- Niche tourism opportunities
- Niche tourism markets in Northern Ireland
- Activities and nature-based tourism
- Golf tourism
- Food tourism
- Craft tourism
- Sustainable tourism
- Cultural and heritage tourism
- Screen tourism
- Business tourism
- Creating tourism experiences
- Taking advantage of craft tourism opportunities - The Steensons
Niche tourism markets in Northern Ireland
The range of new and emerging niche tourism opportunities in Northern Ireland, such as food, screen, cultural and golf tourism
There are several niche tourism markets in Northern Ireland.
What is niche tourism?
Niche tourism is tourism that is tailored to the needs or interests of a particular audience. This could mean targeting a tourism experience at groups with particular hobbies such as hiking. It could involve providing services to meet the needs of groups such as dog-owners or cyclists. You can take advantage of niche tourism by creating experiences for those with interests such as literature or local food.
Niche tourism provides a way for your business to stand out from competitors. It allows you to appeal strongly to particular market segments. Niche tourism audiences may be large or small. Consider the value of a niche tourism sector by researching how large the audience is and how much they typically spend.
Key niche tourism markets in Northern Ireland
Important local niche tourism markets include:
- activities and nature-based tourism
- golf tourism
- food tourism
- craft tourism
- sustainable tourism
- cultural and heritage tourism
- screen tourism (such as Game of Thrones)
- business tourism
This is not an exhaustive list, but simply gives a 'flavour' of the range of niche markets currently represented in Northern Ireland.Also on this site
Activities and nature-based tourism
The niche market of activity and nature tourism is growing in Northern Ireland. It includes hiking, cycling, climbing, birdwatching, walking and canoeing.
Northern Ireland has a growing activities tourism market. Its natural beauty and reputation for hospitality make it an ideal setting for this type of trip.
Some examples include:
- garden and forests
- cycling and mountain biking
- walking and hiking
- canoeing and water sports
Types of activity tourism
Activity tourism generally combines:
- physical activity or adventure
- cultural exchange or interaction
- engagement with nature
The market is commonly made up of:
- hard adventure activities such as climbing, trekking and mountain biking
- soft adventure activities such as walking tours, city bike tours, canoe hire or camping
Soft activities make the majority of the market as they:
- appeal to a wider range of people
- require less physical output than hard activities
- generally have lower perceived or real risks
- are easily adapted for different visitors, eg families
Many activities, such as walking, hiking and cycling, are typically free to access and so do not have a value market size in their own right. However, they enhance the visitor experience and can increase opportunities for visitors to spend. this type of visitor will spend money on food, drink and accommodation.
Golf is currently a 'key draw' activity for Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and overseas visitors to Northern Ireland. See golf tourism.
For other business sector insights, see tourism facts and figures.Also on this site
The golf tourism market in Northern Ireland and how clubs and other businesses can take advantage of opportunities
Northern Ireland is increasingly becoming known as a world class golf destination. Events such as the Irish Open 2017 and The Open Championship 2019 have helped to highlight Northern Ireland as a golfing destination. The success of local golfers like Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have also raised the profile of golf in Northern Ireland.
The Open Championship 2019 in Portrush drew in 237,750 spectators. This made it the second-highest attended Open championship of all time.
Northern Ireland's golfing appeal lies in its diversity and the quality of its courses.
The annual golf tourism market is worth £42.6m. Tourism NI are working to increase this through the Golf Tourism Strategy.
There are opportunities for golf courses to attract more overseas visitors and host major events. Other businesses such as those in the hospitality and transport sectors can also benefit. For every £1 spent by visitors on green fees,they spend a further £4.
Some of the opportunities for golf clubs include:
- developing clusters that allow visitors to play several different courses during their trip
- creating partnerships with hotels and restaurants to offer package breaks
- promoting offers on tourism websites and through online tour operators
The opportunities for other businesses include:
- holding golf exhibitions, workshops and talks
- providing hospitality and transport during major golf events
- working with clubs to offer package deals to golf tourists
Northern Ireland's positon as a leading golf destination can also help to increase the business travel market. This will create further business opportunities.Also on this site
The value of the food tourism market and resources to help your business take advantage of the opportunities.
