‘Now is the moment to again open our arms’ – Irish tourism industry ready for post-Covid boost

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Washington ahead of St Patrick's Day.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Washington ahead of St Patrick's Day. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been promoted as top tourist destinations during traditional visits by politicians to the US for St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

All-Ireland body Tourism Ireland has hosted a business breakfast in New York and a reception at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Gordon Lyons attended the event in in New York to meet US travel industry professionals, before also meeting with existing business investors and firms considering Northern Ireland as a potential location.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons in New York City to promote NI to US investors. Credit: DFE

“The US continues to be a strong market for Northern Ireland, both in terms of exporting and inward investment,” Mr Lyons said.

“In fact, it is our second largest export market, with exports totalling £938m from Oct 20-Sep 21.

“Despite the pandemic, our investment pipeline remains strong and, now that markets are opening again, it is great to be able to meet with potential investors and grow relationships in the US which will support trade and investment for the benefit of the Northern Ireland economy.”

In Washington, Taoiseach Micheál Martin enjoyed a special 25th anniversary performance of Riverdance and said it was cause for celebration to see live performances return after Covid-19.

He added: “The beauty, the history and the culture of our island has long made tourism one of the most important parts of not just our economy, but also our society.

“We have greatly missed welcoming American and other visitors to Ireland.

“Before Covid-19 in 2019, we welcomed over 11 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland.

“Now is the moment for us to again open our arms, to welcome visitors and to show you the extraordinary sights and experiences of a unique island.”

Mr Martin has also unveiled a bust of former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient John Hume in Washington, at a ceremony also attended by members of Mr Hume’s family, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Congressman Richard Neal.

The Taoiseach hailed Mr Hume as a man committed to peace and reconciliation around the world, and not just in Northern Ireland.

Referencing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Martin said Mr Hume would have been a “powerful voice defending democracy, defending European values and insisting on the right of all people to be free”.