NIHF launches online Tourism Summit – The Road to Recovery explores transition from lockdown


With the UK Prime Minister unveiling plans for the transition out of lockdown, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) is bringing local tourism providers together for The Tourism Summit – The Road to Recovery on Tuesday 9th March 2021, to explore the way forward.

Stephen Meldrum, President of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, explains what delegates can expect from the event:

“The Tourism Summit – The Road to Recovery is open to all businesses operating within the tourism sector and presents a varied programme which will look at the effects of the pandemic, discuss measures that may be required to support the industry and explore the potential that reopening brings.  For Northern Ireland there are a number of significant milestones in the coming weeks, including the publication of the NI Executive’s pathway document and the budget. We hope these will be positive for the industry and provide support as it seeks to transition out of lockdown.

“During the event, there will be political and economic insight from experts and updates from the tourism agencies.  The varied panel of speakers will also provide an overview of the global picture, consider factors that are likely to influence consumer psyche, and examine how businesses are tailoring their brand offering.”

Veteran BBC reporter, Mark Simpson, will chair The Tourism Summit.  Delegates will be welcomed by the Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds MLA, as she shares her thoughts for the future and her passion for reinvigorating the industry.  Gareth Hetherington, Director of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, will examine the effects of the pandemic on the local economy particularly on hotels, tourism and hospitality.

Neil Aulton, Head of Strategy and Insights at Tourism Ireland, will report on the latest research into the consumer psyche and look at key questions including, are overseas customers keen to travel again? What are they looking for and what are the potential barriers to travel? Naomi Waite, Director of Marketing at Tourism Northern Ireland, will explore how the Northern Ireland brand can be brought back to life, its journey to date and how business can benefit. 

Delving into the figures, Sarah Duignan, Director of Client Relationships at STR, will look at the forecast for 2021 and how recovery is going on a global basis, before taking an in-depth look at the local hotel scene.  Justin Reid, Director of Destination Marketing (EMEA) at TripAdvisor, will also touch on what has been going on in the world of travel. Using extensive market intelligence, he will outline what a region needs to highlight to speed its recovery.

Personal learning will be provided by Cork-based hotelier, Frankie Whelehan, as he shares his journey through expansion, recession and survival. Professor Robert Kwortnik, from Cornell University’s renowned School of Hotel Administration, will give tips on how to reboot your brand and get your business back on track.  Completing the line-up, leading travel journalist, Simon Calder, will talk about his views on travel, tourism and what’s in store for 2021.

Stephen concludes: “The Summit’s programme highlights a range of matters that underpin the hospitality and tourism sectors. There are a number of international speakers and it will be good to hear about destinations that are on a different trajectory from Northern Ireland. The current lockdown has been extremely challenging but the stoic nature of the industry has come to the fore.  Hotels are at the centre of the tourism economy but in order for them to realise their potential the wider economy must also unlock and consumer confidence must be restored.”

The Tourism Summit is supported by Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland, Coca-Cola, Calor, Henderson Foodservice,Ards & North Down Borough Council, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Mid Ulster District Council and NewryMourne and Down District Council. Local trade publications, Hospitality Review and Licensed Catering News, have also lent their support.

This event is open to all businesses. To register for The Tourism Summit – The Road to Recovery event on 9th March 2021, log on to


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