Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster has highlighted the important role the Circuit of Ireland Rally plays in attracting more overseas visitors to Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the 2015 event, Arlene Foster said the rally’s billing as one of the FIA European Rally Championship’s (ERC) ‘flagship’ events would ensure that Northern Ireland’s tourism offering is presented to a wide audience.
Arlene Foster said: “Following on from the great success of last year’s event, the 2015 Circuit of Ireland Rally once more promises to deliver the very best in motorsport as Europe’s finest drivers compete on the most challenging roads in Northern Ireland.
“The huge interest in the event presents an outstanding opportunity to showcase our beautiful landscapes and spectacular scenery to international visitors and television viewers alike. With an expected television audience of over 14 million people, we are perfectly placed to help raise the profile of Northern Ireland, both to those who come here to spectate as well as to those tuning in around the world.
“Our sports tourism sector has gone from strength to strength in recent years. The success of events such as the Giro d’Italia, World Police & Fire Games and Clipper Round the World Race have placed Northern Ireland among the leading destinations to host global sporting spectacles and provided further attractions for visitors to our shores.
“Blue riband sporting events such as these help visitors decide on Northern Ireland their choice of destination, whether they are out-and-out rally fans or simply those looking to experience our wider tourist offering.”
This year’s rally has been supported by the Tourism Northern Ireland Tourism Events Funding Programme. The fund aims to develop, attract and support events that are capable of generating substantial visitor expenditure, visitor numbers and those that can market Northern Ireland internationally.
Tourism Ireland has also been working to capitalise on the promotional opportunities which rally coverage will create in European markets.
The Minister added: “As one of the oldest rallies in the world, the Circuit of Ireland is part of the fabric of Northern Ireland’s rich motorsport tradition. Competitors, race organisers, support staff and spectators are to be congratulated for playing their part in what I’m sure will be the best rally to date.
“I look forward to a memorable competition and to seeing the Circuit of Ireland Rally go from strength to strength.”