Representatives from the tourism sector met with a wide range of local food, drink and hospitality businesses to discuss how they can best harmonise plans to attract more visitors to the Lisburn and Castlereagh area – particularly Royal Hillsborough and the historic village of Moira.
Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Invest NI joined elected members and officials from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) to hear that while the ‘gem’ of the council area is ‘Destination Royal Hillsborough’, neighbouring towns and villages can help enhance the overall visitor experience.
Attendees were also told that the tourism spend from out of state visitors in the council area in 2019 was £20.2 million. There has been over £7.5 million of further investment since that date - by businesses and the council to greatly enhance the tourism offering across Lisburn and Castlereagh.
The money has been used to improve visitor experience in Royal Hillsborough including development works at Hillsborough Forest Park, spending on cafés, restaurants and bakeries, along with a high-end guesthouse.
David Burns, Chief Executive of LCCC told the London event that eating out and hospitality are very important factors for tourists when choosing where to visit - and that new offerings of this type were opening up across the council area such as Origin 101. Popular food offerings include Wine & Brine in Moira with its three-time Great British Menu contender, chef Chris McGowan and Shorthorn Beef supplied exclusively by Hannan Meats in the council area and at Fortnum and Mason, London.
Ellvena Graham, Chair of Tourism Northern Ireland, guest speaker at the event said: “They say a great place to live is a great place to visit. Lisburn & Castlereagh is no exception - it’s not just a great place to visit, but a great place to stay. It offers a wide range of venues, accommodation and attractions to meet the needs of every possible visitor type.
“It is ideally located and steeped in history making it appealing to domestic and international visitors alike. The essence of the Lisburn and Castlereagh brand is ‘You’re Welcome’. I believe it truly is a warm and welcoming city with unique experiences for any visitor,” concluded Ellvena Graham.
The Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Andrew Gowan added: “The council is pleased to work alongside Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland to expand our horizons in terms of the Lisburn and Castlereagh brand. There are numerous opportunities for our tourism and hospitality sectors to seize and develop – allowing us to share wonderfully authentic experiences with visitors.
“We have beautiful heritage in our villages, fantastic natural assets and iconic attractions including Hillsborough Castle & Gardens combined with Let’s Go Hydro for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Together we will work with local businesses and government bodies to showcase ‘experiences’, and assist those who actively plan their trips see what we have to offer.
“We will also help our local hospitality and tourism sectors enter the business events sector. They can offer opportunities for those attending conferences and team-building days.”
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s investment in Royal Hillsborough will continue over the next few years with an estimated £25.975 million through Belfast Region City Deal. The aim is to create a ‘whole village heritage tourism experience’ and help drive forward Tourism NI’s goal of encouraging more ‘out of state’ visitors to Northern Ireland.
In partnership with Historic Royal Palaces and Tourism NI, it has plans over the next seven years to further develop the natural asset of Hillsborough Forest Park, the heritage of the public realm and the iconic attractions of Hillsborough Castle and Hillsborough Fort.
Concluding the event, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: “Lisburn & Castlereagh is investment ready. There are definitely opportunities for further growth within its tourism and hospitality sectors.
“It is beneficially located on the Belfast-to-Dublin economic corridor, so it is ideal for visitors from Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and further afield. I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring the council’s tourism investment event to London as I am very proud of my home city and am confident it will sell itself to other markets.”