Representatives from tourism businesses and organisations across Northern Ireland gathered on Thursday, October 6 to recognise the efforts made by the industry over the last two years, celebrate excellence and look to the future.
Staged in the Grand Ballroom of the Slieve Donard Resort, Tourism NI’s inaugural Giant Spirit Awards, which have replaced the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards, were sponsored by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and received a record number of entries.
Five fantastic local businesses within the Newry, Mourne and Down area took home top prizes at Thursday evening’s ceremony, with Hinch Distillery being awarded Best Tourism Experience (Large) whilst Cranfield Alpacas picked up the prize for Best Tourism Experience (Small).
The award for Most Innovative Tourism Business (Small) went to The St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick.
Local south Armagh hotel Killeavy Castle Estate also picked up the award for best Food and Drink Experience (Large), with owner Mick Boyle receiving the ‘Local Spirit’ Award, designed to recognise an individual who has made a significant difference to the tourism sector and community since 2020.
Tourism NI’s newly appointed chair, Ellvena Graham, commented: “I congratulate everyone who has been shortlisted for this evening’s awards. They have all come through a great deal and continue to contribute so much to our economy. I am a passionate advocate of tourism’s potential when it comes to job creation and economic impact.
“This industry does really make a difference, and it can contribute more through even greater partnership and collaboration.”
Speaking about wider issues, Ellvena Graham added: “I know the cost of doing business is another huge challenge at present for our industry but we are known for our resilience and I know we will come through this too. While there is plenty more to be done, we have a fantastic product to offer and I am confident about the future and very much looking forward to the task ahead.”
Also speaking at the awards, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “It is only right that we should celebrate the resilience and ingenuity shown by the tourism industry over the last two and a half years. We are also turning to the future and I am encouraged that closer to home markets are performing well and our international markets
are starting to recover however I know that value for money will remain extremely important in the months ahead.
“The attraction of world class events, along with continued investment in our tourism infrastructure at home, and stand out marketing and promotion activities, will be central to delivering our desire to develop Northern Ireland as a leading tourism economy.”
Chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Councillor Michael Savage, said: “Newry, Mourne and Down Council were delighted to sponsor these prestigious awards and it really has shone a light on the amazing tourism and hospitality industry partners that are in the Newry, Mourne and Down region and indeed throughout Northern Ireland.
“Congratulations to everyone who had been shortlisted and received awards. The resilience displayed by our tourism and hospitality industries has never been more evident than over the past two years. I am extremely proud of the invaluable contribution they make to our community and welcoming visitors to the Newry, Mourne and Down region and Northern Ireland.
“The Giant Spirit Awards have provided an opportunity to celebrate all these individuals, businesses and initiatives and recognise their efforts.”