‘Vital role’ for East Antrim coastal tourism ambassadors

Kelli Bagchus, Carrickfergus Enterprise, with Karen McLeod, Northern Regional College and participants attending the World Host Ambassador workshop. INCT 43-705-CON

Kelli Bagchus, Carrickfergus Enterprise, with Karen McLeod, Northern Regional College and participants attending the World Host Ambassador workshop. INCT 43-705-CON

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A coastal tourism initiative to create 10 jobs and safeguard 20 more has reached the halfway stage at Carrickfergus Enterprise.

Over 30 tourism providers on the East Antrim coastal route are benefitting from the innovative package of support developed by the Meadowbank Road agency.

Announced earlier in the year by the Department of Environment as part of a £1.5 million boost from the Coastal Communities Fund, the project commenced in March with participants from B&Bs, the self-catering sector and coffee shops as well as a golf club and sailing club.

Business support has been provided with social media, marketing and health and safety. Some of those taking part have also been assisted through the development of websites and online booking systems to encourage more visitors and increase sales.

Kelli Bagchus, manager of Carrickfergus Enterprise, said: “Tourism is a vital component of the Northern Ireland economy. Recent figures from NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) indicate that Northern Ireland’s tourism performance is strong with key indicators such as hotel occupancy and hotel bed spaces all reaching record highs.

“There are many hidden gems on this coastal route which are perhaps overlooked. We hope opportunities arising from increases in tourism and renewed interest in The Gobbins can assist local tourism providers to compete in the global market to attract visitors to the area.

“We believe the Coastal Tourism Hub can provide many practical forms of assistance to help them to do just that by developing their business, increasing sales and visitor numbers.”

A number of business owners and their staff recently attended a World Host Ambassador training course delivered by Northern Regional College. The programme is designed to give staff the skills to deliver a warm and friendly welcome to customers.

Part of the training included a familiarisation trip designed to improve their knowledge of local landmarks and attractions with the group visiting Flame Gasworks Museum, Carrickfergus; The Gobbins and Carrickfergus Castle.

Plans are also well underway to develop a visitor map to assist those participating businesses to raise their profile. It will also highlight that there are many things to see and do to encourage visitors to stay longer in the coastal area. A joint website will further enhance this marketing strategy.