Food is vital to the Northern Ireland tourism offering. It is as important as accommodation, culture and scenery for those wishing to immerse themselves in the Northern Ireland experience.
Recent research indicates that the Northern Ireland food tourism is now worth £350 million annually to the local economy.
Artisan food presents a chance to showcase local ingredients and dishes. It presents gift and souvenir opportunities for tourists.
If your business depends on selling, producing or serving food, the opportunities within the tourism industry are vital to consider. This includes:
- eating establishments
- open farms
- food producers
- cookery schools
- food festivals
- food and farmer's markets
- other key operators in the local agri-food industry
For more information on taking advantage of food tourism opportunities, see food tourism opportunities.
Northern Ireland’s traditional crafts and artisan produce presents a unique tourism opportunity – crafts are part of visitor’s cultural tourism experience
Visitors to Northern Ireland want to enjoy an authentic cultural experience. Traditional crafts and artisan produce can form part of this experience. The craft sector in Northern Ireland includes over 400 skilled producers.
Examples of local crafts include:
- local food products such as black pudding, rapeseed oil, cheese and soda bread
- handmade jewellery
- homeware such as Irish linen products
- artwork such as painting, photography and sculpture
- craft beer and spirits
- woodwork and furniture
Craft tourism opportunities
There are opportunities for craft producers to diversify their business by adding a tourism element. Examples include:
- workspace tours and production demonstrations
- special workshops and classes, eg bread-making or embroidery
- attending events such as fairs and festivals
Craft producers can get help to offer a tourism experience by becoming an official ÉCONOMUSÉE. This involves opening your workshop to the public and meeting certain criteria such as displaying an exhibition and selling your products on site. Read more about ÉCONOMUSÉEs in Northern Ireland.
The following organisations offer guidance to craft businesses:Also on this site
How to take a sustainable approach to tourism and green accreditation and future trends in the sector to take advantage of the growing trend of sustainable tourism
Sustainability is a growing global trend across a whole range of industries around the world.
In tourism, sustainability is a practice of trying to:
- make as low an impact as possible on the environment and local culture
- helping to generate income and employment for the local economy
What does it mean in practice?
Sustainable tourism is not the same as eco-tourism or green tourism, which focus on conservation and the environment. Rather than being a 'tourism product', sustainable tourism is a way of doing things. The aim is to protect and ensure the future of the local tourism industry.
There are many clear benefits to sustainability including:
- cost savings
- increased profitability
- improved reputation
- access to an increasing market of environment- and culture- conscious customers
Small steps in your business can help you make it more sustainable, from:
- minimising your business waste
- improving energy and water efficiency
- increasing community engagement
- sourcing local produce
You can download guidance with practical hints and tips on going green (PDF, 1.5Mb) .
Green Tourism Certification is the largest and most established scheme of its kind in the world, recognised by both UK national and regional government as a key part of its drive towards sustainability. See Green Tourism Certification.
Tourism NI expects the theme of sustainability to be central to the global tourism industry in years to come. They highlight a number of opportunities for local tourism providers, including:
Also on this site
- keeping in local, ie sourcing produce, staff and services from your vicinity
- promoting your green credentials for greatest impact and increased business
- meeting demands of particular demographic, eg eco-conscious and health focused individuals
Cultural and heritage tourismNiche tourism markets such as screen, music and literary tourism provide opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses
Northern Ireland's culture is a key attraction for visitors choosing the region as their holiday destination.
In broad terms, cultural tourism includes:
- built and historical heritage, such as castles and estates
- cultural heritage, eg museums and galleries
- contemporary culture, eg music, film, TV and fashion
Businesses can benefit by simply being in the proximity of a cultural or a heritage location, building or an event. They can also take a more proactive approach and integrate cultural and heritage experiences in their new and existing tourism products.
Screen tourism is on the rise. The market has been boosted by the success of HBO's Game of Thrones, and productions such as Line of Duty and The Fall. Screen tourism is making a lasting impact on the local Northern Ireland economy. It presents local businesses with a wealth of new opportunities. See screen tourism opportunities.
Northern Ireland has a strong music offering. This ranges from traditional music to more contemporary music. Music plays a key role in local nightlife and at events and festivals. There is also has a wide range of music venues from small intimate sites, to large facilities which can host major international acts.
