NEW YORK -- Northern Ireland is counting on several years of
domestic tranquility, a larger accommodations base and a new
all-Ireland marketing campaign to help it catch up with the
southern part of the island in attracting more U.S. tourists.
That's according to Howard Hastings, managing director of
Hastings Hotels, president of the Northern Ireland Hotels
Federation and a board member of Tourism Ireland Ltd., the agency
overseeing the new marketing campaign.
Hastings said the organization has a $27 million budget to
promote visits to both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland. Although it is not the first time the two governments have
cooperated on a tourism promotion, the new budget is "vastly more
sizable than what existed before."
The board of Tourism Ireland has yet to decide exactly how and in
which markets that money will be spent, he said, but the campaign
is expected to start in September to prepare for the 2002 tourist
Tourism Ireland has agreed on a general theme for the campaign,
which will "relate to the emotional experience of visiting
Ireland," Hastings said, focusing on the concepts of "people, place
Although Ireland as a whole received some 1.1 million visitors
from the U.S., only about 10% of that number visited Northern
Ireland. But small as they are, U.S. arrivals numbers have been
surging -- they quadrupled over the past eight years, up 22% in
2000, and could repeat that rate of growth again this year,
The destination has the lodging base: Northern Ireland's hotel
capacity has roughly doubled in the past six years, including the
addition of a number of four- and five-star hotels.
Hastings added that corporate and incentive arrivals from the
U.S. have been growing significantly, partly because more U.S.
companies have been setting up operations in the country, and also
because the destination's golf courses are attracting corporate
"One of the key products attracting the business and incentive
types is the golf," he said.
Hastings' hotels include three properties in Belfast (the
five-star Culloden Hotel, the Europa and the Stormon), the Slieve
Donard Hotel in Newcastle, the Everglades Hotel in Londonderry and
the Ballygally Castle Hotel on the Antrim coast.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) in the U.S. is helping
the effort by working closely with the Irish Tourist Board in
marketing to agents, said David Boyce, director-U.S.
The NITB also has benefited from working the U.S. Tour Operators
Association convention every year. The number of operators with
programs that include Northern Ireland has grown from 13 in 1993 to
Operators are listed in a new 2001 travel planner. For
information, call the NITB at (800) 326-0036 or (212) 922-0101.