Growing numbers of tourists from all over the world are choosing to plan their own visits, year after year, to the breathtakingly beautiful Antrim Coast, thanks in part to the expertise offered by locally based networks of businesses in the area.
Norman McBride, General Manager of Ballygally Castle Hotel, is also Chair of The Gobbins Tourism Cluster, a business cluster developed around The Gobbins Cliff Path, which is one of 24 geographically significant locations, featured on the world-renowned Causeway Coastal Route.
He believes there is a wealth of knowledge and skills among the local tourism and hospitality business community and encourages others to get on board.
“It is definitely beneficial to get to know other business people in your area”, Norman continues.
“At Ballygally Castle Hotel, we are keen to work with other providers and be able to recommend them to visitors who want more of an experience from their trip.
“We are getting lots of American guests who want to take part in familiarisation trips out and about in the local area. Tourists are coming from all over the world, but the US market is probably the biggest.
“What we are seeing more year on year is individual travellers rather than tour buses. Maybe people who have been on tour buses before, but are now confident enough to return as independent travellers.
“And of course guests are always impressed when they see our coastline. Perhaps we take it for granted, having it on our doorstep, but when people who haven’t been here before see what we have to offer, they are experiencing something wonderful.
“The biggest benefit of the Tourism Clusters is knowing who to contact if a guest asks for recommendations on places to see, things to do, tours to take part in.
“It is so important to have connections with other local providers. We once had the BBC contact us because they were making a programme about ghost tours in Irish and I was able to recommend a local guide with expertise in the language, so the networking has been fantastic.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s dedicated tourism brand, Shaped By Sea and Stone, also has everything you’ll need if you’re planning to take in stunning locations from The Gobbins to Carrickfergus Castle, Slemish Mountain to the Causeway Route.
Visit www.shapedbyseaandstone.com for information on the best places to eat and drink, and the top accommodation or simply to learn more about the rich history behind the landmarks.
Meanwhile, businesses across Mid and East Antrim are invited to hear from top names in marketing, sales and strategy at the inaugural Shaped for Success Tourism and Hospitality Seminar, which takes place on January 29 in the Ecos Centre in Ballymena.
More details on the event and how to reserve a free ticket can be found at www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/events/shaped-for-success