A rarity in the UK, Derry~Londonderry's walls present great opportunities for local hospitality businesses and walking tour operators.
Events and festivals
Northern Ireland has an established ability to attract and host world-class international events, and bring with them many international and domestic visitors.
Events tourism opens up opportunities in all sectors of the industry, from event organisation and logistics, to accommodation, hospitality and transport.
Northern Ireland literary scene offers huge tourism opportunities. The region has been home to world-renowned authors such as C.S. Lewis, Seamus Heaney, Marie Jones and Brian Friel.
Visitors can walk in the footsteps of literary giants and explore areas that inspired them through experiences like:
- walking tours
- quirky bookstores
- theatre productions
- poetry readings
See a video example of what a literary Belfast experience might look like. Source: Tourism NIAlso on this site
With world renowned productions being filmed in Northern Ireland, the screen tourism industry is growing market – find out how businesses can take advantage
Northern Ireland is an increasingly popular filming location. Its attraction is the variety of its landscape and the local expertise in the film industry. This brings opportunities for tourism services and the hospitality industries.
In recent years, films such as Good Vibrations and Dracula Untold and TV productions like Game of Thrones and The Fall have been filmed in Northern Ireland. Films connected with Northern Ireland provide chances to create tourism experiences for a wide range of customers. Screen tourism is a growing trend and tourists enjoy visiting the landscapes and architecture that they see on screen.
Research suggests that that one in four adults choose their next holiday destination based on TV or film (Source: HBO). This creates potential for tourism businesses. Following the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was reported that there was a 50 per cent increase in visitors to New Zealand where it was filmed.
Screen tourism opportunities
There are a number of ways that Northern Ireland tourism businesses can capitalise on local film and television production, including:
- themed visitor experiences and activities
- location tours
- events like screenings and live action roleplays at filming locations
- themed food events
- themed package breaks
- accommodation for visitors attracted through screen tourism
- accommodation and services to crews filming on location
If your business is near a filming location, use this to add value to your existing tourism experiences. Sign posts and photo boards are important markers for tourists. Offer photo opportunities for visitors who can share these on social media.
If you are offering an experience relating to a particular production, detailed knowledge is vital for authenticity. Fans will appreciate any "insider knowledge" you can share about the production.
Find out more in our screen tourism opportunities guide.
Support for screen tourism
Tourism NI offer guidance for business offering screen tourism experiences, particularly Game of Thrones.
Northern Ireland Screen can share details if filming locations (and in some cases photography) and can partner with other organisations for tourism initiatives and events. See the production catalogue for a list of all past, current and upcoming Northern Ireland Screen funded productions. This includes a list of filming locations for each production.
Game of Thrones
HBO's Game of Thrones, filmed in Northern Ireland, is one of the most popular and successful TV series ever made. It has provided opportunities for the NI tourism industry. Many businesses have already created visitor experiences relating to the TV series. Tourism Northern Ireland has developed guidelines to assist businesses wanting to provide tours based on Game of Thrones. Download the Game of Thrones guide for tour operators (PDF, 92KB).
Business tourism opportunities for tourism providers in Northern Ireland, including the growing incentive travel market
Business tourism is part of what is known as the MICE sector, which stands for:
- incentive travel
Business tourism is a growing sector in Northern Ireland. It can provide opportunities for your business. It can also help to grow the local leisure tourism market as business visitors may return with their families.
Companies sometimes want to reward their employees or partners with trips away. This market is known as incentive travel. It differs from leisure tourism as the visitors have not paid for the trip themselves, and probably haven't had a say in the planning.
Incentive travel provides opportunities for:
- accommodation providers
- event venues
- tourist experiences
- transport businesses
- restaurant, bars and hospitality businesses
- entertainment providers
Usually before an incentive trip is booked, there will be a familiarisation (fam) trip to the destination. This is your chance to impress the potential clients. Fam trips work best when the various providers, destination management companies (DMCs) and other destination stakeholders work together.
