HUNDERDS of international tour operators from around the world have arrived in Belfast for Northern Ireland’s largest travel trade platform event, Meet the Buyer 2018.
Organised by Tourism NI in association with Tourism Ireland and taking place at Belfast Waterfront, Meet the Buyer is an annual event that provides a platform for local businesses to showcase their products to a global audience and secure future business.
Tourism is a key driver for the local economy and its role has been central to transforming Northern Ireland’s image.
The event has improved year on year as its reach and reputation extends worldwide, and this year’s event is the biggest yet.
A total of 165 international tour operator organisations from 22 different markets, including China, India, New Zealand and Australia, will see first-hand what Northern Ireland has to offer visitors. Additional countries represented include the USA, UAE, Germany, Italy and France.
Joining the large international business contingent will be 19 buyers from the Republic of Ireland and 179 local NI tourism representatives (from 124 local companies). 5,000 one to one sales meetings are planned over the course of the day.
John McGrillen Tourism NI Chief Executive commented on the value of this international sales platform.
“Meet the Buyer is an intrinsic part of our sales efforts and leads to millions of pounds of business for local companies. I am particularly pleased to see so many buyers here for the first time as well as many local businesses seeking to capitalise on the opportunity that Meet the Buyer presents.
“Between January and September last year over 2 million holiday trips were taken in Northern Ireland, an increase of 20%. Visitors to Northern Ireland last year spent on average £2.7million per day. We are seeing growth across all our markets and I am confident that tourism will soon break through the highly anticipated annual £1billion figure.
“Our leading visitor attractions reached capacity last summer and with Titanic Belfast recently announcing a 13% increase in the last twelve months indications are that growth is continuing in 2018”.
Welcoming the strong international attendance at this year’s Meet the Buyer workshop, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said:
“Tourism Ireland is delighted to bring 165 top international tourism buyers to Northern Ireland for Meet the Buyer 2018 – including 39 buyers who are here for the first time.
“This annual event presents such an important opportunity for our local tourism partners. The high attendance of the buyers from around the world is a strong indication that interest in visiting Northern Ireland remains high and that it can, and is, competing with the best destinations in the world.
“Tourism Ireland has an extensive programme of promotions under way across the world, to highlight Northern Ireland and continue to grow tourism in 2018.
“We are promoting the Causeway Coastal Route, as well as our other iconic experiences like Titanic Belfast and, of course, our world-class golf. We continue to capitalise on our connection with Game of Thrones and build on the success of our award-winning ‘Doors of Thrones’ and Game of Thrones Tapestry campaigns.
“With our spectacular scenery, world-class visitor attractions and good value accommodation, Northern Ireland truly is a ‘must see’ destination. Our message to all the tourism buyers, is that there has never been a better time to come and visit Northern Ireland.”
82% of operators who attended last year attributed their growth in Northern Ireland to attending Meet the Buyer while 76% plan to increase their Northern Ireland offering as a result of attending Meet the Buyer, confirming the event’s critical importance to tourism businesses in Northern Ireland.
Over the weekend participating buyers will take part in familiarisation trips planned by Tourism NI including 26 Game of Thrones filming locations, Armagh and Down, the Causeway Coastal Route, the Walled City and Belfast.