The local authority launched its new “tourism vision” at an event in the Tower of London on Tuesday night (April 17).
Hosted in connection with Historic Royal Palaces, the charity behind the £20 million redevelopment of Hillsborough Castle, the ‘Treasured Opportunities’ event marked the start of the council’s most ambitious investment programme to date.
The council is hoping that the reopening of the castle this summer will lead to a surge in visitor numbers and inspire wider tourism development in the local area.
The launch event at the Tower of London, which was attended by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shailesh Vara MP, gave potential investors including hotel and commercial developers the chance to learn about opportunities that will be presented when the transformation of Hillsborough Castle is completed next year.
Guests were treated to a real taste of Lisburn Castlereagh as they were served local produce from Carnbrooke Meats, Brambleberry Jams, Abernethy Butter, Hughes Distillery and Hilden Brewery.
Head of Hillsborough Castle, Patricia Corbett confirmed that the castle is due to re-open in July, with a grand re-opening scheduled to take place in 2019.
“Hillsborough Castle will continue to act as a Royal Residence, but following considerable investment we have increased public access and improved the visitor experience significantly. The story we have to tell of the castle’s fascinating history and our fabulous gardens means Hillsborough Castle is a ‘must see’ destination to any tourist,” she said.
The council estimates that the growth of tourism could be worth around £30 million per annum to the local economy.
“It is a really exciting time for Lisburn Castlereagh with landmark tourist attractions such as Hillsborough Castle leading to a surge in visitors to our region. This is great news for the vibrant and growing tourism market in Northern Ireland, but it is also great for our local economy and enhances our offering to investors,” said Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chairman of the council’s Development Committee.
“We are home to a tourist attraction unlike anything else on the island of Ireland and that sets us apart from other areas.”
Stressing that partnership working is key to successfully developing the area’s tourism potential, council Chief Executive, Dr Theresa Donaldson commented: “We are fortunate to have many great tourism assets and world-class events in our area but it is the drive and ambition of the council working with public and private partnerships that will see Lisburn Castlereagh experience its biggest period of economic growth. The additional spend in our area due to our enhanced offering and the creation of jobs will have a significant impact on our region.”
Mayor Tim Morrow, who was also at the launch event, added: “It is encouraging to see leading figures from the tourism industry join with the council and Historic Royal Palaces to help us to promote the region to investors who are looking to Lisburn Castlereagh for their next project.
“The relationship we have with Historic Royal Palaces means we are working together to make sure Hillsborough Castle is the next big success story for Northern Ireland tourism.”
The Tower of London ‘Treasured Opportunities’ was the first event of the council’s five-day investment programme in London, which also includes a networking event held in partnership with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and a dedicated food and drink trade mission.