Chinese tourists are beginning to get a real taste for Northern Ireland, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell has said.
And it is hoped the NI Year of Food and Drink will continue to drive visitor numbers in 2016.
Speaking at a workshop in Shanghai attended by over 70 travel agents, the Minister said our scenery, cultural heritage and food were key factors in the drive to attract Chinese tourists.
Jonathan Bell said: “China is an important emerging travel market and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. Awareness of what Northern Ireland has to offer is really beginning to grow, with attractions like the Giants Causeway proving to be extremely popular. In fact, over 28,000 visitors from China put the Giants Causeway on their itinerary from January to September this year, an increase of 75% on the same period last year. Our breathtaking scenery and dramatic coastlines offer a unique experience for Chinese tourists – and I have no doubt the Gobbins Cliff Path will prove to be equally attractive to them in the months and years ahead.
“From speaking to travel agents here in Shanghai, I know that their clients like to immerse themselves in all things Northern Ireland when they visit our shores, particularly the food and the whole dining out experience. Next year is the NI Year of Food and Drink and this will provide another big selling point for Tourism Ireland when they are promoting Northern Ireland within the Chinese market. They also tell me that Chinese tourists like to play golf, and Northern Ireland’s reputation as one of the world’s ‘must play’ destinations is beginning to take hold. With the Irish Open due to return to Northern Ireland in 2017 and Royal Portrush Golf Club hosting The Open Championship in 2019, the signs are extremely positive.
“We have much to offer international visitors, particularly now that the British Irish Visa Scheme is fully operational, allowing Chinese visitors to travel to the UK and Ireland on a single visa. There is more good news on the horizon with confirmation that following President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the UK, starting from January, Chinese visitors can apply for a UK visa which will now be valid for two years instead of six months.
“This will give Chinese tourists longer to spend in the UK and take time to explore its regions. I believe Northern Ireland is extremely well placed to encourage them to come and see for themselves what we have to offer.”