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ABC Council sets the stage for tourism renewal and growth at annual conference

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Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

12th Oct 2022

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council hosts leading representatives from Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and Game of Thrones as part of renewed tourism focus

Wednesday 12 October: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council set the stage this week for a tourism summit to discuss the opportunities, prevailing and emerging challenges and future investment within the sector.

The conference, which took place at the historic Elmfield House in Gilford, included significant contributions from ABC Council chief executive Roger Wilson, Tourism Northern Ireland chief executive John McGrillen, Shane Clarke, director of Corporate Services, Policy & Northern Ireland at Tourism Ireland and David Browne, Executive Director of Linen Mill Studios and Game of Thrones Studio Tour.

Elmfield Estate director Jane Shaw shared her own experience and insights into how the Shaw family have successfully transformed the 18th century Elmfield Estate into an outstanding, multi-faceted, sustainable business focused on food, hospitality, health and wellbeing.

The conference – the first to take place in person since 2019 – addressed how the local tourism and hospitality sector has been emerging from the Covid pandemic and its associated challenges, including the impact of rising costs and skills shortages, as well as new and emerging growth opportunities.

The local tourism sector has experienced significant growth and investment since the inaugural tourism conference was launched in 2017, which with the support of a busy year-round calendar of award-winning festivals and events, strong cultural and heritage assets and a thriving hospitality industry, helped to promote the borough as a compelling visitor destination.

Earlier this year, Banbridge welcomed the multi-million pound ‘game-changing’ Game of Thrones Studio Tour, delivering a new and immersive experience designed to transport a new generation of visitors back to the very heart of Westeros made famous by the global hit HBO series.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cllr Paul Greenfield, said:

“Successful tourism growth provides a major catalyst for economic growth, regeneration and wider investment, creating sustainable jobs and promoting civic pride in an area renowned for its beauty, thriving towns and cities, deep history and rich heritage.

“Though challenges remain, I’m confident that with commitment, collaboration and sustainable innovation, we can continue to increase our growing tourism impact on a national and international level for the benefit of everyone and I’m grateful to those who took part in our future-focused industry discussions that will help in driving us ambitiously forward together.”

Recognising the potential of its outstanding tourism assets, the council is to committed to driving renewed growth.

With a complementary tourism offer which takes in iconic and historic Armagh City, abundant apple orchards, thriving artisan cider farms, a unique linen heritage, top class arts and visitor attractions and award-winning chefs, restaurants, cafes and bars, the borough is also widely recognised for the quality and provenance of its food produce for which it has earned the right to be known as Northern Ireland’s official Food Heartland.

Tourism Northern Ireland chief executive, John McGrillen, said:

“The tourism and hospitality industry in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon continues to demonstrate great resilience, commitment and sheer hard work in raising its local, national and international profile as it seeks to tackle the new and emerging challenges which undoubtedly exist.

“Through close collaboration and further investment in marketing and skills, I’m confident that there are many new opportunities to be seized in the months and years ahead. I was grateful to attend and to meet more of my tourism colleagues at Elmfield Estate and look forward to making an even bigger impact together.”

Tourism NI is responsible for the development of tourism in Northern Ireland, supporting the tourism industry and for marketing Northern Ireland as a tourist destination.

Shane Clarke, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Corporate Services, Policy & Northern Ireland, said:

“Tourism Ireland has a major role to play in driving visitor demand to the local area. We are working hard to ensure that Northern Ireland, and its cities and towns, are front-of-mind for prospective visitors in our main overseas markets – including GB, Mainland Europe and North America – as they consider their future travel plans and choice of destination.

“Armagh City, Banbridge, Craigavon and the wider borough offers our overseas visitors a wide range of compelling reasons to visit – from the historic, Georgian city of Armagh and its rich orchard countryside – to superb food, hospitality and events, as well as the new world-class attraction that is the Game of Thrones Studio Tour.

“I’m delighted to have attended this year’s Tourism Conference to discuss our exciting current and future plans to grow overseas tourism with all our local tourism partners and stakeholders.”

Tourism Ireland is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination. Established as one of the six areas of co-operation under the framework of the Belfast Agreement of Good Friday 1998, its remit is to increase tourism to the island of Ireland and to support Northern Ireland to realise its tourism potential.

ABC Council is committed to stimulating tourism throughout the Borough, by providing memorable and unique visitor experiences, showcasing its culture and stories, celebrating local food and orchard produce and delivering world class signature events to a domestic, national and international audience.

The tourism conference was compered by former broadcaster and journalist Karen Patterson.