Chinese tour operators have had the opportunity to come to Northern Ireland, to see and experience some of our newest visitor attractions. Working with Chinese tour operators and travel agents is an important part of Tourism Ireland’s annual promotional programme. The aim of this fact-finding visit was to increase awareness of Northern Ireland among these influential travel professionals, to help secure a greater share of the 4 million Chinese visitors to Europe each year. Tourism Ireland aims to grow the number of Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland to 50,000 per year, by 2017.”
According to the latest data from the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), China is now the world’s largest outbound travel market – with some 120 million people travelling overseas each year, spending $165 billion.
Tourism Ireland has offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. In May, Tourism Ireland 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 and Shenzhen.