Three new categories at the Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards 2013

Three new categories will be a feature of the 2013 Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards, to be held once again in October at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, Newcastle, County Down.

In recognition of the continued growth worldwide in the cruise industry, there will be a new award this year for the Best Specialist Cruise Company – in addition to the existing recognition of the Best Cruise Line. There will also be an award for the Best Short Breaks Tour Operator for the first time, while in the local tourism section the person or event which has made the “Outstanding Contribution to NI Tourism” will be celebrated.

This year’s Awards, to be held on Friday, October 18, will be the 22nd Awards ceremony organised by the Province’s travel and tourism newspaper, Northern Ireland Travel News. Giving details of this year’s Awards, the blue riband event of the Travel and Tourism Industry, at The Apartment in Belfast city centre, Jonathan Adair of Northern Ireland Travel News said it was important to continue to reflect the changing nature of the Travel and Tourism industry.

“The cruise market has continued to expand worldwide and has retained its vibrancy and appeal despite challenging times. More and more people are choosing the cruise option, and a big percentage, once bitten by the cruising bug, return to sample new itineraries or even in many cases, a different ship with a different cruise line.

“There is such a range of options that we felt it is essential to recognise the specialist, perhaps, smaller luxury operators, as well as the best cruise line overall.”

With short breaks on the UK Mainland and the Continent becoming increasingly popular in recent years, the organisers of the Travel and Tourism Awards have also introduced a category for the Best Short Breaks Operator. “We already have recognised worldwide tour operators, ski operators, and package tour operators, so it was logical to introduce an award to serve the short breaks market.”

In the local tourism section of the Awards, there will be a new trophy for the person or event which has made what is adjudged to be the Outstanding Contribution to the Northern Ireland tourism industry. 

“The Province’s tourism product has hit a new high in recent years and we feel it is the perfect time to reward the person, or even an event, which has made a really outstanding contribution to our unique and fast evolving tourism product,” added

Meanwhile, there will be a significant change in the determination of the winner of the Best Northern Ireland Tourist Information Office. In previous years the winner has been decided on a straight vote count from members of the public who rate the tourist information offices Province-wide on their layout, range of information, helpfulness of staff, etc, but smaller TICs have not surprisingly found it more difficult to out-poll the bigger centres which have a much larger throughput of visitors.

Now this year a shortlist of four centres will be drawn up from the public votes cast and they will be ‘mystery shopped’ to decide the winner of the Best NI Tourist Information Centre. As usual there will be prize weekends on offer to members of the public to encourage them to vote, in the public voting categories, while there will be complimentary tickets to the Awards Gala for members of the Travel Trade who vote in the relevant Trade categories.

The Award for the Travel Student of the Year has been hugely successful down the years, now it promises to be even better and attract an even higher standard of student. As well as the title Travel Student of the Year 2013 this year the winner will have a glorious opportunity to stake a future for themselves in the local travel industry.

Well known Belfast travel company Thriftway are sponsoring the award, along with Northern Ireland Travel News, and will be offering a year’s employment for the winner in the company’s new city centre premises. Said Managing Director Mukesh Sharma: “We have been very keen to get involved with the travel and tourism awards for some time now, and what better way than to part sponsor with Northern Ireland Travel News the award for up and coming talent in this great industry of ours.
“As well as collecting the Travel Student of the Year award on the night in front of more than 400 of their fellow students, tutors and industry VIPs, the winner will be offered a post with Thriftway. We are committed to quality training and professionalism in the industry and after studying travel and tourism for a number of years, there is no better way for an outstanding student to gain total real time experience of all facets of the travel industry. We are the only company in Northern Ireland operating corporate, retail and consolidation on such a large scale.

“And of course if they live up to expectations there is a real possibility that their time with the company will become a permanent one. I can think of no better incentive for the students nominated for this year’s award than to be guaranteed a chance to make their mark in the travel industry.” 

Brian Ogle of Northern Ireland Travel News, who has been involved with the Travel Student of the Year since its inception, is confident that added attraction of a post with one of the Province’s top travel companies will be a great incentive to this year’s
shortlisted students. 

“I think the judges will agree with me that the standard has been increasing every year. This is not only testament to the students but also to their college tutors and lecturers. Many of our finalists in the past have gone out to make careers for themselves in the industry and I am sure this year will be no exception.”

As usual one of the most competitive and eagerly awaited categories on the night will be the World Globe for the Northern Ireland Travel Agent of the Year, won last year for a second time by Club World Travel in Lurgan. And once again the keenness of retail agents to land this award will be rivalled only by that for the individual branch or agency which is part of a major UK Multiple.

“We changed this category last year, to give the award to the individual branch, not the Multiple itself, and it definitely brought a surge in interest. It gave staff more ownership of the award. Besides, with only two major multiples group now left in the Province following the amalgamation of Thomas Cook and Co-Operative it was a logical decision
to make,” added Brian Ogle. “And of course the award itself will be coming back to the individual branch afterwards.”

He added: “Individual shops belonging to a multiple can also of course compete for the World Globe for the Northern Ireland Travel Agency of the Year as well – there is nothing to stop them winning both. A multiple has won the Travel Agency of the Year title in the past and can do so again.”

Meanwhile, the six major category sponsors of the Awards are unchanged from last year – they are: Stena Line, Amadeus, Dubai Tourism, British Airways, Travelcube and Blue Insurances.

* Room Reservations at Slieve Donard – Rooms go on sale on June 6, 2013, at 10.00am.
Contact Nora Hanna at The Slieve Donard. NOTE: All Accommodation should be reserved and confirmed with the Resort & Spa six weeks prior to the event (Nora Hanna)

* Ticket Applications – Tickets go on sale immediately from Northern Ireland Travel News – closing date for applications, July 5, 2013.

Category sponsors are Stena Line, Amadeus, Blue Insurances, British Airways, Dubai Tourism, TravelCube and Thriftway.

Category 1 – Stena Line
Best Tourist Information Centre
Best N.I. Visitor Attraction
NI Tourism Event/Marketing Initiative 2013
Outstanding Contribution to N.I. Tourism

Category 2 – NI Travel News and Thriftway
NI Travel Student of the Year 2013

Category 3 – Dubai Tourism
Best Accommodation-Only Specialist
Best Travel Insurance Company
Best Cruise Line
Best Specialist Cruise Company
Best Luxury Operator

Category 4 – Amadeus
Best UK Domestic Airline
Best International Airline
Best Airline to Europe-Ex Belfast
Best Ferry Company
Best Tourist Board

Category 5 – British Airways
Best Worldwide Tour Operator
Best Specialist Tour Operator
Best Short Breaks Tour Operator
Best Ski Operator
Best Package Tour Operator

Category 6 – Travelcube
Best Travel Internet Booking System
Travel Trade Respresentative/Manager of the Year
Best Sales Support Team to N.I. Travel Trade
N.I. Travel Industry Award 2013
N.I. Travel and Tourism Industry Roll of Honour

Category 7 – Blue Insurances
Best N.I. Multiple Retail Agency Branch 2013
N.I. Travel Agent of the Year 2013 4