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( Tourism Minister, Nigel Dodds has recognised the important contribution tourism makes to the local economy.
Speaking to an audience of over 300 representatives of the tourism industry, at the 29th Tourism Awards in Belfast, Mr Dodds congratulated the award winners and said: “Tourism has a major role to play in Northern Ireland’s economic future and I recognise the contribution made by the industry. The recent support for the Titanic Signature Project’s Big Lottery Fund application confirms the Executive’s long-term commitment to improving Northern Ireland’s tourism potential.

“Confidence in the industry is high with hotel occupancy in 2006 reaching record levels and over 28,000 jobs created by the industry in 2003. The total income generated by tourism in 2003 was worth some 3.5% percent of Gross Value Added; that puts tourism almost on a par with the agriculture industry.

“While such results are encouraging, Northern Ireland is starting from a very low base and there is still much work to be done. I want to encourage the private sector to take up the tourism challenge and drive Northern Ireland forward as an attractive, world class destination.”

Winners celebrated their success across a variety of categories including Event of the Year, Marketing, Visitor Attraction of the Year and Hotel of the Year. Winners were chosen from a very competitive field with more than one hundred entries received this year.

The special award for Outstanding Contribution to Tourism went to Lord Diljit Rana, founder of Andras House which is now the biggest operator and developer of hotels in Belfast. Lord Rana is widely recognised as having started the ‘Golden Mile’ which helped to bring night life back to Belfast. Andras House has been responsible for building and refurbishing a number of landmark hotels in Belfast including Ramada Belfast, Days Hotel, Renshaws and Express by Holiday Inn.

Speaking at the presentations NITB Chairman Tom McGrath said: “NITB is encouraged by the increasingly high standard of entries. We will only compete as a world class destination if we offer the very best service, accommodation, food and hospitality to the visitor. I am delighted that Maureen Wheeler from Lonely Planet is here as our special guest to endorse Northern Ireland’s improving status, and I thank Lonely Planet for their recent support and praise for Northern Ireland.

“This awards ceremony is an excellent opportunity to recognise the hard work and dedication that takes place across our industry every year, and I congratulate the winners in all categories.”

The Tourism Awards have been sponsored by bmi for the past four years, their Commercial Director, Adrian Parkes commented: “Congratulations are owed to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which continues to provide a platform to acknowledge, reward and celebrate all that is best in the tourism industry in Northern Ireland. Tourism and leisure activities are an increasingly important contributor to the vibrancy and vitality of the local economy.

“We are here to share in the experience in this modern, diverse and growing industry. The awards allow success to be rewarded: may we compliment those who have passed the tests of the judges and congratulate the winners.”

For media enquiries contact DETI Press Office, Tel: 028 90529611 For further information contact: Tony Millar at NITB on 9044 1644 or email

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