Newry, Mourne and Down District Council this week launched its tourism strategy to position Newry city and the entire council district as ‘the’ premier, year round destination in Ireland.

A new Merchant City Maritime Festival will take place in Newry from 30 September to 1 October highlighting the city's importance as a trading hub and coupled with the established festivals locally such as Iúr Cinn Fleadh, Pride in Newry, Newry Blues Festival, Festival of Water, Newry Marathon, Newry Feis, Newry Drama Festival and more, the push is now on to attract even more visitors to Newry.

The new Tourism Strategy has set out several priorities including implementing the Newry City Centre Masterplan, opening up Newry Canal to small boats and canoes and the completion of the Greenway to Carlingford.

Highlighting the increasing strength of Newry as an arts and cultural hub, the report suggests more offerings of short activity breaks coupled with outdoor activities or food based offerings.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick welcomed key agencies and industry representatives to the event where the strategy direction was presented to build the district as a successful tourist destination over the next five years.

Council Chairperson, Gillian Fitzpatrick seeing at first hand the sacrifices needed to get a-head in the Tourism Stakes! Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Council Chairperson, Gillian Fitzpatrick seeing at first hand the sacrifices needed to get a-head in the Tourism Stakes! Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Speaking at the launch Councillor Fitzpatrick said, “Tourism has long been a part of the local industry in our district and is recognised as a key priority in our Corporate Plan and Economic Development Strategy. Our promise of ‘delivering epic moments’ is focused on redefining our visitor destination experience and our three elements of  ‘Mountains, Myths and Maritime’ have been identified as the fundamentals that will deliver a strong and distinctive image for our area.

Councillor Fitzpatrick continued, “The development of new festivals under the Giant Adventures brand, in tandem with established events, is one of the positive steps we took in 2016 to position our area as the premier tourism destination on the Island of Ireland.  These festivals embody the scale of our ambition to host world-class epic moments, drawing on our mountains and coastline and those stories unique to us. We invite you to work with us to build a unified and entrepreneurial industry that is customer focused and succeeds in delivering destination experiences to the international marketplace.”

Chairman of Tourism NI, Terence Brannigan said, “Tourism in Northern Ireland is in a good place right now and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has shown its commitment to the growth of the industry with the launch of this comprehensive five year strategy. Building on the area’s unique beauty, history and culture, I am delighted to see that this strategy focuses on partnership and collaboration and I have no doubt that this will further strengthen the visitor offering for national and international visitors to the local area.”

Mr Brannigan continued, “Newry, Mourne and Down will be a key region in helping deliver international exposure for Northern Ireland. The delivery of epic moments will help to achieve its targeted growth rate of 6% per annum and grow tourism to a £1 billion export industry by 2025.”

Keynote speaker, Joe Lindsay from local BBC travel show ‘Getaways’, said at Tuesday’s launch, “I have been coming to the area with my family since I was a child and it holds many of my fondest childhood memories. Newry, Mourne and Down has a unique storybook of cultural heritage and landscapes and it is these assets that visitors will come to experience. By helping visitors make memories for years to come they will stay longer, spend more and come back again and again. I hope they take away some of the same special memories I did.” 

The Council recognises that it has set ambitious targets over the next five years, which is why it has wasted no time on the development of two new visitor experience plans for the Mourne Coastal area and the Mourne Mountains and Ring of Gullion. Collaboration with the industry will start in April and the key themes the plans will address will unify the destination experience for that area and focus on ways of invigorating existing activities.  The plans will also help identify the role that individual businesses can take in delivering experiences. 

To support the industry in developing EPIC moments, The Council is running workshops during April 2017 for anyone interested in finding out how they can support local tourism and capitalise on business opportunities. A series of online video guides have also been developed in partnership with Tourism NI and will be streamed via Tourism NI's You Tube channel. Further information on the workshops is available from Council Visitor Information Centres and from the Council website.

To view a copy of the Tourism Strategy please visit newrymournedown.org