IFA and Visit Belfast tie up in major drive to promote sports tourism, women’s football and business events.
The Irish Football Association and Visit Belfast, the city region’s destination marketing and management organisation, have joined forces in a significant strategic partnership designed to maximise the opportunities for sports tourism.
The three-year tie-up, which gets under way this week, will also see the two organisations work closely to boost the development of female participation in sport while promoting Northern Ireland’s National Football Stadium at Windsor Park as a premier venue for conferences and business events.
The 18,500-capacity stadium enjoys a busy year-round calendar of local and international sporting fixtures and events, while the Irish FA has a strong and growing focus on the development of women’s and girls’ football in which it continues to invest.
The partnership with Visit Belfast will not only help to promote women’s football to new audiences, it will also underline and promote the National Stadium’s credentials as a premier venue for events, supporting Belfast’s reputation as the world’s best conference destination with its solid line-up of hospitality surroundings.
The stadium also contains the Irish FA’s Education and Heritage Centre, which tells the story of football in Northern Ireland using a range of media, immersive physical interactive activities and key artefacts from the 1880s to the present day. It also incorporates a range of family-friendly tours that allow visitors to explore the centre and embark on an official stadium tour.
Using Visit Belfast’s global digital reach and marketing strength, the Irish FA said the partnership will help to support its goal to expand its outreach across Northern Ireland and beyond, driving interest and enquiries, engagement and participation at a local level.
Irish FA Chief Operating Officer Graham Fitzgerald said: “Our five-year corporate strategy to 2027 covers every aspect of football across Northern Ireland, from improving performance and participation levels to improving facilities, generating revenue, engagement, women’s and girls’ football and corporate social responsibility.
“Ambitious, forward-looking and passionate about the game and the many social and economic benefits which grassroots football brings, we’re delighted to confirm a strategic partnership with Visit Belfast to support us in delivering our goals and to maximise the local, global and international opportunities which this will bring.”
Visit Belfast said the partnership will utilise its destination marketing approach and the many synergies associated with the National Stadium, its leading event spaces and sporting fixtures, to help maximise visitor numbers and enquiries.
Rachael McGuickin, Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation at Visit Belfast, said: “Strong partnerships and collaboration remain vital to our city’s tourism recovery strategy, and we’re delighted to be working closely with the Irish FA and its teams to promote what is an outstanding, heritage-rich asset to the city that meets growing demand and interest in sports tourism, in female participation in sport and enquiries for a variety of compelling venues that offer world class facilities and a warm and welcoming reception. We’re confident that this strategic partnership will result in a major home win and plenty of goals.”
Visit Belfast is the official destination marketing and management organisation for the Belfast City Region, dedicated to promoting Belfast as a tourist destination for business, leisure and cruise visitors. Tourism NI, Invest NI and Belfast City Council are also key supporters and funders of business tourism in Belfast and Northern Ireland.
Last month Belfast was officially named the world’s best conference destination for a third year at the Conference & Incentive Travel (C&IT) awards in London, securing a record-breaking position that underlines the city’s strengths as a major international draw for business delegates and event organisers.
In a separate development, the team at Visit Belfast were also awarded ‘UK Best Destination Team of the Year’ at the Meetings Industry Association (MIA) Awards 2023, securing the top industry title in a highly competitive shortlist.
Visit Belfast is on track to deliver around £120m to the local economy this year through its sales, marketing and visitor servicing activity, marking a fresh growth milestone in the organisation’s almost 25-year history. Looking ahead, Belfast is set to welcome 147 conferences and 55,000 delegates over the next three years, amounting to a spend of around £75 million.