Some things that can set you apart to incentive travel buyers include:
Also on this site
- provide a unique, authentic experience
- offer exclusive options that aren't available to leisure guests
- think creatively when offering event space
- pay close attention to detail
- provide a personalised service to make the trip special
- research your guests and meet their specific needs (eg hobbies, food preferences)
Creating tourism experiencesUse Tourism NI's Creating Experiences Toolkit to develop your tourism product and create authentic experiences for your visitors
Tourists are increasingly seeking out authentic experiences. They want to make the most of their time away. They do this by:
- connecting with local people
- immersing themselves into local culture
- enjoying local food and drink
- exploring local geography and places of interest
This trend provides the tourism industry with a new type of visitor. One who is an active participant in the experience and is seeking more than just a packaged tour, a hotel room or a scenic view.
Create authentic experiences
To help local tourism providers create authentic experiences, Tourism NI has published a Creating Experiences Toolkit.
The toolkit includes:
- a video introduction to priority visitor segments with the most potential to deliver growth
- a detailed report on visitor segmentation and clustering
- a series of Creating Experiences publications, including guidance on how to understand, develop, cluster, promote and deliver experiences
The toolkit also includes an overview guide to experiential tourism in Northern Ireland, as well as industry-facing reports covering five experience themes:
- coasts and lakes
- unique outdoors
- living legends
- culture and creative vibe
- naturally NI
The reports offer case studies, practical guidance, tips and advice aiming to inspire and help business offer better experiences to their visitors.
See a video introduction to Creating Experiences. Source: Tourism NIAlso on this site
Niche tourism opportunities
Taking advantage of craft tourism opportunities - The SteensonsBrona Steenson, Director of Steensons Jewellers, explains how the business takes advantage of craft tourism opportunities.
Craftsmanship is a key business focus of the Steensons design and craft jewellery. The designs, sold in their Glenarm workshop and Belfast store, combine traditional techniques with new technologies.
Brona Steenson, Director of Steensons Jewellers, explains how the business takes advantage of craft tourism opportunities.
Craft tourism in Northern Ireland
"I think Northern Ireland has been put on the map for its creative industries over the last decade, because of Game of Thrones. Although it's a small place, there is a large percentage of people working within the craft and art industries. Also, you don't have to travel far to see wide-ranging areas of natural beauty, so the ease of seeing local crafts against the backdrop of the surrounding area is a big draw for visitors."
Consider your location
"What seems to appeal to visitors about our business is our unusual designs. Our designs, handcrafted in Northern Ireland, mean that visitors get the chance to take home something that is locally-made and unique to the area. Since moving the location of the Glenarm workshop to a more prominent place within the village, we have benefited from the increase in tourism - our footfall tripled and our turnover doubled. Location is key. We are now close to a car park and visitor centre, which means that tourists arriving by car, as well as small coach and taxi tours, often stop with us."
Connect with local networks
"We are part of the Causeway Coast and Glens ECOMUSEE network, which welcomes the public to see the skill of our craft in action. The term 'ECONMUSEE' means 'working museum', however the local network prefer the term 'artisans at work' as we feel that explains what we offer. Other businesses in this local network specialise in the areas of arts, crafts and agri-food. They similarly use their craft to promote cultural heritage and sustain traditional skills.
We find the main benefit of the ECOMUSEE network is the networking side of things, plus the exchange of ideas on the promotion of our and each other's business."
Identify new opportunities
"Our work with Game of Thrones started when they commissioned us to create a chain of office piece for the first series in 2008. Following that, we made crowns and various pieces over the years. Soon after this people arriving at the workshop wanted to talk about Game of Thrones which came with some challenges. Visitors would spend time discussing the show but they weren't interested in buying our products. I realised that we needed to offer something with a connection to the Game of Thrones that they would be prepared to buy, so I approached HBO about developing a licensed product. This was a long process but worth it in the end. Our Game of Thrones product range has been a success and the fans that visit us, do buy it."
Promote your business
"We market predominately to a local market advertising to them through billboards, buses and publications. Overall about 30 per cent of our sales comes from visitors - mostly at our Glenarm workshop. We advertise in a brochure that is handed out on cruise ships and also in hotel magazines and hardback books. Our website is by far our biggest advertising tool. We are actively promote on social media, mainly Facebook. We are trying to increase our Instagram presence, as we like to explore the success of different promotional channels."
Case StudyBrona Steenson