Navigating the Tourism EcoSystem in Northern Ireland

Web Banner with the slogan "Navigating the Tourism in Northern Ireland" with Chartered Marketer Christine Watson standing in front of the Peace Maze

Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing founder – Chartered Marketer and Licensed WorldHost Trainer Christine Watson has been working in tourism in Northern Ireland since she was 12. Starting off washing dishes in a hotel on the main street of Newcastle, County Down – where the mountains of mourne sweep down to the sea, Christine now has over 25 years under her belt.

With this experience and given the breadth and depth of the work undertaken over two and a half decades Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing has gained a handle on many of the players in the tourism eco system in Northern Ireland. One frequent occurrence, that we trust this blog may assist with, is us as a Business Mentor and Trainer coming across a business, organisation or individual who is surprised by some of the organisations or players that we cite as useful to know or engage with when they seek to carry out effective tourism marketing. So, we have taken a little time out of our week to create a useful listicle (a list style blog) to serve as a handy reference and resource:

Public Sector:


Paid Membership Organisation (Part funded by Belfast City Council):

Visit Belfast (formerly Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau) is a public/private sector partnership funded and supported by Belfast City Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and the private sector. It is the official destination marketing organisation for the Belfast City Region, dedicated to promoting Belfast as a short break, conference and cruise ship destination. It is also responsible for the operation of three gateway tourist information centres.

Visit Belfast represents more than 500 tourism businesses and services across the industry including accommodation providers, attractions, conference venues and services, tour operators, transport providers, entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes, pubs and clubs and event organisers.

It provides an extensive range of marketing platforms for tourism businesses to promote their products and services to travel trade and consumers.

In marketing Belfast as a world class destination, we are keen to work with businesses that reflect the best of what the city has to offer potential visitors.

The Visit Belfast information centre in Belfast city centre (found opposite City Hall) also hosts information on other destinations across Northern Ireland.


Founded in 1996, Visit Derry (formerly Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau) is a public private sector partnership funded and supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) and the private sector (260 membership businesses). It is a not for profit, private company limited by guarantee.

The current Board of Visit Derry comprises three public sector representatives appointed by DCSDC, three nominated directors appointed by the membership and two other directors appointed by the Board.


Visitor Information Centre Network:



County Antrim

County Armagh

County Down

County Fermanagh

County Londonderry

County Tyrone


Destination Marketing Organisations:


Local Councils – we specifically encourage tourism organisations to get to know their respective Tourism Officers in their local council:


BIDs – Business Improvement Districts:



  • Four Causeway Coastal Route (CRR) clusters:

Causeway Coastal Route – led by Norman McBride, General Manager of Hastings Hotels Ballygally Castle

Tourism cluster groups have been set up in the Glens of Antrim and Gobbins area with two additional groups being implemented in the Causeway Coast & Bivenenagh and Limavady areas


  • Mid Ulster Cluster – Seamus Heaney HomePlace Cluster Coordinator: Mary McGee
  • Mourne Tourism Business Cluster – sponsored by InvestNI collaborative network funding – this cluster currently run a private facebook group


Food Tourism Clusters:


Other Clusters:

  • Linen


Find out more about InvestNI support of clusters – the collaborative network growth programme which provides funding of £25,000 to facilitate the development of collaborative networks (a scoping study) and there is a further investment opportunity of up to a maximum of £170,000 available to support the implementation of phase two of collaborative projects in Northern Ireland.


Trade / Industry Bodies:


Activity Tourism


Tour Guides




Chartered Marketer Christine Watson founder of Watson and Co Chartered Marketing photographed at Castlewellan Peace Maze in Castlewellan Forest Park











So, if you are thinking of employing an influencer marketing campaign, maybe you first want to approach some or all of the above players who we personally see as potentially the most important ‘influencers’ for tourism marketers in Northern Ireland.

If engaging these key players helps you to meet your business objectives, when will you start and how? If you are already using Influencer marketing successfully don’t be shy about sharing your learnings with us for consideration in future editions of this listicle blog and for the benefit of our local marketing and business community here in Northern Ireland. Contact Us.

Your Key Players in the Tourism Industry in Northern Ireland listicle was scribed by Chartered Marketer Christine Watson on Monday 7 October 2019 in advance of her talk at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle for Ulster Bank Boost and Discover NI – a free breakfast which focuses on tourism opportunities.

This list was scribed from first hand knowledge of the tourism sector in Northern Ireland and was supported by research carried out online via google searches to provide links to websites.

It is not an exhaustive list and we know that there are more players in the tourism industry in Northern Ireland including media, trade publications and bloggers and, of course, the landscape has the potential to change all the time – with new entrants arriving and some quangos shutting up shop due to funding shortages.

If you are a player in the tourism sector in Northern Ireland and wish to be added to this listing do let us know via FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn – we would be delighted to learn of you.

Blog created 7 October 2019. Anticipate future edits and additions.

Additions: 9 June 2020.