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Travel & Tourism

New Programme to Kick Start Recovery in the Tourism Sector

Tourism NI has launched a major new scheme to drive innovation, sustainability and competitiveness amongst tourism businesses as the industry looks to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Kick Start programme will run until March 2022 and will provide free access to a range of advice and support.

Commenting on the launch of the new programme, Tourism NI’s Director of Strategic Development David Roberts said;

“We are delighted to offer this additional support to the tourism industry at this critical time. Whilst it has been a positive few months for the sector, we know that many businesses continue to face considerable challenges as they seek to rebuild and look to the future. It is hoped that by 2022 we will see a more sustained period of recovery, with international visitors returning in significant numbers as well as continued success in closer to home markets”.

“Through the Recovery Kick Start programme, we are partnering with a range of business and financial experts to provide fully funded, bespoke support. Eligible businesses will receive a one to one diagnostic assessment with a Tourism NI allocated adviser, including a financial health check. An action plan and scope of work will then be agreed within the four priority areas. Participants may then be invited to apply for further funding, subject to budget availability, to implement agreed business interventions recommended during the Kick Start programme.”

Kick Start will cover four key areas:

  • Business Model Restructuring – to allow tourism businesses to examine and review their existing business model to drive efficiencies and improvements in how the business operates
  • Digital Innovation and Productivity – to enable tourism businesses to adopt new digital technology and innovations that can help them to operate more efficiently, enable or accelerate the development of new products, processes, or services, give access to new markets and help to safeguard and create jobs
  • Recruitment and Talent Development – to empower tourism businesses to implement staff recruitment, talent development and staff training action plans. 
  • Environmental Sustainability – to support tourism businesses to implement environmental management and sustainability initiatives that will enable them to reduce costs, improve productivity and deliver a competitive advantage. 

The Kick Start programme is open to existing tourism business operating in Northern Ireland. The closing date for receipt of Expression of Interest forms is 3pm on Friday 12th November 2021. For full guidelines, eligibility criteria and details on how to apply go to: 

Travel & Tourism

4 Towns In Northern Ireland Voted Friendliest Visitor Destinations in UK

Tourism NI has welcomed the news that four towns in Northern Ireland have been awarded the friendliest visitor destinations in the UK with Enniskillen in County Fermanagh voted number one most welcoming in the UK.

Alongside Enniskillen, Ballycastle, County Antrim; Bushmills, County Antrim and Newcastle, County Down all appeared on the top 10 most welcoming list.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the news was a much needed boost for the tourism sector in Northern Ireland that has experienced a two year blow to an industry which was riding high after a record breaking 2019 when revenue surpassed £1 billion for the first time.

He added: “While it has been two years of unprecedented crisis for the industry, I am pleased to know that despite the enormous challenges, our towns have dominated the top 10 list of friendliest visitor destinations. The news comes in the same week as the Game of Thrones Studio Tour opens its doors to the public and will help to put Northern Ireland on the map as a must visit destination for those far and wide.”

McGrillen believes the tourism industry has been incredibly resilient in the face of the global pandemic. 

“There will be brighter opportunities in the years ahead and I have confidence that with the appropriate support, tourism in Northern Ireland will bounce back,” he said. 

Other locations which made the top 10 list were Frome in Somerset; Glastonbury, Somerset: Shetland; Wick, Highlands and Kelso, Scottish Borders.

Following research from more than 232 million verified reviews as part of’s 10th annual Traveller Review Awards, the awards recognise more than 1.25 million travel providers around the world for their hospitality, including 53,623 in the UK.

The winning list was decided by the total share of Traveller Review Award 2022 recipients when compared to the total number of eligible properties in that town or city.

McGrillen added: “Tourism is absolutely vital for us as it provides passengers for our public transport and supports sea and air routes; it generates revenue to support our culture and heritage assets and can contribute to the protection of our natural environment; it provides revenue for central and local government and promotes a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas, supporting foreign direct investment.”

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Travel & Tourism

Experience an ‘out of this world’ Christmas at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory

The Chair of the Council, Councillor Paul McLean and Santa enjoy the Christmas OM Odyssey as part of the OM Santa Experience at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory.

Enjoy an ‘out of this world’ Santa experience this Christmas at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory.

This Christmas, children can enjoy a Santa experience with a difference at the new star gazing facility at Davagh Forest in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains.

During the OM Santa Experience, children, and adults alike, will be utterly ‘star struck’ as they are taken on a tour of the unique facility and then watch the Christmas OM Odyssey, a bespoke festive film capturing Santa’s magical journey through the sky on Christmas Eve.

The festive film will be screened on the side of the OM building, with families watching from a dedicated viewing area using individual headsets.

Children will then get to write their letters to Santa in the crafts room before getting to deliver them in person to the man himself during a special visit where they will receive a stocking full of goodies.

The OM Santa Experience will run over three weekends beginning on Sunday 28 November and finishing on Sunday 12 December. Tickets cost £10 per child and adults go free (limited to two adults per family).

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean is pleased the Council can offer this festive event to families in the district.

“The last 20 months have been extremely difficult for all of us and none more so than for our children who have had to endure so much and adapt to different ways of doing things in almost all aspects of their lives. Christmas is a time of joy and celebration and so it pleases me greatly that we can offer this one-of-a-kind magical Christmas experience to families and children in Mid Ulster this Christmas.

“This year marks OM’s first Christmas, having only opened its doors to the public in June this year. The Santa experience is the perfect debut seasonal event for the centre, complementing and enhancing its already established and successful offering and extending its appeal to the family market.”To book your tickets for the OM Santa Experience, go or telephone the Observatory on: 028 8676 0681

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