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ABC Council puts quality on the agenda at annual tourism conference

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council held its third annual tourism conference last week, bringing together local businesses and industry leaders in a significant event designed to underline local strengths and new areas of focus.

Held at the stunning Belmont Hotel, Banbridge, delegates discussed local, national and international tourism trends, opportunities and challenges and the collective ambition and commitment to continue to not only raise the borough’s fast-growing profile but to also focus on further enhancing the visitor experience.

The busy programme included leading presentations from Tourism Northern Ireland’s Chief Digital Officer, Dave Vincent, Tourism Ireland’s Stakeholder Liaison Manager covering Northern Ireland, Ciaran Doherty, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Chief Executive Roger Wilson and Paul Greenfield, Chair of the Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cllr Julie Flaherty, said: “Long recognised for its quality food, drink and hospitality, beautiful countryside and thriving towns, the borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon is very quickly being discovered for its incredible wealth of unique attractions and unrivalled programme of award-winning events.

“I congratulate all our partners for their hard work, commitment and passion and hope that this conference assists in further promoting our fantastic tourism sector and provides an important platform to share best practice so we can learn from each other and continue to improve all that we have to offer.”

John Mathers, who owns the award-winning Georgian guesthouse Newforge House in Magheralin and Helen Troughton from the hugely successful Armagh Cider Company, located just outside Portadown, spoke of their experiences, learnings and the hard work involved in delivering an outstanding tourism product and their future growth plans.

Representing a thriving local tourism and hospitality industry, Newforge House and Armagh Cider Company are two excellent examples of what can be achieved when passion is harnessed with focus, drive and commitment to delivering an outstanding customer experience. Both businesses are well-known across the UK and Ireland and are featured regularly in local, national and international media, including TV.

Andrew Webb, Managing Director of Linen Mill Studios, also spoke, revealing the company’s ambitions to open a new Game of Thrones Studio Tour in collaboration with HBO next year.

Located within Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge which is the original filming location used for many iconic scenes throughout the run of the series, the tour is expected to bring thousands of international visitors face-to-face with original set pieces, costumes, props, and weapons used to create the worlds of Westeros and Essos.

Dave Vincent, Tourism Northern Ireland’s Chief Digital Officer, said: “Tourism NI is working closing with local tourism businesses and council colleagues to support tourism development across Northern Ireland.”

“Using a combination of digital innovation, research and our specialist Tourism Enterprise Development Programme, we aim to provide tourism businesses with the support they need to grow successfully.”

“Brimming with culture, art and heritage, the borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon plays an important role in ensuring that Northern Ireland continues to be recognised as a compelling international destination.”

ABC Council launched ambitious plans to bolster its standing as a market-leading heritage and cultural international tourism destination in 2017 as part of a five-year blueprint designed to attract more visitors and increase tourism spend which it unveiled as part of the borough’s first annual Tourism Conference.