Go Wild Northern Ireland- John Mc Grillen ” Embrace a Giant Spirit”

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Exciting experiences to enjoy by embracing “a Giant Spirit’ in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland – Embrace a Giant Spirit, a new experience brand being rolled by Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland, will highlight exciting experiences for visitors to Northern Ireland to enjoy, according to Tourism NI chief John McGrillen.

The focus on experiences has been added to the longstanding themes about the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the welcome from local people that visitors have long experienced in Northern Ireland,” he continues.

“Embrace a Giant Spirit is an imaginative branding designed to showcase that there’s much, more to Northern Ireland well beyond the best-known attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast,” Mr McGrillen explains.

“The new brand is the outcome of extensive research in all our key markets to help us build on the outstanding achievements of our previous campaigns which saw tourism revenue here grow to a £1bn record last year. We want to double the size of the industry and its overall contribution to the economy over the next decade,” he adds.

Embrace A Giant Spirit will communicate “a high-quality experience to visitors that is recognisable as distinctively Northern Irish”.

The brand comprises two important concepts: Firstly, a land built by a Giant Spirit which reflects consumer research and feedback that Northern Ireland is perceived as warm, engaging and big-hearted. It is a land built by pioneers and entrepreneurs with a rich cultural history, reflected through words, music and craft and woven together by a unique elemental beauty.  

The second concept is an invitation to awaken spirits based on what is known about what visitors seek out in Northern Ireland, namely discovering and embracing the culture and heritage here and enjoying refreshing experiences.

Embrace a Giant Spirit is a compelling concept reflecting the history, culture and the warmth of people of Northern Ireland.

Mr McGrillen continues: “The launch of the brand marks the start of a 10-year journey to support the tourism industry and local economy by developing new authentic experiences that can be promoted to the travel trade and to consumers throughout the world.”

A list of 23 visitor experiences is now being promoted. Sixteen are located in Antrim and Down. Others include the Dark Sky Observatory, currently under construction at Davagh Forest near Cookstown in Tyrone, Mourne Walks and a ‘blossom to bottle’ experience at the Armagh Cider Company, near Portadown. Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy, Taste the Coast Food Tours and Erne Water Taxis are also figuring in the promotional drive.

Experiences offered by filming locations associated with the TV blockbuster The Game of Thrones and events such as The Open golf championship last year at Royal Portrush are outstanding examples of the benefits to the local economy. “We estimate that one in every six visitors last year came specifically to experience the filming locations.  The success of The Open also enhanced substantially our global reputation as the place to go for the best golf experiences,” he says.

“We’ve some marvellous attractions for visitors and a growing number of tours now available to help them see and experience the very best of Northern Ireland. For instance, there are now a great many tastes and tour experiences organised by local organisations in conjunction with councils and the attractions themselves. There are certainly opportunities in the development of further tours and also to increase the number and knowledge of tour guides.

He emphasises the role of local councils and other bodies in developing new experiences for visitors and also ensuring the quality of attractions they already have. “We will continue to work with individual councils as they do whatever they can to enhance their authentic and quality experiences for visitors to their respective areas.

“The new international promotional campaign is all about changing the perception that people overseas have of Northern Ireland and those of us who live here, by painting a picture of what the place is really like now, as opposed to what people think it may be like.

He acknowledges that the key role played by food and drink and the overall hospitality industries in experiences for visitors.  The importance of food and drink is also backed up by visitor attitude surveys which show that the percentage of visitors who thought Northern Ireland’s food offering now stands at an immensely impressive 83 per cent.

“Local food and drink have a reputation for premium quality, outstanding taste, wholesomeness and safety, all of which have been recognised in the tremendous achievements of companies in Great Taste Awards.

“Food and drink is now a critical part of our culture. Visitors are coming here increasingly to experience our fabulous food and drink in excellent restaurants and the huge investment in hotels,” he adds. “The level of investment in hotels and the wider hospitality sector will ensure there’s scope for growth well into the future.”