Tourism NI Hosts Annual Meeting for Inbound Tour Operators

Tourism NI hosted the first face to face Annual General Meeting (AGM) for ITOA (Incoming Tour Operators Association) Council Members since 2020 at the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort in Ballymena over the weekend.

This year’s hosting of the AGM has been made possible through the Tourism Recovery Action Plan and was held between February 18 to 20 bringing together senior executives from nearly 30 member companies as well as representatives from all the main tourism agencies across Ireland such as Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and ITIC.

(L-R) Ruth Andrews ITOA CEO, Des Annett, ITOA President, and John McGrillen, CEO Tourism NI

Guests participated in a range of meetings and engaged with local cultural experiences marking a significant step in the recovery of tourism post-pandemic on the island of Ireland.

John McGrillen, CEO at Tourism NI said: “Our relationship with ITOA not only creates a unique space for our local tourism providers to generate valuable business connections, but also offers a unique opportunity for industry to tap into a global distribution network.

“International visitors are crucially important to our local economy and our partnership with ITOA will play a huge role in supporting our industry as it continues to recover.

“As tourism and travel opens up across the globe, there will be fierce competition from other destinations. Our partnership with ITOA will be an essential part of our sales effort to ensure Northern Ireland is kept front of mind and featured in future itineraries.”

The weekend is expected to showcase Northern Ireland as an attractive destination to both the international tourism market and to an influential group of tour operators whose visitors in 2019 accounted for €565m spent on the island of Ireland, of which Northern Ireland accounted for 10%.

Tourism NI is dedicated to working closely with ITOA to promote the additional programming of Northern Ireland on the members’ itineraries, especially this year as the sector aims to make a full recovery attracting tourism both locally and internationally. 

In 2019, pre-pandemic, members of ITOA delivered £496 million (€595m) of business and 743,500 promotable visitors to the island of Ireland, making the association a vital part of the growth of the tourism industry in Northern Ireland.

Des Annett, President of ITOA said: “We are delighted to be having our first ITOA in-person meetings after two years in Northern Ireland at the Galgorm Hotel Resort and Spa.  Where better to experience first hand the wonderful hospitality and to have a flavour of the terrific experiences that await our returning overseas visitors in 2022.  

“Tourism Northern Ireland have kept ITOA members and the NI industry connected during the pandemic by facilitating the ITOA workshop virtually and supporting our members’ sales and marketing activities too.  

“As we get back to business in 2022, ITOA members look forward to working with NI industry and embracing that Giant Spirit to welcome overseas visitors across the island of Ireland which is key to what we sell and promote across the globe.”

This event is funded through the Tourism Recovery Action Plan (TRAP). 

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Tina Calder