Planes, trains, cruises and coaches – Northern Ireland is the place to be!
By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 21 June, 2018
VISITORS are flocking to Northern Ireland on planes, trains and automobiles and not to forget the cruise ships and coaches. They are spending more than ever. Eleanor McGillie speaks to Mark Rodgers of Dalriada Kingdom Tours who tells the stories of the people of our shores to visitors on discovery tours of our wee place
Latest figures released this month suggest that spending on tourism in Northern Ireland reached a record high of £926million in 2017 with the Giant’s Causeway remaining the most popular tourist attraction with a recorded one million visitors.
External visitors were responsible for £657m of the spending with the rest coming from local people.
The tourists just keep on coming.
Back in March, Belfast Harbour confirmed its 2018 cruise schedule which highlights 2018 as another record cruise season for Belfast and Northern Ireland. It announced an expected 117 ships to dock in Belfast from mid-March to mid-October time.
This amounts to more than 200,000 visitors expected from cruise ships to Northern Ireland.
The number of ships set to arrive this year is an increase of 25 per cent compared to last year with eight new Cruise Lines adding Belfast to their itineraries joining the cruise industry’s leading operators – Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Cunard.
More than half of the ships calling will each bring over 1,000 visitors to Belfast with the largest ship, the 330m long Royal Princess, bringing more than 61,000 passengers to the city during her 12 calls. August will be the busiest month with 26 cruise calls bringing over 40,000 passengers and crew.
Mark Rodgers set up Dalriada Kingdom Tours over two years ago and never in a million years did he think that tourist numbers for Northern Ireland would be what they are today.
Mark said: “We are so honoured to belong on these shores and visitors recognise our hospitality, our history, our landscapes and most of all our people. It’s people who make things happen and we are great people with great stories to share. The North Coast is so busy. It’s marvellous to see and the cruise ships are a huge help to our economy. They bring in people from all over the world who leave with a great story to share. It’s fantastic when passengers disembark and come on shore to hear our stories.
“No matter how our visitors arrive it’s great to see them. This weekend alone is a pretty big weekend for Dalriada Kingdom Tours. Today for example (Thursday) I am guiding for Shamrock and Peach, which is an American tour company, here at the Giants Causeway. I met Judith McLoughlin, who is an Irish author, expert Irish cook and guide, while I was in Atlanta Georgia last year. Judith, who is originally from Co Armagh, has become one of the most recognized Irish faces and brands in the American South. But she’s here today on the coast leading a discovery tour from the United States. Judith has 15 people on her tour and they have stayed in Ashford Castle and The Lough Erne Hotel, and, after their visit to the Causeway, they are going to The Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle. This is the second time in three weeks I have been guiding for Shamrock and Peach.
“Tonight, I will join other tourism providers, including my colleague Caoimhin MacGabhann of Nine Glens Walking Tours, at the Causeway Coast and Glens People of the Year Awards.
“On Friday, I am guiding for Scott Moore Travel from America. I met Scott on a familiarisation trip last year and tomorrow he has four guests coming off the cruise ship, Royal Princess, to spend the day on the Coast. Saturday is another cruise ship day from Donegal and I’ll be guiding 48 Americans who will arrive at the Causeway by coach.
“And Sunday could just be the biggest day in tourism history here. Hosts Global, which is a strategic partner for meeting and event planners worldwide, will bring over 100 delegates to Northern Ireland. This is the first time they have taken the conference out of North America in 30 years. This is a massive boost for Northern Ireland. Eighty of the delegates are staying behind to familiarise themselves with Northern Ireland and 42 of them want to visit the Giant’s Causeway so I am honoured to be guiding them and I am very much looking forward to joining Hosts Global at the Slieve Donard for an evening to celebrate the close of the conference.
“There’s a fantastic buzz about Northern Ireland. Long may it continue. Dalriada Kingdom Tours is proud to play a part. Our tourism businesses, and certainly those within our collective, Live It Experience It, can hold their heads high as we all work hard to continue to provide fantastic experiences.”
Live It Experience It’ is a group of journalists and travel writers who tell the story of our members. We work collaboratively with our members, which are tourism businesses, to promote Northern Ireland through water, air and land based activities, food and drink and great places to stay. Together we let our visitors know of all of the amazing things Northern Ireland has to offer. To become a member business in of ‘Live It Experience It’ call our office on 028 3756 8436 or please submit your information through our online form. T&Cs apply – Sign Up Here Let us tell your story! Live It Experience It is the NW200 tourism partner for 2018.