NORTHERN Ireland’s Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has told an audience of influential international and Italian media that Northern Ireland is developing a strong position in the global tourism and sports events industry.
The Minister was speaking today in Milan at a media launch announcing the full race route of the Giro d’Italia.
The cycling race, one of the world’s biggest sporting spectacles, begins in Belfast with the Grand Partenza or Big Start in May 2014.
The launch was attended by hundreds of international broadcast and print journalists, including La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s most widely-read national daily and the official newspaper for the race.
Minister Foster said: “The Grand Partenza route will take in iconic locations in Northern Ireland, including Titanic Belfast, Parliament Buildings, the Giants Causeway and the North Coast Road before moving on to the picturesque and historic setting of Armagh and onwards to Dublin.
“Northern Ireland’s high-quality facilities, infrastructure and hospitality all set against the backdrop of our outstanding scenery is putting us into a strong position in the global tourism and sports events industry.
“Having hosted this year’s World Police and Fire Games, hailed as the best and friendliest in history, and having held last year’s hugely successful Irish Open golf tournament our reputation for staging world-class sporting events is riding high.
“Hundreds of journalists have attended this launch today – a clear indication of exactly how huge the event will be, not just for sports fans but for people living in the towns and villages it will pass through in Northern Ireland.”
Fiona Cunningham, Northern Ireland Tourist Board Market Manager (ROI) added: “The Giro d ‘Italia 2014 route will give audiences plenty of opportunities to see the action for themselves. Northern Ireland looks forward to being on the world stage once again and with the ‘Big Start’ which includes the Team Presentation on May 8 and the Titanic Time Trial on May 9, cycling enthusiasts will really be part of the action before the road stages even begin.
“With the Giro starting in Northern Ireland and the fact that there will be a number of unique opportunities to get up close and personal with the best professional riders in the world, it will be the perfect time for visitors from the Republic of Ireland to enjoy a short break and experience everything we have to offer,” Fiona continued.
The Minister also told the media that her Department and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board will be doing everything possible to make sure the 2014 Grand Partenza is one of the best in the Giro d’Italia’s 104-year history.
Arlene Foster added: added: “RCS Sport has designed exceptional opening stage routes in Northern Ireland and I am sure they will challenge the riders, entertain the thousands of spectators and showcase our tourism assets to the millions who will watch on TV.
“Everyone in Northern Ireland is looking forward to welcoming this hugely exciting competition to our shores and to embracing the passion, colour and atmosphere that comes with it.
“I have no doubt that the worldwide media exposure the race will bring for Northern Ireland will encourage more visitors to come and explore Northern Ireland for themselves and try out our excellent cycling facilities.”
The race is broadcast in approximately 165 countries, reaching some 125 million households and a global audience of about 775 million people.