Thirty representatives from Visitor Information Centres across Northern Ireland visited Ards and North Down on Thursday (April 6) to get to know the area and the new attractions on offer.
The group kicked off the day in the town of Comber sampling fresh produce at Comber Farmers’ Market which has been named Northern Ireland’s Best Local Market after building up a strong reputation for selling seasonal, award-winning food.
Participants admired artisan crafts in the nearby Craft Room, before heading down the Ards Peninsula to take a tour of Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry.
The remodelled centre reopened in August 2016 following the investment of almost £2m. It now includes a Viking-themed aquarium display, touch tank, seal rescue and rehabilitation centre, children’s soft play area and a reptile section.
After a look inside Portaferry’s striking Portico arts centre, known for its double-fronted reproduction of the ancient Greek Temple of Nemesis, the day was topped off with a tour and a golden drop of Dunville & Co whiskey at the Echlinville Distillery.
Echlinville became Northern Ireland’s first licenced distillery in over 125 years, distilling its first spirit in 2013. Using barley grown on the land surrounding the distillery, their “field to glass” approach produces a distinctive quality spirit.
The familiarisation trip, part funded by Tourism Northern Ireland, enabled staff who work in Visitor Information Centres – from Visit Belfast to Fermanagh, Limavady and Armagh – to enhance their local tourism product knowledge by experiencing it for themselves.
Research shows that a well- informed visitor will go on to do more and spend more in the local area – so active engagement with visitors really does matter.
Comber Farmers’ Market organiser and Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Deborah Girvan, said: “I was delighted to welcome visitors from the frontline of Northern Ireland’s tourism trade to this beautiful part of the country.
“From Newtownards to Donaghadee to Portaferry, I hope that all of the borough’s tourism trade will benefit from this increased knowledge at Northern Ireland’s Visitor Information Centres and we look forward to welcoming more tourists to the area as a result.”